Disrupting the Status Quo in Elementary Mathematics: Teacher Beliefs, Mindsets, Self-Efficacy, and Instructional Practices

Melissa Jane Pearson, University of Pennsylvania


In 2015, a high-performing suburban school district disrupted inequitable mathematics practices by detracking its upper elementary school mathematics program. The district also provided professional development and resources to create equitable math spaces for all students. This presented an opportunity to study the effects of detracking on elementary teachers’ beliefs and practices within the context of professional learning. Through an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach, this study used a cross-sectional survey to explore the relationships between detracking, teacher beliefs, mindsets for teaching, self-efficacy, and reported instructional practices, followed by an analysis of open-ended responses. To understand the complexities of these relationships, the quantitative analysis was split into three parts: reporting of descriptive statistics; preliminary analysis (including scatterplots, simple regression, correlation); and multiple regression analysis. The analysis of the open-ended questions was then used to further understand the results from the quantitative analysis. Teachers as a whole reported the kinds of beliefs and practices necessary for more access and equity in math instruction. They also reported a high sense of self-efficacy for being able to engage all learners in math. There were no statistically significant differences on the survey scales between the teachers who experienced detracking and those who did not. However, there were some important patterns in the beliefs, teacher self-efficacy, and reported practices of special education and classroom teachers. These findings suggested that special education teachers may need different professional development beyond the experiences they had with their general education colleagues. The insights gained from this research can help the field to develop a more nuanced understanding of these constructs and can help leaders better understand the issues that are involved in enacting systemic equitable mathematics reform in elementary grades.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Mathematics education|Education philosophy|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Pearson, Melissa Jane, "Disrupting the Status Quo in Elementary Mathematics: Teacher Beliefs, Mindsets, Self-Efficacy, and Instructional Practices" (2021). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28647115.