An investigation of secondary school mathematics teachers’ knowledge and utilization of their students’ learning styles.
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This study explores secondary school mathematics teachers’ knowledge of students’ learning styles and how they used the knowledge when they were teaching mathematics. The study went further to explore barriers which the mathematics teachers faced when they were teaching their students according to the students’ learning styles. The study was a qualitative exploratory interpretive case study of thirty-four secondary school mathematics teachers from ten secondary schools. It was carried out in the Makoni District of Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe. The schools were selected using stratified random sampling. Stratified random sampling was used as a way of making sure that schools from different responsible authorities were represented in the study. Mathematics teachers were purposefully selected since the researcher sought data on the mathematics teachers’ knowledge of students’ learning styles and how they used the knowledge in mathematics teaching. All the mathematics teachers at the selected schools took part in the study. The study was done in three phases. A phase addressed one research question. The results of the study revealed that the mathematics teachers had basic knowledge of students’ learning styles. The teachers thought that teaching students according to their learning styles had more benefits than problems. The mathematics teachers varied their teaching strategies when they were teaching mathematics. They sometimes tried to meet the demands of their students’ learning styles. However, some of the students’ learning styles were not catered for by the teachers. The teachers did not use standard tools to assess the learning styles of their students. A number of barriers impinged on the mathematics teachers as they individualised their teaching strategies in order to meet the demands of their students’ learning styles. The barriers were classified into the following categories: teacher related barriers, student related barriers, curriculum related barriers and socio-economic barriers. The researcher recommended that the mathematics teachers be in-serviced so that they could overcome the barriers that impinged on their use of students’ learning styles when teaching mathematics. Besides attending to in-service courses, the teachers could form clubs, panels and associations so that they could share ideas on how best they could assist their students to learn. It was also important for the teachers to avoid competing with each other and collaborate for the benefit of all their students despite the different learning styles that the students had. The researcher also recommended that the teachers consider the learning styles of all their students when they teach mathematics. Their lesson plans and delivery of lessons had to be determined by the learning styles of their students. The researcher also found it important for the teachers themselves to know their own learning styles so that their teaching strategies were not controlled by their learning styles but by the learning styles of their students. The researcher also recommended further studies on the same topic but to be carried out in a different setting. The researcher expressed interest, in future, to carry out a study to find the proportions of learners with particular learning styles in a normal class. Recommendations were also made on the need to carry out studies to establish the relationship between differences in learning styles and the performance of the students. There was also need to find out how factors like gender and age affect learning styles.