A QUALITATIVE STUDY EXAMINING FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO LACK OF PARTICIPATION AMONGST GRADE 4 LEARNERS IN THE MATHEMATIC CLASSROOM AT A SPECIFIC PRIMARY SCHOOL IN ZAMBEZI REGION
A RESEARCH PROPOSAL SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF EDUCATION
THE UNIVERSITY OF NAMIBIA
STUDENT NUMBER: 201309138
The purpose of this study was to examine factors contributing to lack of participation amongst grade 4A-D learners in the Mathematics classroom at a particular primary school in the Zambezi Region. A qualitative research study was carried out and a purposive sampling procedure was used to select one school. Two Mathematics (2) teachers and ten learners (10) in grade 4A, B, C and D participated in this study. Two interviews consisting of open and closed ended questions were used to collect data for this study.
Qualitative data was carefully analyzed manually and grouped into themes. The findings of this study revealed that even though Mathematics teachers were aware of their responsibilities in enhancing learners’ participation, they had a mixed understanding of the importance of such responsibilities. Ample evidence from the findings show that language barrier, low self-esteem, shyness and ignorance are the most challenges faced by teachers in enhancing classroom participation in Mathematics lessons at the school.
Teachers were found to have mixed attitudes towards classroom participation. It was also established that the assistance being provided by teachers to enhance classroom participation was inadequate. The study recommended for the teachers to carry out more research to find out the causes of lack of participation in Mathematics lessons. The conclusions drawn from this study are that there are factors facing teachers in making all learners to participate actively. Moreover, classroom participation in Mathematics is still a far off reality in Mathematics lessons at a primary School in Zambezi region
Foremost, I would like to thank The Almighty God who has been and still guiding me in all my endeavors. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor MR.M. Mutumba who has been there from the onset of this study and never gave up. Without her support it would never been possible for me to complete this study.
I want to thank the principal for granting me permission to carry out this study. Special gratitude goes to the teachers and learners for participating in this study.
To all my family members and friends, thank you for understanding when I was unavailable to you for most of the times when I was busy with this study.
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 2
1.1 Orientation of the study 2
1.2 statement of the Problem 4
1.3 research aims and objectives 5
1.4 Significance of the study 5
1.5Limitations of study 5
1.6 Delimitations 5
1.7 Definition of Terms 5
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 Orientation of the study
Classroom participation is a condition in which all students take part in discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions (Wade, 1994).Lack of participation remains one of the challenges teachers face in Mathematics lessons in Namibia (Mbalu, 2004). According to Ministry of education (1994) since independence teaching mathematic has been a challenge, while lack of participation being an aspect of this challenge leading to the poor performance in the subject of Mathematics particularly at Upper Primary.
Mathematics’ Numeracy and literacy are core features of primary education, thus Mathematics and the languages are the most important subjects in the curriculum in this phase and participation is one of the fundamental requirements. Millar (2004) states that abstract ideas cannot simply be transferred from teacher to learner, the learner must play an active role in appropriating these ideas and making personal sense of them. Learners should learn mathematics by doing Mathematics and thus should experience inquiry in the Mathematics classrooms. According to NIED (2015) Learners learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process through a high degree of participation, contribution and production.
According to Mwetulundila (2000) reports that leaners in Namibia especially girls do not fully participate in mathematics because of the following reason: The South African colonial education was inferior particularly With regard to Mathematics; the low participation of females is carried-over from secondary schools or high schools to tertiary level; the “hidden curriculum,” which not only lacks gender equality regarding what is taught, but also regarding how it is taught; socio-economic factors .This study focused more on higher grades not primary and also have left unanswered question on factors in the classroom that can lead to lack of participation in a mathematics lesson.
The rationale for studying Mathematics involves observing, representing and investigating patterns and quantitative relationships in social and physical phenomena. These cannot be achieved if learners are not motivated to participate in Mathematics lessons (NIED, 2015). Wade (1994, p. 12) considered the “ideal class participation” as one in which all students take part in the discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions. Participating in classroom activities provides a critical occasion for learning new skills. Participation helps pupils make deep, meaningful connections in the mind that are important in learning (Bean and Peterson, 2003).
Furthermore, the importance of learners’ participation is also stressed by Jackson (2002) who maintain that participation provides the setting in which learners can construct and shape identities as members of the classroom. Moreover, research has shown that participation in classroom activities is important in learner centered curriculum for effective learning to take place, especially in Mathematics (Jeffrey ; Adam, 2010). They further noted that participation increases the likelihood learners will study and have a sense of responsibility for their learning when they actively voice their opinions and thoughts in the classroom. Despite the benefits of participation in the classroom, lack of participation is a common phenomenon in grade4 mathematic lessons at the primary School. This problem (lack of participation) was identified by the researcher during School Based Studies Phase 3 at the primary School in Mathematic lessons, as one of the major problem contributing to high failure in Mathematics, when he was conducting his teaching practice. As observed, the majority of learners in this grades were not participating in the classroom during the Mathematics lesson presentations. Therefore, teachers are encouraged to derive strategies on how to motivate learners to participate in Mathematic lessons. This prompted the researcher to carry out a case study in order to find out more about factors contributing to lack of participation and find out strategies that could be used by Mathematic teachers to enhance learners’ participation.
