Thumbnail Image

Embedded numeracy teaching practices at an Institute of Technology: Vocational tutors' characterisations of embedding numeracy and related professional development

As part of a multi-pronged strategy to improve levels of adult numeracy, embedded numeracy provision is a required element of foundation-level vocational education in New Zealand. Embedded numeracy, as it is interpreted in New Zealand, means learners develop numeracy skills within vocational courses and programmes rather than as a separate programme of study. This approach means that vocational educators, rather than numeracy specialist educators, are largely responsible for teaching numeracy. While it is acknowledged that the crux of embedding is good teaching practice, little is known about the embedded numeracy teaching practices of these vocational educators. The purpose of this study was two-fold. Firstly, I set out to explore how vocational tutors characterise embedding numeracy as part of their teaching practice with respect to evidence-based knowledge of effective practice. Secondly, I wanted to consider how professional learning and development has impacted their practice, and what further professional development approaches might prove useful. To that end, I undertook a case study research approach using qualitative analysis of data collected through semi-structured interviews. I conducted interviews with six foundation-level vocational tutors employed in the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITP) sector. Additionally, participants provided examples of teaching and learning resources, and I consulted official programme documentation for each sample case. Approaches to embedding numeracy can be situated on a continuum from numeracy-saturated, practice-based embedding to opportunistic embedding. In all cases, tutors use authentic contexts that are meaningful to the learners, a key element of an embedded approach. Learners’ anxieties towards mathematics are acknowledged and assuaged as tutors model numeracy practices in the vocational role that learners aspire to rather than as a teacher of a subject that many learners loathe and fear. Collectively, tutors’ characterisations of their practice align with evidence-based effective practices, but mathematical expertise and confidence varies between tutors and so, therefore, does the depth and quality of the mathematical tuition. Tutors gauge learners’ numeracy development through their engagement in context-related numeracy practices; this development may not be captured by numeracy proficiency measures. Benefits of an embedded approach to numeracy development are compromised by a lack of resourced collaboration time between vocational tutors and numeracy specialists. Given that good teaching is at the heart of embedded numeracy, further research that includes observations in teaching spaces and the voices of tutors and students is warranted. Tutors desire more collaborative opportunities to learn from each other and from numeracy experts. Professional learning going forward should include opportunities to create professional knowledge and skills through interaction with information and other people.
Type of thesis
Winter, L. (2019). Embedded numeracy teaching practices at an Institute of Technology: Vocational tutors’ characterisations of embedding numeracy and related professional development (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12753
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.