PISA 2012: Series on the Learning Environment Volume II: Delivery of Maths Publications
In this report, how mathematical content is delivered in classrooms is examined. First, some information on maths teaching staff is presented, including teacher qualifications, participation in professional development with a focus on maths, maths teacher-student ratio, and principals’ reports of teacher shortage and how that relates to maths achievement. Secondly, principals’ reports of lack in physical infrastructure and educational resources in their school are examined. Thirdly, principals’ reports of teacher factors that can hinder student learning are presented. Next, students’ reports of teacher-student relationships at school and four teaching practices in maths lessons (cognitive activation, student-orientation, teacher-directed instruction, and formative assessment ) are explored. Finally, this volume examines school principals’ reports of ability grouping practices within and between maths classes.
Author(s): Michelle Lamy with Steve May, Research Division, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: November 2014
Delivery of maths
Maths teaching staff
- The proportion of maths teachers in New Zealand with a degree-level qualification in teaching was lower than in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Australia, but on a par with Canada
- New Zealand students in urban schools were more likely to be taught by maths teachers with degree-level qualifications than those students in rural and town schools
- New Zealand students in schools where a larger proportion of students are from low socio-economic backgrounds were less likely to be taught by maths teachers with degree-level qualifications than students in schools where a larger proportion of students have high socio-economic backgrounds.
- A higher proportion of New Zealand teachers attended a programme of professional development with a focus on maths than in Australia and the United Kingdom, and noticeably more than in the OECD. The proportion in Singapore was higher than in New Zealand.
- Principals in New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore reported that teacher shortages hindered instruction to a much greater extent than the OECD, the United Kingdom and Canada.
- Students from low socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to be in schools where principals reported that teacher shortage hindered instruction than students from high socio-economic backgrounds.
- Principals of New Zealand students in socio-economically disadvantaged schools were more likely to report that teacher shortage hindered instruction than principals of students in advantaged schools. New Zealand stood out among PISA participants in this respect.
- Principals in rural schools also reported that teacher shortage is more of an issue than principals in urban schools.
* In schools that report a greater shortage of teachers, achievement tends to be lower.
Physical infrastructure and educational resources at school
- While the reported quality of physical infrastructure in New Zealand schools was close to the OECD average, it was lower than that reported in Canada and Singapore. Close to one third of New Zealand students attend schools whose principals reported that a shortage or inadequacy of physical infrastructure hinders learning. However, reported quality of infrastructure was not linked with maths achievement in New Zealand.
- In terms of reported quality of educational resources, shortage or inadequacy of computers and internet were most likely to hinder learning according to New Zealand principals, although New Zealand schools had one of the highest computer-student ratios. Reported quality of educational resources in New Zealand was similar to those in Canada but lower than in Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore.
- New Zealand stood out among PISA participants for one of the largest disparities between public and private schools in reported quality of educational resources.
- Students in schools whose principals reported a higher quality of educational resources achieved higher maths scores.
- New Zealand principals reported that the teacher-related factors and classroom challenges that hindered learning most were not meeting the needs of individual students and teaching in classes with students of diverse ability levels, and teaching students from diverse backgrounds. Lower maths achievement was found among students in schools where these factors were present to some extent or a lot.
Teacher-student relationships at school
- New Zealand students’ reports of teacher-student relations improved noticeably between 2003 and 2012 but teacher-student relations were still viewed more positively overall in Singapore and Canada than in New Zealand.
- Students with more positive reports were more likely to achieve higher maths scores than students who were not as positive about teacher-student relationships.
- The link between teacher-student relations and maths achievement found in New Zealand classrooms was one of the strongest among PISA participants.
Teaching practices in maths lessons
- New Zealand students reported how often their maths teachers used four teaching practices. Use of these practices varied both across countries and across schools in the same country.
- Of the four teaching practices, formative assessment and cognitive activation were the practices used most often in maths classes in New Zealand. Formative assessment is about providing feedback to students as part of the teaching and learning process and cognitive activation is about asking questions that encourage students to reflect in different ways on the mathematical problems they are solving. These two practices were used even more frequently in Canada, the United Kingdom and Singapore.
- In New Zealand, the more teachers encourage students to reflect on mathematical problems (cognitive activation), the higher their achievement. However, lower achievement was associated with greater use of formative assessment by teachers.
- The two practices used less often in New Zealand were student orientation and, in particular, teacher-directed instruction. Student orientation focuses on the assignment of different tasks to different students, has students work in small groups, and involves students in planning. Teacher-directed instruction focuses on goal setting, checking whether students have understood, and telling students what they have to learn. Student-orientation was used more frequently in New Zealand than in Australia and teacher-directed instruction was used much more regularly in Canada, the United Kingdom and Singapore than in New Zealand, where it was the least used of the four practices.
- In New Zealand, lower achievement was associated with greater use of student orientation. There was no link between teacher-directed instruction and achievement.
Ability grouping in maths classes
- New Zealand was noted for extensive ability grouping practices within maths classes as well as across classes.
- Across OECD countries, school practices of ability grouping for maths classes were not linked with maths achievement.
Where to find out more
If you have any questions about PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) please email: PISA Mailbox