1.2 statement of the Problem
More of literature have been written regarding the value and importance of learners’ participation in classroom discussion but few, if any, teachers (particularly at school level in Namibian Mathematic classrooms) would dispute the position that learners who participate in class learn more(Petress, 2006) . However, actual evidence to support this hypothesis seems somewhat lacking. Despite the shift from teacher centered to the learner centered approach of teaching and learning there still seems to be very little freedom and autonomy amongst learners (Rocca, 2001).Vygotsky (1978) is of the opinion that to be autonomous, learners need to be able to have some choices as to why and how of the curriculum and, at the same time, they should feel responsible for their own learning and for the learning of those with whom they interact. In addition, it still gives educators question marks on why most of our learners refuse to participate in classrooms apart from the fact that we have a learner centered notion that in one way promotes learners freedom on the curriculum (Rocca, 2001).
It really brings frustrations when teachers ask their learners whether they understood a topic or not, what is commonly observed is that learners in grade 4 at this primary School always tell their teachers that they understand the topic yet when it comes to the home works, tests, oral question or class works, they underperform. Deducing from observations, one of the reasons they say we do understand a topic even if they do not is probably fear and lack of freedom of expression, since the whole lesson they are passive.
There is an absence of literature available that deals with factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematic in Namibian schools previous work has only focused on gender, social culture and social economy as key factor contributing to lack of participation in mathematics. It is against this background that a case study will be conducted to seek a deeper understanding on the factors contributing to lack of participation and find out strategies that could be used to enhance learners’ participation in Mathematic lessons for grade 4 at a primary school.
1.3 research aims and objectives
The primary purpose of this study was to examine the factors contributing to lack of participation in grade 4 Mathematic classroom. Secondly, it was to suggest strategies that could be used to enhance participation by teachers in Mathematic lessons at the primary School.
1.4 Significance of the study
People who will benefit from this study will be educators, teachers and learners in Zambezi region as well as all over country. The results of this study are important as they would inform the policy makers of the factors that inhibit teachers from engaging their learners in a meaningfully manner in Mathematics lessons Thus, they can come up with possible strategies to enhance learners’ participation. Teachers will benefit as they would be aware of the different strategies to enhance their leaners participation in Mathematics lessons which will enrich the teaching and learning process.
1.5Limitations of study
There are not many studies done in Namibia on participation of learners in Mathematics. This is a big limitation especially to get secondary data for the literature review. Second, the size, convenience, and homogeneity of the sample will limit the generalizability of this study. Limited time needed to carry out the study will be a limitation too.
Research participants was restricted to Mathematics teachers and learners at this School, in the Zambezi region. Other people were not directly involved in Mathematics classroom, for example; the principal and other teachers who do not teach Mathematics.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Classroom participation: Wade (1994) considered the “ideal class participation” as one in which all students take part: in discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions.
Teaching strategies: Teaching strategies comprise the principles and methods used for instruction (Effective Teaching Strategies, 1994).
Motivation: Donyei (1998) defines motivation in Second Language Learning as the dynamically changing cumulative arousal in a person that initiates, directs, coordinates, amplifies, terminates and evaluates the cognitive and motor processes.
Phenomenon: refers to something which is observed to happen or exist, in this case learners’ lack of participation in Mathematics lessons (Cambridge Online Dictionaries. 2016).
Learner centered: “teaching means the student is at the center of learning. The student assumes the responsibility for learning while the instructor is responsible for facilitating the learning. Thus, the power in the classroom shifts to the student” (Jeffrey ; Adam, 2010, p.135).
Autonomy: is defined as the ability to make your decisions about what to do rather than being influenced by teachers (Cambridge Online Dictionaries, 2016).
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO CONTRIBUTING TO LACK OF CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION
No teacher will ever deny that active classroom participation plays an important role in the success of language learning (Tatar, 2005). As involvement and participation are essential for language acquisition, the more utterances the learners offer, the better their spoken language is and vice versa. This phenomenon is termed Matthew Effect that is “rich get richer, poor get poorer” (Chau, Fung-ming, 1996. P. 67).This context the rich get richer while the poor get poorer simply means that those that participate frequently in the Mathematic lessons improve their skills and while those that are always passive remain behind in terms of language development and subject content.
2.1.1 LANGUAGE ANXIETY
Jones (2004) defines this phenomenon in language learning situation as a fear provoked when the learner is asked to speak in the second or the foreign language in public, with the risk of social embarrassment. Oxford (1990), Jones (2004), Von Worde (2003) concludes that anxiety has a negative effect in language learning. Fears, nervousness, timidity and lack of self-confidence are related to language anxiety. The experience of participating in Mathematics Lesson is both mentally and emotionally demanding for most learners (Timothy, 2007). Larkin and Pines (2003) emphasize that most second or foreign languages are learned in classrooms, where there is constant performance evaluation by the teachers and peers. This situation can be frightening for most learners, especially those who are shy, due to their desire for approval from others and fear of negative evaluation. In Mathematics class for instance, where English as a foreign language, especially a class that emphasizes speaking and listening, shy students seem to be at a great disadvantage since they do not draw attention to themselves, either by not volunteering to answer questions in class, or by avoiding opportunities for oral communication.
