University of Limerick
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A performative lens on the mathematics-related teacher identities of out-of-field mathematics teacher-learners

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posted on 2022-11-21, 13:46 authored by Stephen Quirke

Evidence suggests that there are teachers in secondary schools in Ireland and other countries teaching mathematics who don’t have the requisite mathematics teacher certification (Ní Ríordáin  and Hannigan 2011). This practice referred to as out-of-field mathematics teaching may negatively impact upon the teachers involved, student learning and the professional standards of teaching (Ingersoll 1999; Steyn and Du Plessis 2007b; McConney and Price 2009; Du Plessis 2016). To  address the issue of out-of-field mathematics teaching in Ireland, the government introduced the Professional Diploma in Mathematics for Teaching (PDMT) programme. This state funded programme for out-of-field mathematics teachers accredited graduates with mathematics teaching certification for secondary school. 

Drawing on sociocultural theories, this research study developed a conceptualisation and operationalisation of mathematics-related teacher identity to investigate the learning of five teacher-learners as they participated in the PDMT programme. Data in the form of participant narratives were gathered through one to one interviews over the course of the teacher-learners’ involvement in the PDMT programme. Sociolinguistics tools (Sfard and Prusak 2005; Gee 2011a) and thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) were used to analyse the narratives to gain insights on the teacher-learners’ self-understandings – first person mathematics-related teacher identity (Holland et al. 1998; Sfard and Prusak 2005). Data pertaining to the participants was also gathered  in the form of video recorded mathematics lessons and audio recorded mathematics lessons during two separate blocks. One participant was selected as an outlier case study given his substantial experience teaching mathematics and his aspirations for the future with regard to mathematics  teaching – his designated mathematics-related teacher identity (Sfard and Prusak 2005). Systematic Functional Linguistics was employed to code his mathematics classroom discourse and it was placed on a continuum from univocal to dialogic teaching (Truxaw and DeFranco 2008).  This continuum reflected the competing discourses circulating within Irish mathematics education curriculum reform policy documents (Quirke 2018) whilst also providing a means for recognising  the participant as a certain kind of mathematics teacher – third person mathematics-related teacher  identity (Gee 2000; Sfard and Prusak 2005; Gee 2011b). 

The findings demonstrated that the teacher-learners’ mathematics-related teacher identities were shaped by their own experience learning mathematics in school and, to varying degrees, colleagues, school management, curriculum, assessments and professional development courses.  Four of the participants believed their mathematical knowledge had improved by completing the course and they now viewed themselves as full mathematics teachers; however, they were still reluctant to teach mathematics at the highest level in secondary school and they felt there was no significant change in their mathematics teaching practices. The teaching practices of one participant changed as he demonstrated instances of dialogic teaching after his studies on the PDMT programme. He claimed that by completing the course he was prepared to teach mathematics at the highest level in secondary school.   

The research contributes to the study of teacher identity in mathematics education and offers insights on the phenomenon of out-of-field mathematics teaching. It draws attention towards the criteria outlined in Ireland in regard to being qualified to teach secondary school mathematics and the interplay between this criteria, an out-of-field mathematics teacher education programme and out-of-field mathematics teachers’ learning. The research has implications for studying mathematics-related teacher identity, examining out-of-field mathematics teacher education programmes and enacting mathematics curriculum reform. 



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Niamh O’Meara

Second supervisor

Merrilyn Goos

Third supervisor

Paul Conway

Department or School

  • School of Education

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