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    The discursive construction of the mastery curriculum in mathematics

    Pawlik, P. (2020) The discursive construction of the mastery curriculum in mathematics. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


    Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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    Recent educational reform in England has been informed by evidence of successful strategies being adopted in high-performing international educational jurisdictions, in particular Shanghai and Singapore. The influential National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) and Maths Hubs have encapsulated the word mastery in relation to mathematics teaching and learning based on observations in Shanghai. Whilst the current mathematics curriculum in England can be interpreted as a mastery curriculum, there have been numerous so called mastery approaches in the last forty years and they elude a single definition. Within the shifting landscape of education, mathematics teachers are still adjusting to the demands of the mastery curriculum, and its discursive framing in a variety of policy settings. This study seeks to provide insights into ways in which the idea of a mastery curriculum shapes ideological understanding of becoming a mathematics teacher. It explores the discursive construction of the mastery curriculum through the lens of Lacan’s four discourses. In repeatedly mapping out classroom interactions to different permutations of discourse, we generate alternative possible understandings. Through depicting competing discourses and the sheer difficulty of being in the classroom, teachers respond to the various demands that they think are placed on them. It considers at a macro-level how society influences and controls notions of the mastery curriculum. It then investigates these influences in the day-to-day teaching of mathematics. In particular, it considers how student teachers make sense of their worlds as they gain qualification to teach 11-16 mathematics. I consider conventional psychological theories of learning, such as Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, but also draw on Lacanian theory of the Subject towards producing a more contemporary spin on conceptions of psychology. The study is centred on the premise that motives in both learning and teaching are channelled by identification with particular discourses; the need to comply with new directives, educate or get educated, to achieve ‘outstanding’ status, etc. With this work being carried out from a teacher educator perspective, data collection is centred on discovering how both student teachers and the researcher himself identify with the multifaceted discourses that shape their practice, with particular reference to the mastery curriculum in mathematics.

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