2.1.2 LACK OF PREPARATION
Also another cause of students ‘silence to participate in Mathematic class. The findings of a study conducted by Macro thinker Institute (2008) revealed that some learners felt nervous when speaking English without any preparation. Second language learners in most cases have to think in their mother tongue when asked a question in English so when they are caught offside it becomes difficult for them to participate (Miller, 1995; 1996; Larkin and Pines, 2003).
2.1.3 FEAR OF VOLUNTEERING TO ASK OR ANSWER A QUESTION IN CLASS
Being afraid to speak in class for fear of making mistakes was of concern for learners. Liu and Littlewood, (1997) discovered that when learners were asked in a research on how they felt concerning asking and answering questions during class, most of them reported that they often felt afraid of asking a question to teachers during class.
Shyness was another influencing factor which could affect students’ participation. However, shyness, according to Anthony (2004), is a behavior that could be the result of any one oral combination of the following factors: social introversion, lacking confidence in subject matter, and/or communication apprehension.
2.1.5 FEAR OF MAKING MISTAKES AND BEING LAUGHED AT
Fassinger, 1995; Krupnick, 1985; and Crombie, (2003) mentioned that fear of making errors is often cited as another cause of the perceived silence and passivity. This anxiety factor is also allegedly related to certain aspects of Eastern culture, such as the desire to be right and perfect and fear of losing face (Cheng, 2000). Melvin and Lord (2006) noted that anxiety of making mistakes reduce participation because they think their mistakes make them feel incompetent. Learners think making a mistake in Mathematics classroom will distort their image in front of their classmates.
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
In this chapter the study describes the methodology and different procedures used during data collection and analysis. In the first part research design is discussed. The second part will be on the instrument and procedures of data collection which consist of observation and interview. The third part relates to the data processing and analysis. The last part will be the ethical issues consideration
3.1 RESEARCH DESIGN
Research design may be referred to as the plan of the study that will answer the research objectives. Research designs are the specific procedures involved in the research process which are; data collection, data analysis and report writing (Creswell, 2012: 20). In addition to that Yin (1994) explains a different way of thinking about research design that it is a “blueprint” of research, looking at four problems: what questions to study, what data are relevant, what data to collect and how to analyze the results. The purpose of research design is to help the researcher to organize his or her ideas in a way that the researcher will be in a good flow. The researcher chose case study design to work with in the research.
In this study the researcher employed a case study design to be able to answer the research questions. Stake (2004) gives the definition of a case study that is both a process of inquiry about the case and the product of that inquiry. Yin (2003: 18) argues that “case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its real life context especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident”.
3.2 Qualitative approach
In order to find out the factors contributing to lack of participation amongst grade 4C-E learners in the Mathematics classroom at the school, qualitative approach was used. Qualitative approach allows researchers to get at the inner experiences of participants, to determine how meanings are formed through culture and to discover rather than test variables (Corbin ; Straws, 2008: 5). Creswell (2012) stresses that, qualitative research is suitable in addressing a research problem which you do not know the variables and need to discover. The natural setting of this study was in a Mathematics classroom where teaching process occur. Teachers and learners were observed and interviewed on the factors contributing to lack of participation and strategies that they use in teaching to enhance participation in their classes
Population may be defined as certain group of people in which a researcher is interested in. Cresswell (2012) defines population as a group of individuals with some common defining characteristic that a researcher can identify and study. In this study the population was formed by two teachers and ten learners which involve four learners from 4C and three from 4D and 4E respectively. All the teachers and learners were purposeful selected from the Mathematics classes.
3.3. SAMPLING AND SAMPLING PROCEDURE
Susan (2012), Sampling says is a method of studying from a few selected items, instead of the entire big number of units. The small selection is called sample. Purposive sampling method will be used as the sampling procedure (Cohen ;Manion, 1995). From the population 3 teachers will be selected and 10 learners from grade 4A-4D
Purposive sampling is when a researcher chooses specific people within the population to use for a particular study or research project unlike random studies, which deliberately include a diverse cross section of ages, backgrounds and cultures, the idea behind purposive sampling is to concentrate on people with particular characteristics who will better be able to assist with the relevant research (Cohen ;Manion, 1995). In this study teachers to be interviewed will be purposively selected based on the subject they teach Mathematics in this case. Two Mathematic teachers will be interviewed in this study. Four learners from grade will be interviewed.
3.4. RESEARCH INSTRUMENT
During the examination on the factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematics classroom interview and observation were used.
The observation was my main instrument of collecting data. Since the study was about the factors contributing to lack of participation amongst grade 5C–E learners in the Social studies classroom, therefore it was important to see what teachers do in the classroom. Maxwell (2005) argues that it is known that observation often provides a direct and influential way of learning about people’s behavior and context in which this occurs. In line with this Gall et al (2007) says observation provide rich data sources that offer an in-depth explanation of the case.
In this study the researcher observed factors contributing to lack of participation and teaching strategies which were used by the teachers during classroom instructions in Mathematics lessons grade 4. The researcher also observed strategies that teachers use to enhance participation Mathematics classroom. The observation method may supplement what the oral interview may not suffice. I used non-participant observation. I believe that non-participant observation gave me a great chance to observe what the teachers are doing in an inclusive class.
