On 12 November 2015 at 14.00 Reelika Suviste will defence her doctoral thesis „Students’ mathematics knowledge and skills, and its relations with teachers’ teaching and classroom management practices: Comparison between Estonian- and Russian-language schools“.
Supervisors: professor Eve Kikas (PhD; Tallinn University), lecturer Anu Palu (PhD; University of Tartu), professor Noona Kiuru (PhD; University of Jyväskylä)
Opponent: professor Minna Hannula-Sormunen (PhD; University of Turku)
Mathematics results of students are influenced by the values of society, but also by the purposes of education and vary not only between countries, but also between different cultural groups within specific countries (Mikk, 2007; Shipley, 2011; Välijärvi et al., 2007). The first international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003 and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006, 2009, 2012 conducted in Estonia revealed that the results in mathematics tests undertaken by children attending Russian-language schools were considerably weaker than in those undertaken by children attending Estonian-language schools (see for TIMSS Mullis, Martin, Gonzalez & Chrostowski, 2004; see for PISA Kitsing 2008; Tire, Puksand, Lepmann, & Henno 2010; Tire et al. 2013). As all children in Estonian mainstream schools study according to the national curriculum (Vabariigi Valitsus, 2002/2007; 2011/2014) and to the same textbooks, at least some of the reasons for different results in TIMSS and PISA may be related to different teachers’ beliefs, teaching practices and teachers’ behaviour in Estonian- and Russianlanguage schools classrooms. Namely, studies have shown that the Estonian children's mathematics skills are sensitive to teachers’ teaching methods and practices (Kikas, Peets, & Hodges, 2014; Kikas, Peets, Palu, & Afanasjev, 2009). There have been several studies on investigating the Estonian-language schools’ mathematics teachers’ (Jukk, Lepmann & Lepmann, 2007) and primary schools teachers who teach mathematics (Palu & Kikas, 2007; Kikas et al., 2009). Also, there is some evidence that teachers’ beliefs about teaching and used teaching methods tend to differ between teachers from Estonian- and Russian-language schools (Lepik & Kislenko, 2014; Loogma, Ruus, Talts, & Poom-Valickis, 2009). So far the Russian-language schools’ teachers have not been under study in the context of the usage of teaching practices and classroom management practices and their associations with children’s achievement and development in mathematics in the primary grades. The main aim of the current research was to investigate the children’s mathematical knowledge and development in mathematics, teachers management and teaching practices and the associations between children’s achievement in mathematics and teacher-related factors (i.e. use of management practices, teaching practices and teaching experience) in Estonianand Russian-language schools. The results of this study indicate that there are no such differences in primary grades, as found in the PISA 2006 and PISA 2009 tests in Estonian- and Russian-language schools. Contrary to international studies, in this study the children attending Russian-language schools showed higher achievement in solving word problems, than their peers from Estonian-language schools. Regarding the associations between teachers’ use of management practices and achievement in mathematics our findings suggest that using positive and supportive practices in the classroom contributes to higher achievement in mathematics, therefore promoting them in teacher training is important. Also, how teachers use learnercentred practices is related to children’s development in mathematics, especially in terms of solving word problems. Overall, teachers from Estonian- and Russian-language schools adopted different classroom management and teaching practices, which had different effects on the development of mathematics achievement of children from Estonian- and Russianlanguage schools. The dissertation enables to understand the Estonian- and Russian-language schools children’s results in mathematics and their relations with the teacher. In conclusion it can be said, that despite the limitations, the results of this doctoral dissertation have both theoretical and practical importance.