Comparative study of teachers’ expectations, instructional practices and learners’ competence in mathematics in Uganda
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The study explored Primary One teachers’ expectations of their learners’ competence in mathematics and the instructional practices teachers could adopt to enhance the competence. The focus was on establishing how teachers’ expectations influence learners’ competence; determining the most mastered mathematics competences by the learners; and examining instructional practices teachers should use to help learners attain competence. A mixed methods survey was used among 74 purposively selected P.1 teachers and 296 randomly selected learners from 37 schools in each of Busiro North and Luuka North County. Data collection tools included a questionnaire, lesson observation schedule, oral interview guide, learners’ mathematics test and artefacts of learners’ work. The t-test for independent groups was used to compare learners’ test scores, while Pearson’s correlation coefficient established the relationship between teachers’ expectations and learners’ competence. Learners were most competent in working with numbers 0 to 9, with over 80% able to score at least 7 out of ten. However, at least 3 % of the learners could neither count nor write any number. Learners from Busiro performed better overall (M = 25.24, SD= 6.22) compared to those from Luuka (M = 20.35, SD= 9.66). Statistically significant relationships were found between teachers’ expectations and learners’ competence for Busiro and Luuka (r = 0.711, r = 0.596, p = 0.01) respectively. Teachers considered learner’s age; language for instruction; and nursery school attendance important background factors for enhancing P.1 learners’ competence in mathematics. Teachers used various instructional practices to enhance the learners’ mathematics competence. These included use of songs, rhymes and games with mathematical concepts. However, not more than 10% of the teachers from either study area used practices which are promotive of the learners’ competence in mathematics such as pair work, visual prompts, and learner explanation of ideas. A few teachers used practices that demote competence in mathematics like ignoring learners when they laugh at a classmate who makes a mistake while attempting a task at the chalkboard, and calling on the next learner to attempt a task when the first learner has failed and has not been given any feedback or support to correct a misconception. The findings indicate a need for teacher education courses in Uganda to inform pre-service teachers about teacher expectations and their influence on learners’ competence. Teachers in Busiro and Luuka North Counties are encouraged to consistently use practices like learners’ justifications of their ideas in all mathematics lessons and ensure that no learner begins a new lesson when they still have misconceptions from the previous lesson.