Advantages of observation
Observation is very important among the data collection instruments. According to Marshal and Rossman (1995) the following are the advantages of observation. It is used to find out complex interactions in natural social settings. They also believe that even in depth interview studies, observation plays a significant role as the investigator notes body language and affects in addition to the person’s worlds.
Limitations of observation
Limitations which are likely to occur during observation are closely related to the role of inquirer in observation. This may be because the researcher assumes the participant, nonparticipant, or middle-grounded position. Taking the field notes, recording quotes perfectly for inclusion and determining the good timing for moving from a nonparticipant to participant. Researchers sometime tend to disclose themselves to the participants, sharing relationships with other individuals and attempting to disengage from the site (Cresswell, 2007 p.139).
This study involved semi-structured interviews which are attached in appendix A and B. The interview involved open-ended questions that were asked to the interviewees. The questions were constructed from my knowledge gained from literature on classroom participation, my experience on Namibia’s educational system, my educational background, and my personal interest. According to Maxwell (2005) interview is often an efficient and valid way of understanding someone’s perspective. The questions that I asked were therefore inquisitive, exploratory and analytical focusing on the factors contributing to lack of participation amongst grade 4 learners in the Mathematics classroom. This study allowed explanation of the interviewees’ views about the factors contributing to lack of participation in the Mathematic classroom.
The interview was administered to the two teachers and ten learners who were sampled for the study. Interview allowed me to gather more accurate data about research participants’ values in the teachers own voice. During the interview I used prepared interview guide with the permission from the teachers and prepared interview guide were used.
Advantages of interview
There are several advantages of interview according to different scholars. Marshal and Rossman (1995) gives the advantages of interview as a useful approach to get large amounts of information quickly. When more than one interviewee participate the interview process gathers a wide variety of information. There is the possibility of immediate follow-up and clarification. If interview combined with observation, it allows the investigator to know the meaning people hold for their daily activities.
Limitations of Interview method
Limitations in qualitative research may occur depending on the procedure of conducting interview. Normally the limitations occur because of unexpected behavior of the interviewees on the way they answer the questions and how they react to sensitive issues. Cresswell (2007) gives some of the limitations of conducting an interview. Conducting interview is demanding and this might be a problem especially to most of the researchers who are not experienced in doing research. Preparations of the interview equipment may lead to the limitation of the study because they need to be well prepared before the interview. Another limitation may rise due to the process of questioning during the interview. For example responding by using low voice and handling emotional outbursts may create a barrier during interview.
3.5 DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURE
Permission to carry out this study was sought from the principal of the school. Letters of consent were written to the teachers of this school with the aim to seek permission to do this research project, especially data collection at their school. At least two Mathematics teachers and ten learners out of the entire class were be interviewed. The interviews was audiotape recorded using audio recorder with the consent of the participants. The recorded data was later transcribed.
Table 1: Data collection timeline
Teachers Observation and Interview Date Time Subject
Teacher 1 and grade 4 learners 22 – 23 July 2018 35minutes Mathematics
Teacher 2 and grade 4 learners 23-24 July 2018 35 minutes Mathematics
3.6 DATA ANALYSIS
Data processing consists of editing, coding, classifying and entering them for interpretation. Field notes from interviews and observation which were written in Silozi were translated to English. This is because I used silozi during interview for other learners, as it made the respondents not to face any barrier during the interview. From the field notes, themes were formulated which were relevant to the data collected from the interview and observation in accordance to the specific objectives of the study. The results from analysis were described in a narrative
Denzingnm and Lincoln (2005) write that qualitative researchers are guests in the private space of the participants’ worlds. As a result, their manners should be good and their code of ethics strict and sound. Henning, Van Rensburg and Smith (2004) describe ethics as a body of principles of right, proper and good conduct. It is vital for the researcher to inform the participants about the study and secure consent from them in an effort to ensure that participants cannot be manipulated (Gordon, M, 1998). Each participant will be informed of the nature of the study. In this study for the purpose of confidentiality all the participants will not be mentioned by names, hence pseudonyms will be used. The name of the school will not be used directly. Permission or consent has to be obtained from the participants and these individuals will have the right to withdraw if they wish to do so.
CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The previous chapter dealt with the methodology and research techniques that were employed in
this study. This chapter presents, analyses and discusses the results of the research findings
obtained from the research participants.
The research findings are presented in the following themes which were pre-determined by the
1. Participants’ profile
2. Definition of classroom participation in Mathematics
3. Factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematics lessons
4. The common factors contributing to lack of participation
5. Strategies that teachers use to enhance classroom participation
4.1 Participants’ profile
Table 1: Teachers background information
Teachers’ names Educational Qualifications Teaching Experiences Grade Taught Subject taught
Teacher x BETD 10 Years 4, 8A, 9B Mathematics
Teacher y B.ED 14 Years 4E, 8A, 10A-C Mathematics
From the above table it is evident that all teachers who were interviewed have studied at the teachers college and University of Namibia respectively. The data also confirms that these teachers have taught for more than five years and have Basic Education Teachers Diploma (BETD) as a minimum qualification. It also shows that they all specialized in the field of Mathematics. This findings are supported by the following responses from the interviewees:
Teacher x, I have a Diploma in Teaching from Caprive College of Education. I have ten years teaching experience, and I teach grade 4 Mathematics (Mathematics and Natural science) at this primary School (Teacher x, 22/06/2018).
