Influence of new curriculum policies on mathematics teachers' work.
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The focus of this study is teachers' work and in particular the work of mathematics teachers as they orientate themselves to each curriculum policy change. Since 1994, with the eradication of apartheid and the change to democracy, there have been several changes in education through curriculum policies. This study, therefore, sought to explore the influence of new curriculum policies on mathematics teachers' work. Through literature it has been established that teachers' work is indeed complex, so there was a need to understand and critically analyse how each curriculum change has influenced their work. This study drew on Lèvi Strauss’ (1967) 'bricolage' to theorise the phenomenon of how new curriculum policies influences mathematics teachers’ work and to find out the reasons for it being influenced in that way. The concepts of state ideology, experience, social influence, context, 'governmentality' and cultural capital were used separately and integrated with each other through the theory of 'bricolage' to pursue an in-depth understanding of reasons why curriculum polices influence the work of mathematics' teachers in the way they do. Five mathematics teachers with 20 or more years of service, teaching grades 10 to 12, were sampled for this study. A case study methodology was used, using a single case, being mathematics teachers, to research this thesis. The methods chosen for the study were: visual drawings, semi-structured interviews and a focus group interview. Participants were first asked to do a visual drawing to show their work encumbrances with each policy change. These drawings were discussed during the first semi-structured, individual interview. Secondly, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with each participant. Finally, the data collection culminated with the focus group interview with all participants. The data was analysed within themes using content analysis. The first data analysis chapter discusses how new curriculum policies have influenced mathematics teachers’ work and a critical analysis was done to determine why policies influence mathematics teachers' work in the way it does. The next data analysis chapter sought to find the differences, contradictions, inconsistencies and ambiguities that arose from the data from the first data analysis chapter. This gave a deeper insight into the work of teachers when they implement curriculum changes. The main finding was that policies contradict their principle of equity for all. New curriculum policies advocate equitable education for students, yet the curriculum prescription defies the possibility for this. Participants have articulated that the policies limited them to time frames which do not allow them to meet the needs of all students in their classroom. They feel de-professionalised as their agency is removed by the prescription of the curriculum and participants have to follow curriculum policy dictates. The mathematics teachers in this study have admitted to becoming exam-driven in terms of their work, because of the many challenges they faced when implementing new curriculum policies, as well as, because of their own past experiences. Trying to cope with the new content areas required in new curriculum policies, the added burdens of administration tasks inherent in each policy change, challenges of context and working with diverse students, have overburdened these participants. Many are stressed and feel that the issues they experience are not heard. In some ways these participants have endeavoured to use their agency to help them cope with content area challenges. They complete the syllabus by seeking professional assistance; some make decisions of integrating methods even with the challenges of limited time frames in using new curriculum policies and one participant uses technology to ease his work burdens. However, the context was different for each participant and the work challenges differed according to the context. What is also apparent is that participants do implement new curriculum policies in the way they assume it should be implemented and show no resistance to doing so. Teachers' work is indeed burdensome, challenging and complex. Each curriculum change brings more burdens and teachers have to start all over again with more work challenges. While change is inevitable, and has been accepted by many of the participants, contextual issues, lack of pedagogical, context and content knowledge, teachers' own cultural capital and centralisation of new curriculum policies have added to the burdens of the already over-worked teachers.