Exploring the use of Whatsapp instant messaging as a platform for pre-service teachers' learning of mathematics : a mixed methods approach.
The issue that this study addresses is pre-service teachers who enter mathematics teacher training programmes with an inadequate knowledge of mathematics. Yet, very often in teacher training institutions more emphasis is placed on pedagogical knowledge at the expense of subject matter knowledge. Consequently, pre-service mathematics teachers exit their teacher training programmes with the same subject matter knowledge as when they first entered. Arising out of this is a severe lack of competence in mathematics that results in poor attainment among South African students, as indicated by both national and international assessment reports. However, it is not clear how mathematics programmes at teacher training institutions address this dilemma. To address this problem, the purpose of this study was to utilise a mixed methods research approach to explore the use of WhatsApp instant messaging as a platform for pre-service teachers’ learning of mathematics. To gather data for the quantitative phase of the study, mathematics proficiency questionnaires were given to 93 pre-service teachers. To gather the qualitative data, observations were undertaken of mathematics interactions between preservice teachers and the tutor through the medium of WhatsApp instant messaging. In addition to observations, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six purposefully selected pre-service teachers. Quantitative data were analysed using statistical tests (t-test), measures of central tendency (means and modes only) and variability (standard deviation, and ranges). The analysis of data revealed a highly significant difference between the post-intervention Mathematics Proficiency Questionnaire (MPQ) scores of the experimental group and those of the control group. The statistical analysis also revealed that the experimental group showed statistically significant higher gains in pre-intervention MPQ as compared to post-intervention MPQ. Observations of mathematics interactions on WhatsApp instant messaging (WIM) were analysed using Russell and Schneiderheinze’s Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) analytical framework while interview transcripts from pre-service teachers were analysed using a narrative analytic framework. These data led to the following themes: peer collaborative mathematics learning, ubiquitous mathematics learning, synchronous and asynchronous mathematics learning and anonymous mathematics learning.