Teacher y, I have a Bachelor of Education from the University of Namibia. I have been teaching Mathematics (Mathematics and Agriculture) grade4 and grade 6. I have taught these subjects for twelve years now (Teacher y, 23/0 6/2018).
This findings demonstrates that all the teachers who were interviewed are qualified and have ample experiences and from this it can be deduced that these teachers are in a good position to provide credible knowledge on the study.
4.2Definition of classroom participation in Mathematics
In responding to the question on the concept of classroom participation, teachers had different views according to their understanding. The question was what do you understand by classroom participation in Mathematics lessons? Teachers and learners defined classroom participation in Mathematics lessons as when learners are eagerly involved in the lesson by answering questions, commenting on the topic, giving their point of views or answering the questions related to the topic of the lesson. The sentiments of most participants are summarized in the following quote:
Classroom participation is bringing light to the class in a sense of discussion. Learners as well as the teacher are actively conversing by asking and answering questions and discuss. It is the involvement of individual learners during the lesson (Mathematics). Learners need to take part, be it through discussion, responding etc, (TeacherX, grade 4 teacher, interviewed: 22/06/2018).
This definition above is in line with Wade (1994) who defines “ideal class participation” as one in which all students take part; in discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions. From the insightful response of the respondents I understood that classroom participation is the act of partaking in all the activities that are going on in the class, this can be by commenting on the topic, asking questions, answering the questions the teacher has asked, group discussion…etc.
4.3 Factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematics
It was important to know different factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematics lessons. From the intuitive response of teachers and learners the following subheadings were drawn; language barriers, (Lack of language understanding), Afraid of making mistakes, because others may laugh at them,self-esteem,Peer pressure, learners follow responses from their classmates, shyness, and Ignorance.
4.3.1 Language barriers
Language barrier (lack of language understanding) is believed to makes it difficult for learners to participate in the Mathematics lessons. Likewise, all teachers and learners that I spoke to during the interview session identified language barrier as one of the contributing factor to lack of participation in Mathematics lessons. In one of the interview sessions I obtained the following quotes as evidence:
The reason why we do not participate is due to the fact that English is our second language so we do not understand instructions from the teacher clearly and it is not easy for us to speak the language fluently like the way we do with our mother languages,(pupil, grade 4 learner, interviewed: 06/09/2016).
Language barrier makes it hard for my learners to participate in my lesson, one might have an idea on the question I asked, because he/she cannot express it in English. He/she will just keep quiet (pupil, grade 4 teacher, interviewed: 27/06/2018).
As it is explicitly specified in the views above the respondents it is plausible that language barrier has a negative effect on classroom participation in Mathematics lessons. These illustrative responses substantiates the literature review by Jones (2004), which stated that speaking in a second or foreign language in the classroom leaves learners with fear of making mistakes which has a social problem such as embarrassment. From the findings above it can be inferred that learners have a problem with speaking English in the lessons to express ideas and opinions on the topic, this makes it hard for them to participate in the lessons.
4.3.2 Afraid of making mistakes, because others may laugh at them
Cheng (2000) discovered, that anxiety of making mistakes because they think their mistakes make them feel incompetent. Learners think making a mistake in Mathematics classroom will distort their image in front of their classmates. Fear of being laughed at was one of the causes that contributes to the passivity and reticence of students to participate in the class discussion. Fear (anxiety) affects everyone, even some students at higher learning institutions tremble in front of others when given the tasks to present. Learners will always laugh when another one does not give the right answer. The following quote is an example reported in the interview with the participants:
Learners are afraid of making mistakes, because others may laugh at them, especially when they say a wrong answer to the question, (Teacher Y, grade 4D teacher, interviewed: 23/06/2018).
We are afraid of making mistakes, because our peers may laugh at us, when we speak broken English and if we misspell words wrongly or use wrong tenses, (Pupil, grade 5D learner, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
Sometimes a learner want to participate in the lesson, but the fear of making mistakes overwhelm him/her, then he/she just have to keep quiet, (Techer Y, interviewed: 27/06/2016).
In the responses above it is clear that fear of making mistakes when speaking in the classroom seems to affects learners the most, because they think their classmates will laugh at them, especially if they mispronounce words or use improper vocabulary in wrong contexts. This result affirms what Oxford (1990), Jones (2004), Von Worde (2003) said that anxiety has a negative effect in language learning. Fears, nervousness, insecurity and lack of self-confidence are related to language anxiety. This imply that learners are not confident enough to share with the class their ideas on the topic in Mathematics lessons and that act as a barrier for them to participate in the lessons, even if they have ideas on the topic or questions.
4.3.3 Low self-esteem
In discussing the factors contributing to lack of participation, the informants explained that self-esteem is a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of self-worth. Maintaining this view one of the participants expounded that:
Self-esteem is very important for a learner, because it affects who you are, meaning if you have a negative image about yourself you will always not feel free to participate in class. It makes learners to be confident and positive in whatever they are doing in the class. A learner with high self-esteem would not be afraid to give his point of view, even if the answer is wrong. But a learner with low self-esteem would be really bothered, if others laugh at him/her for giving a wrong answer, (Teacher X, interviewed: 22/06/2018).
