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Perceived intelligence and pedagogy: how teachers’ perceptions influence teaching.

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Mathematics has the lowest pass rate in comparison to the other Grade 12 subjects taught in South Africa. Most discussion related to students’ failure rates in the subject elicit discourse surrounding teaching approaches adopted by teachers in teaching mathematics. Pedagogical discussions predominantly focus on teaching strategies and resources; however, little is known about the influence that teachers’ perceptions of their students’ ability have on their efforts or teaching methods. The aim of this study was to determine if teachers’ perceptions of their learners’ intelligence influenced the teaching style and approach of the teachers in any way. Teachers are accountable for their pass rates, therefore there was a need to discuss the way teachers adapted to the needs of their learners to optimise efficacy in the classroom. A critical component of attaining student pass rates involved teachers’ perceptions of their learners’ intelligence. This study examined the little-explored link between perceptions of intelligence in learners and pedagogy to offer a new perspective into inclusive education in Grade 12 mathematics classrooms in Durban, South Africa. Seven conveniently sampled teachers located in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal were interviewed in-depth. Matric mathematics teachers interviewed discussed their perceptions of an intelligent learner in their classrooms and the way these perceptions influenced their pedagogical approaches. Participating teachers in this study discussed the applicability of their respective approaches in teaching mathematics to learners in a South African context. Resultingly, key influences behind teachers’ pedagogical approaches were a combination of student ability and an administrative pressure to complete the Grade 12 mathematics curriculum. The interdependent nature of these factors is further discussed in the results of this study.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.