The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #10/2010

Understanding a Teacher’s Actions in the Classroom
by Applying Schoenfeld’s Theory Teaching-In-Context: Reflecting on Goals and Beliefs

G. Törner , B. Rösken
Department of Mathematics, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany

K. Rolka
Department of Mathematics, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

B. Sriraman
Department of Mathematical Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, USA


The theory teaching-in-context, first introduced by Schoenfeld in 1998, has the objective of making the actions of a teacher in mathematics lessons rationally understandable. According to this theory, it suffices to locate the behavior as a function of the following three parameters: available teacher knowledge, goals, and beliefs. In the following, we discuss a particular videoed classroom lesson with a remarkable turning point on the background of this approach. A teacher, who recently attained an in-service training course about the use of open tasks, tried to adapt the imparted issues to the topic of linear functions. While the lesson did not develop as desired, she shifted back to her hitherto established traditional teaching repertoire. Schoenfeld’s hypothesis implies that such spontaneous alterations in the teaching trajectories can be explained through shifts in the interplay of knowledge, goals and beliefs.

Keywords: Beliefs theory; teaching-in-context; teaching trajectories; knowledge development

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Prepress version of Toerner, Rolka, K., Roesken, B., & Sriraman, B.(2010 ).. In° B. Sriraman & L. D. English (Eds.), Theories of mathematics education: Seeking new frontiers (pp. 401-420). Advances in Mathematics Education, Series: Springer. Pdf (326 KB)