From the above description I found out that self-esteem is very crucial and a cornerstone for a positive attitude towards living. It affects how one thinks, acts and relates to other people. This means self-esteem influences how learners behave, think and do things in the classroom. For instance learners who feel that they are likeable and loveable by others will feel free to share their ideas, ask questions or comment on the topic in the class. Whereas, the opposite is also true.
4.3.4 Peer pressure
In the course of the interview session one of my interviewee identified peer pressure as one of the contributing factor to lack of participation. The following quotes is a reflection of this:
Most of my learners are influenced by peer pressure in Mathematics that’s why they do not participate, (Teacher Y, interviewed:23/06/2018).
We do not participate in Mathematics, because we are wait for our friends to say something first, (Pupil, grade 4D learner, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
My learners follow what others are doing, if their friends are not participating in any activities in class they will also not do it, (Teacher X, interviewed:22/06/2018).
This findings is in contrast with the literature review by Macrothinker Institute (2008) which revealed that some learners felt nervous when speaking English without any preparation. This finding is supported by a similar study carried out by Mustaphaa, NikAbd Rahman, and Yunus (2010) who found that lack of preparation, fear of appearing unintelligent to their classmates or instructors, and feeling intimidated made students become less inclined to participate. Second language learners in most cases have to think in their mother tongue when asked a question in English so when they are caught offside it becomes difficult for them to participate (Miller, 1995; 1996; Larkin and Pines, 2003). On the basis of the respondents, it can be concluded that peer pressure plays a role in classroom participation in Mathematics lessons. This means learners’ participation is influenced by others behaviours by looking at their peers to see whether they are participating or not.
Shyness was another influencing factor which could affect learners’ participation. All the teachers said their learners are affected by this factor in Mathematics lessons, that’s why they do not participate.Maintaining this statement, one of my intervieweessums it as follow:
Shyness makes my learners not to participate, because they do not have the courage to say something in the presence of their peers, (Teacher Y, interviewed:23/0/2018).
I am afraid of embarrassment infront of everyone for giving wrong answers in the lessons of Mathematics, that’s the reason some of us do not like participating even if we have something to say, (Pupil, grade 4C learner, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
It was believed that shyness does not really contribute to lack of participation, in contrast to this statement the results from the interviewees’ responses indicates that learners do not participate in the class for Mathematics, because they are shy. In the same vein, reviewed literature by McCroskey (1992) states that shyness is a behavior that could be the result of any one oral combination of the following factors: social introversion, unfamiliarity with academic discourse, lacking confidence in subject matter, and/or communication apprehension. This altogether denote that most learners are easily frightened by other out spoken learners in the classroom, and this makes it difficult for them to participate in the lessons (SS).
It is assumed that ignorance plays a major role in influencing learners not to participate in class. The results from the interviews expressed this in the following quotes of the interviewees:
My learners are very ignorant, especially in Mathematics lessons. You ask them a question, they are all quiet, (Teacher X, interviewed:22/06/2018).
Learners lack knowledge on the subject content, because they are not willing to think critically and this is what we call ignorance, (Teacher Y, interviewed: 23 June 2018).
The description above clearly indicates that learners are ignorant and ill-disciplined, as a result they show negative attitudes towards the teacher and the subject. During observation it was revealed that ignorance is a leading factor in grade 4C, D and E learners. Learners come to school without reading about the previous lessons notes as a result, when the teacher ask them a question on the same topic they are quiet. This denotes that learners come to school without reading about the previous lessons notes, consequently when the teacher ask them a question on the same topic they do not know. It can also means that learners have negative attitudes towards the subject and the teachers, they do not take serious the subject and the instructions from their teachers. This point is in contrast with the findings of a study conducted by Macrothinker Institute (2008) which revealed that some learners felt nervous when speaking English without any preparation. Deducing from the data and the literature review I understood that some of the learners are ignorant, while others just feel uneasy to speak English in the classroom when all eyes are on them.
4.4 The common contributing factors to lack of participation in Mathematics
All the teachers emphasized that, language barriers (lack of language understanding), shyness, ignorance, low self-esteem and peer pressure are very common amongst his learners.
The factors above are supported by the quotes I obtained from the interview sessions:
In my lesson the most common factors contributing to lack of participation is ignorance,
Language barrier and shyness (Teacher X, 22/06/2018).
In my case the most contributing factor amongst all is language barriers and shyness(Teacher Y, 23/06/2018).
Amongst the factors I mentioned the common one in our class is low esteem, ignorance, shyness, and language barriers (Pupil, grade 5E learner, 06 September2018).
The findings above clearly indicates that language barrier (lack of language understanding), low self-esteem, ignorance and shyness are very common amongst the learners in Mathematics grade 4C-E at the School. Through observation Ialso observed that in grade 4C, D and E the most contributing factors were shyness, ignorance, language barrier, low self-esteem and peer pressure. The data goes hand in hand with whatLiu and Littlewood, (1997) discovered that when learners were asked in a research on how they felt concerning asking and answering questions during class, most of them reported that they often felt afraid of asking a question to teachers during class. This means shyness, language barrier, ignorance and low self-esteem is associated with fear and anxiety that makes learners to keep quiet even if they know the answer or they have a questions to ask in the class.
