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Teacher knowledge, curriculum materials, and quality of instruction: Lessons learned and open issues

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This paper draws on four case studies to perform a cross-case analysis investigating the unique and joint contribution of mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) and curriculum materials to instructional quality. As expected, it was found that both MKT and curriculum materials matter for instruction. The contribution of MKT was more prevalent in the richness of the mathematical language employed during instruction, the explanations offered, the avoidance of errors, and teachers' capacity to highlight key mathematical ideas and use them to weave the lesson activities. By virtue of being ambitious, the curriculum materials set the stage for engaging students in mathematical thinking and reasoning; at the same time, they amplified the demands for enactment, especially for the low-MKT teachers. The analysis also helped develop three tentative hypotheses regarding the joint contribution of MKT and the curriculum materials: when supportive and when followed closely, curriculum materials can lead to high-quality instruction, even for low-MKT teachers; in contrast, when unsupportive, they can lead to problematic instruction, particularly for low-MKT teachers; high-MKT teachers, on the other hand, might be able to compensate for some of the limitations of the curriculum materials and offer high-quality instruction. This paper discusses the policy implications of these findings and points to open issues warranting further investigation.

Keywords: curriculum materials; mathematics; teacher knowledge; teaching quality

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2012

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