The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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The Low Achievement Trap is an empirical study of student mathematics learning in Grade 6 classrooms that is unique in its focus on two school systems shaped by different political histories on either side of the Botswana-South Africa border. The study provides a detailed examination of the capacity of teachers - how they teach, how much they teach, and what they teach. Because of this wealth of detail, The Low Achievement Trap gives us much greater insight than previous research into why students seem to be making larger gains in the classrooms of South Eastern Botswana than in those of North West Province, South Africa. Rather than identifying a single major factor to explain this difference, the study finds that a composite of inter-related variables revolving around teachers mathematics knowledge and their capacity to teach mathematics are crucial to improving education in both regions. The message is a hopeful one: good teachers can make a difference in student learning.

Product information

Format : 235mm x 168mm (Soft Cover)
Pages : 196
ISBN 10 : 978-07969-2368-4
ISBN 13 : 978-07969-2368-4
Publish Year : 2012
Rights : World Rights excl. North America

List of figures
List of tables
Executive summary
List of acronyms and abbreviations

  1. Background to the study
  2. Exploring policy differences and similarities
  3. Conceptual framework and methodology
  4. The schools profile
  5. The school context: Characteristics of principals and instructional leadership
  6. Learner knowledge of mathematics
  7. Teacher knowledge of mathematics
  8. Teacher proficiency to teach mathematics
  9. Opportunity to learn and teaching and learning mathematics in Grade 6 classes
  10. Are more knowledgeable teachers better teachers and do they provide more opportunity to learn (OTL)?
  11. Testing the overall model of student achievement
  12. Conclusions


Nii Addy, Visiting research fellow, Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID), McGill University
Fabian Arends, Senior Research Manager, Education and Skills Development, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria
Hlengani Baloyi, Researcher, Select Committee on Education and Recreation, Parliament of RSA (was PhD candidate at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg during the project)
Martin Carnoy, Vida Jacks Professor of Education, Stanford School of Education
Bagele Chilisa, Professor of Education, University of Botswana
Linda Chisholm, Advisor, Ministry of Basic Education, Pretoria, South Africa, seconded from the Education and Skills Development Research Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria
Jesse Foster is a doctoral candidate in International & Comparative Education at Stanford University
Margaret Irving is a PhD Candidate in Education, Stanford University
Lillian Z. Mokgosi, PhD, Education Advisor, UNICEF South Sudan, Republic of South Sudan
Kolentino Mpeta is a doctoral student in statistics at the University of Botswana
Paul T. Nleya, University of Botswana, Department of Educational Technology
Erin Raab is a doctoral student in International & Comparative Education at Stanford University
Cheryl Reeves, Postdoctoral fellow: Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town
Ingrid Sapire, Faculty of Education Curriculum Division, University of the Witwatersrand
M. Alejandra Sorto is an Associate Professor of mathematics at Texas State University San Marcos
Gaelebale Nnunu Tsheko, University of Botswana, Department of Educational Foundations, Research &Evaluation

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