4.5 Strategies that teachers use to enhance classroom participation in Mathematics
It was important to know different teaching strategies used by teachers to enhance classroom participation in Mathematics lessons.It is believed that if these learners are given assistance they could participate better.The question that I put forth was; “Please can you tell me, what strategies you use to enhance classroom participation in Mathematics lessons? “All respondents replied that they use different strategies to meet the needs of the learners in the classroom. For example some of the ways they use are; Question and answers, group discussion, demonstration, small groups discussion, Using visual teaching aids and word appraisal…etc.
4.5.1Questions and answers
It is important to apply different strategies in Mathematics context since the teaching strategy is an essential tool in reaching the learners needs. Question and answers helps the learners to get the opportunity and explore more the concepts. By applying this strategy in Mathematics classroom the teacher will be able to give more examples and clear up confusion that exists among the learners. The participant I spoke to in the interview session responded in this way:
I normally use mixed strategies. For example; I normally teach them by songs, sports and games. Otherwise they won’t be able to concentrate so changing activities even if the target is to teach them the same thing is important in Mathematics classes (Teacher X, 22/06/2018).
Question and answerssimplifies work because learners can easily learn from their fellow learner responses(Pupil, a grade 4D learner, 06/09/2018).
From the account of participants above it shows that question and answers was the strategy used by all the teachers. This is evident in my observation, I discovered that Teacher X used this strategy when teaching Mathematics. He asked the questions by writing on the chalkboard and asked the learners to find the answers in the books. Furthermore, Teacher Y used this strategy in the class and she asked the learners to respond together (chorus answers). I agree with the respondents that Question and answers helps the learners to get the opportunity and explore more concepts. Therefore, it can be said that this strategy helps the teachers to give more examples and clear up confusion that exists among the learners in Mathematics classroom. Hence, it can be concluded that question and answer strategy works better in enhancing classroom participation for Mathematics lessons.
4.5.2 Group discussion
Group discussion is believed to be a type of teaching strategy where by learners learn by being involved in the process of teaching and learning. This is reflected in the quotes below from x\zinterviewees:
I use group discussion when I want the learners to give
examples in the specific lesson (Teacher Y, 23/06/2018)
Our teachers use group discussion in order for everyone to have a chance to give ideas (Pupil, a grade 4E learner, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
I use group discussion in the class and outside the class I prefer
taking my learners to natural settings (Erago, 27/06/2016).
In the description above it was discovered that group discussion in a Mathematics lesson was easier to help learners in the groups and it helps all the learners to participate in the specific lesson. Most teachers like this strategy because learners prefer to watch when others do something before they can do it themselves. This makes lessons interesting, due to the fact that learners are fully involved in the lessons.
The results imply that learners tend to participate more in the lessons when they are put in groups this allows them to feel free in sharing their ideas and knowledge on the topic at hand. In addition, in line with results is the study carried by Reynolds, & Nunn (1997), Pomerantz, (1998) and Moguel, (2004) which points out that for those who might be more willing to talk when only one person is listening, designate one speaker for each group to share with the class and ask the remaining students to share with the designated speaker.
In a Mathematics context demonstration is used as a way of teaching learners by imitation. Most learners prefer to watch when others do something before they can do it themselves. All teachers said that they normally use this strategy because it helps the learners to learn new skills. Here is an example of excerpt given by the respondent:
Sometime I take a learner in front of the class and see if he
or she follows what I am doing by asking him or her to repeat what I am doing(Teacher X, 22/06/2018).
The above mentioned quote indicated that demonstration in a Mathematics lesson is used as a way of teaching learners by imitation. The data further shows that most learners prefer to watch when others do something before they can do it themselves. This means that all teachers prefers to use this strategy because it helps the learners to learn new skills, which can further imply that this strategy helps learners to build more confidence and facilitates learning evaluation.
4.5.4 Small group discussion
Small group is among the strategies of teaching which is applied in primary schools. This is being done by having a small group discussion obtained through the teachers’ supervision. This strategy is believed to be the best one in learner-cantered approach where by the learners are being involved in the whole process of teaching and learning. This can be best summarized in the quote below:
Our teacher put us in small group and we discuss the topic in details(pupil, grade 5D learner, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
I normally use small group discussion when I want the children to
do exercises in books(Erago, interviewed: 27/06/2018).
The findings above points out that small group discussion is among the strategies of teaching which is applied in primary schools. This is done by having a small group discussion obtained through the teachers’ supervision. The data designates that this strategy is believed to be the best one in learner-centered approach where by the learners are involved in the whole process of teaching and learning. This data is maintained by Doering, Cotton, and Riner, (2008) who suggested that this strategy is one of the many cooperative learning strategies to increase participation through learner-to-learner interaction. The strategy allows learners to ask a thought provoking question, or newly learned skill and then pair up with another learner to share with each other what they think or where they are with their learning. Then, the pairs select information from their small groups to share it with the whole class. Inferring from the results above it can mean that learners work better and actively participate in class activities when they are in small groups.
