International studies on the teachers’ use of mathematics textbooks

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In this chapter will be discussed the methods used to investigate the teachers’ use of the Step in New Primary Mathematics Grade 7 textbooks in the schools in the Mashonaland East Province in Zimbabwe. The following aspects will be described, namely the research design (section 3.1), the data-collection instruments (section 3.2), the data collection procedures (section 3.3) and the ethical issues (section 3.4). The pilot study (section 3.5), that was conducted before the main study, is described, followed by a description of the main study sample (section 3.6), the quality of the data (section 3.7), and the analysis and interpretation of the data (section 3.8). Lastly, a summary of chapter 3 is provided.
The study was guided by three research questions, as listed below.

  • In what ways do grade 7 teachers use the Step in New Primary Mathematics Grade 7 textbooks in their teaching?
  • What factors influence how the grade 7 teachers use the mathematics textbooks?
  • What impact has the use of the Step in New Primary Mathematics Grade 7 textbooks had on the teaching and learning of mathematics?


A research design refers to the “plan for selecting subjects, research sites, and data collection procedures to answer the research question(s)” (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010, p.102). In this study the purpose of the research design was to decide how many schools and teachers would constitute a reasonable sample in order to describe how the mathematics textbooks are used.
In this study the survey design consisting of mixed methods was used, together with triangulation, namely the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data. Molina Azorin and Cameron (2010) referred to Plano Clark (2005), who explained the mixed method research as the design that combines both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis within a single study. Also, Creswell and Garett (2008, p.322) provided a useful working definition, namely that mixed methods is “an approach to inquiry in which the researcher links, in some way (e.g. merges, integrates, connects) both quantitative and qualitative data to provide a unified understanding of a research problem”. MacMillan and Schumacher (2010, p.25) observed that an advantage of mixed-method designs “is that they can show the result (quantitative) and explain why it was obtained (qualitative)”. Therefore, the overall purpose of using mixed methods was that two approaches provided a better understanding of the research problem than either approach alone (Creswell, 2008; Creswell, 2012; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Greene, 2007).
The researcher used questionnaires to collect large amounts of data on teacher textbook use, while in the interviews the teachers could explain and justify their use of the textbooks, and the challenges they experience. The lesson observations made it possible for the researcher to see first-hand how the textbooks were used within the classroom contexts, something which the questionnaire and interviews cannot do.
Mixed methods research has strengths which offset the weaknesses of both quantitative and qualitative research (Creswell, 2008). For instance, quantitative research “is weak in understanding the context or setting in which people talk, plus the voices of participants are not directly heard” (Creswell, 2008, p.9). The researcher resolved this weakness by means of the use of qualitative methods. However, qualitative methods often make use of a small number of participants in a study, thereby making it difficult to generalise the findings to a larger group. For instance, only six teachers participated in the interviews and the lesson observations, compared to ninety teachers who responded to the questionnaires.
Although mixed methods research is costly in terms of the time it takes and the resources needed to collect and analyse the data, the value of using this methodology far outweighs the difficulties associated with its use. This was indeed the researcher’s experience, as it was possible to obtain alternative explanations and clarification through the interviews and the personal observations in the mathematics classrooms, something not possible when using questionnaires alone.
Furthermore, Creswell (2008, p.13) argued that the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data is important because “audiences such as policy makers, practitioners, and others in applied areas need multiple forms of evidence to document and inform the research problems.” Therefore, the findings from this study are likely to inform policy-makers and teachers on more efficient ways of using new mathematics textbooks. The data from the questionnaire responses are presented in tabular form, which make it easy to make sense of the findings at a glance. Readers keen on detail may be able to read the accompanying descriptions and analyses of the findings in the interviews and lesson observations.
Moulton (1994) commented that it is difficult to ascertain how the teachers make use of the textbooks without actually observing them doing so. Likewise, it is difficult to find out what teachers think and say about their use of the textbooks without actually interviewing them. Observing how different teachers used the Step in New Primary Mathematics Grade 7 textbooks and asking them why they used them as they did would reveal significant information about the teaching-learning process and how it can be improved. There was an added benefit to this approach, namely as a manner of resolving the conflict between how teachers reported their use of the textbooks in the questionnaires, and how they were observed using them. Experience has shown that teachers tend to exaggerate their use of textbooks when asked in questionnaires, and this has implications for the analysis and interpretation of the data where the data were generated only by means of teacher questionnaires (Moulton, 1994, p.vii). Therefore, along with the benefit of triangulation in mixed methods research is complementarity, which helped to explain and clarify the results from one method with the findings from the other methods (Moon & Moon, 2004).
In this section the instruments which were used in collecting the data will be discussed. The questionnaire, semi-structured interview and lesson observation were used. The choice of these methods was informed by the argument presented above, namely that together they would provide complementary and more complete data than when using only one method.
These instruments will be described in the next section, together with an account of what was collected in making use of them.


The questionnaire

A questionnaire is a written set of questions or statements on a standard form which respondents answer mostly in writing. Gray (2004, p.187) described a questionnaire as “a research tool through which respondents are asked to respond to similar questions in a predetermined order.” The researcher’s questionnaire was informed by this. He used closed and open-ended questions and a rating scale. The questionnaire is the most commonly used technique for obtaining information from respondents (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010). This is because they give large numbers of responses relatively easily, the questionnaires are time-efficient to administer, and they enable the anonymity of the respondents, and have the same questions for all the respondents (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010; Roberts & Copping, 2008). The anonymity of the respondents improves the likelihood of obtaining genuine responses from the participants. Pseudonyms were used in the questionnaire of this study. The use of a questionnaire has the added advantage that it reduces bias which may sometimes arise on grounds of the personal characteristics of the interviewer. Furthermore, the analysis of questionnaire data is likely to be more straightforward (Roberts & Copping, 2008). It is because of these advantages that the questionnaire was used in this study.

1.1 Introduction
1.2 The research problem
1.3 The research questions
1.4 Aims and objectives of the study
1.5 The significance of the study
1.6 The scope of the study
1.7  The research design
1.8 Definition of the key terms
1.10 Organisation of the study
2.1 The history of the use of mathematics textbooks
2.2 The importance of textbooks
2.3 Theories and models related to the use of mathematics textbooks
2.4 International studies on the teachers’ use of mathematics textbooks
2.5 Factors that influence the teachers’ use of mathematics textbooks
2.6 The impact of new textbooks on the teaching and learning of mathematics
2.7 What constitutes the effective use of mathematics textbooks in teaching and learning?
2.8 Summary
3.1 The research design
3.2 Data collection instruments
3.3 Data collection procedures
3.4 Ethical aspects
3.5 The pilot study
3.6 The main study sample
3.7  The quality of the data
3.8 Analysis and interpretation of the data
3.9 Summary
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The teachers’ demographic information
4.3 Presentation and analysis of the results
5.1 Introduction
5.2  Summary of the literature review
5.3  Summary of the findings from the empirical study
5.4  Implications of the study
5.5     Recommendations

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