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Negotiating mathematics and science school subject boundaries: the role of aesthetic understanding

posted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by L Darby
A tradition of subject specialisation at the secondary level has resulted in the promotion of pedagogy appropriate for specific areas of content. This chapter explores how the culture of the subject, including traditions of practice, beliefs and basic assumptions, influences teachers as they teach across school mathematics and science. Such negotiation of subject boundaries requires that a teacher understand the language, epistemology and traditions of the subject, and how these things govern what is appropriate for teaching and learning. This research gains insight into relationships between subject culture and pedagogy by examining both teaching practice in the classroom and interrogating teachers' constructions of what it means to teach and learn mathematics and science. Teachers' level of confidence with, and commitment to, both the discipline's subject matter and the pedagogical practices required to present that subject matter is juxtaposed with their views of themselves as teachers operating within different subject cultures. Six teachers from two secondary schools were interviewed and observed over a period of eighteen months. The research involved observing and videoing the teachers' mathematics and/or science lessons, then interviewing them about their practice and views about school mathematics and science. The focus of this chapter is on the role of the aesthetic, specifically "aesthetic understanding," in the ways science and mathematics teachers experience, situate themselves within, and negotiate boundaries between the subject cultures of mathematics and science. The chapter outlines teachers' commitments to the discipline, subject and teaching by exploring three elements of aesthetic understanding: the compelling and dramatic nature of understanding (teachers' motivations and passions); understanding that brings unification or coherence (relationships between disciplinary commitments and knowing how to teach); and perceived transformation of the person (teacher identity and positioning). This research has shown that problems arise for teachers when they lack such aesthetic understanding, and this has implications for teachers who teach subjects for which they have limited background and training.


Title of book

Science education in focus

Chapter number



225 - 251


Nova Science

Place of publication

Hauppage, N.Y.







Publication classification

B1.1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2008, Nova Science Publishers




M Thomase

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