4.5.5 Using visual Teaching Aids
Studies have proven that using interesting visual teaching aids in each of the lesson for Mathematics is at the heart of an effective learning process. The following quotes from interviewee serves as evidence:
I use interesting visual teaching aids in eachand every lesson of Mathematics to enhance participation. Learners has the tendency to forget, so proper use of teaching aids helps them retain the content permanently. This will help them participate more in the lessons, because their attentions are captured. The use of visual teaching also helps my learners become motivated and provide a complete example of conceptual thinking,(Teacher X, 22/06/2018).
Our teachers use teaching aids during the lesson to make it easier for us to understand. The use of visual teaching aids helps us increase our vocabularies and provide us with direct experiences. As a result, we become more interested and actively participate in the lessons (Pupil, grade 4C learner, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
The above data revealed that using interesting visual teaching aids in each of the lesson for Mathematics is at the heart of an effective learning process. It also found out that using interesting visual teaching aids in each and every lesson of Mathematics enhance classroom participation. Using teaching aids helps learner retain content permanently and at the same time motivates them to participate in the lessons actively. Also, the use of visual teaching aids is praised by teachers to be the best way to engage learners in the lesson well, as a result a favorable environment is created and learners can only participate in the lesson when they feel comfortable and free from all anxieties. This means that using teaching visual teaching aids is one of the best way to engage learners in the lesson well and makes it easier for them to understand.
4.5.6 Word Appraisal
The use of words to praise learners makes them to feel valued and have a sense of being, especially when the teacher appreciate their efforts. They use appraisal words such as “good boy or good girl, good job, well done, excellent…keep it up”. The following quote summarizes the above sentiment:
I use word appraisal during my lessons for Mathematics to show appreciation and gratitude for the contributions learners are making during the lesson, (Teacher Y, 23/06/2018).
Our teachers use word appraisal to motivate us in participating next time again for saying the right answer or even trying (Pupil a grade 4E, interviewed: 06/09/2018).
The above mentioned quotes expressed that the use of words to praise learners makes them to feel important and have a sense of belonging, especially when the teacher appreciate their efforts. As the findings demonstrated above, all teachers seemed to use word appraisal during the lesson for Mathematics to show appreciation and gratitude for the contributions learners are making during the lesson. This view affirms whatLauren (2009, p.85) in a study conducted on the strategies to motivate learners to participate in a lesson, which states that phrases or statements such as, “Let’s give Mary three claps for that!” or “I think George deserves an “Oh, yeah” for that, in most cases allows students to be active, to give credit to a classmate and its fun! He further said that this boost the confidence of them to participate more in class. The outcomes of the study means that learners need to be praised for whatever contributions they make in the classroom, even if they do not do it well, as long as they have tried their best.
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The study was about factors contributing to lack of classroom participation in the Mathematics classroom amongst the grade 4C-E learners of a primary school in Katima mulilo. It looked at the factors contributing to lack of classroom participation. Also, it researched on the measures or strategies that Mathematics teachers can use to enhance classroom participation. Volumes of literatures were consulted to get the solutions to the present problem. Various literatures state that causes of lack of classroom participation especially in the Mathematics lesson are; Language barrier (lack of language understanding), low self-esteem, peer pressure, fear of making mistakes… etc. All the causes were presented with solutions. The solutions were obtained through the use of various literatures that were already in existence (Literature review) and with the use of interviews and observation. The interviews and observation was meant to consolidate and confirm answers obtained from various literatures. It was also necessary to carry out an interview to get data which are at current not in books. Teachers are in the field, everyday interacting with learners, so they are in good positions to provide sufficient information to the research questions. From the findings it can be concluded that there is still a lot need to be done in order to enhance classroom participation in Mathematics lessons.
In light of the findings of this study, the following recommendations are made:
5.2.1 The Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture should provide learning resources to schools in order to enhance classroom participation in Mathematics lessons (grade 4) in Zambezi Region. This will enable learners to study in advance before entering the class the next day.
5.2.2 Teachers training institutions
Higher institutions of learning where teachers are trained should thoroughly train teachers on different strategies how to enhance learners’ classroom participation in Mathematics grade 4(C-E) lessons to mitigate the factors.
5.2.3 Subject Advisors
should visit primary schools like regularly in order to identify factors that contributes to lack of participation in Mathematics grade 4 lessons. This way, they will be able to assist grade 4 Mathematics teachers on strategies that can be used to enhance classroom participation.
5.2.4 Mathematics teachers
Mathematics teachers should work together as a team to strategize on ways they can employ to enhance classroom participation in Mathematics grade 4 lessons. From the findings, it is recommended that Mathematics teachers should use the following strategies to enhance classroom participation:
• Teachers must use various approaches such as games when teaching Mathematics so that learners that are shy can use this as an opportunity to speak.
• It is also recommended that teachers use words and appraisal to acknowledge learners’ efforts for participating.
• Teachers should discourage behaviors like; learners making funof others in the class whenever they make a mistake.
• Group discussion and small group discuss should be used in Mathematics lessons
• Teachers should use visual teaching aids, demonstration, question and answer, in order to enhance classroom participation.
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