A case study investigation of the use of a textbook in a secondary mathematics classroom : issues of regulation and control

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

This dissertation is concerned with aspects of the role of the textbook in school mathematics. An attempt is made to uncover control strategies used by the teacher in textbook use in the classroom, and those implicit in a mathematics textbook. It is argued that these forms of regulation place constraints on the transformative role sometimes attributed to textbooks. The following research question is addressed: how does the teacher recruit the textbook in the classroom, how is he/she 'recruited' by it and how are both recruited by school mathematics? A case study methodology is described, involving a video-recording of a fifty minute mathematics lesson and a follow-up interview with the teacher. Transcriptions are used and a fine-grained analysis of data is attempted. A literature survey examines other research in the areas of content selection, content control and content expression. Content selection refers to choices and omissions, content control refers to sequencing, pacing and authority in the pedagogic relationship, and content expression includes verbal and textual modes of expressing content. Theoretical ideas are drawn from Bernstein (1976, 1991, 1993) and Dowling (1993). Although these works are methodologically different, they both describe aspects of regulation and control. Of particular interest are Bernstein's notions of classification and framing, and Dowling's ideas on discourse and procedure. The hypothesis is put forward here that there is a dialectical relationship involving the positioning of teacher and textbook. The teacher recruits the textbook to regulate pupils and knowledge, but s/he is at the same time constrained by strategies implicit in the textbook. In other words the teacher both positions and is positioned by the textbook. Both in tum are positioned by school mathematics. The data analysis examines the 'how', 'what' and 'who' of control. It considers the regulation of speech, silence, working and listening, as well as the sequencing, pacing, selecting, presenting and authorising of content. It argues that the teacher both recruits and is 'recruited' by the textbook, and that although the framing is strong and the teacher has a high degree of control in the pedagogic relationship, the classification is also strong and the teacher lacks control over what she can teach and the relationship between contents. The research concludes by suggesting that the transformative role sometimes attributed to the textbook is problematic. The strategies of regulation and control operating in the classroom, implicit in the textbook and in school mathematics, limit the possibilities of how textbooks can be used by the teacher and constrain transformation to a significant degree.

Bibliography: pages 82-84.