A comparative study of mathematics teachers' beliefs and practices in Russia, Estonia, and Latvia
Teachers’ beliefs should be changed in order to introduce modern teaching methods in education. The notion of “belief” combines the ideas, attitudes, and personal philosophies teachers apply in their work. We differentiate between traditional beliefs about teaching as a direct transfer of knowledge and constructivist beliefs assuming that students construct their knowledge themselves through specifically organized activities. We have analyzed the key teacher belief research projects: the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), the cross-cultural Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M), and the Nordic-Baltic Comparative Research in Mathematics Education (NorBA) that we borrowed a questionnaire from. Our survey involved teachers of mathematics in three countries: 390 teachers in Latvia (of which 95 with Russian as their native tongue), 332 teachers in Estonia (of which 92 with Russian as their native tongue), and 1,096 teachers in the Russian Federation. We have found that differences between teachers in different countries were statistically important in all the variables used in the study, regardless of whether Estonian and Latvian teachers were Russian-speaking or not. All teachers implemented their beliefs in their everyday classroom practices. 36% of teachers in Russia had a high level of constructivism (as compared to 26% in Latvia and 18% in Estonia). Proportion of teachers with low levels of traditionalism in Latvia and Estonia (appr. 25% in both) was higher than the same proportion among Russian teachers (17.5%). We have come to a conclusion that different approaches to education system reforms in Russia and in the Baltic states have resulted in a significant diversity of beliefs among teachers of mathematics. Thus, proportion of teachers with low levels of traditionalist beliefs has grown in the Baltic countries more than in Russia, which explains to some extent higher PISA points of Estonian and Latvian students.