Classroom participation is a condition in which all students take part in discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions (Wade, 1994).Lack of participation remains one of the challenges teachers face in Mathematics lessons in Namibia (Mbalu, 2004). According to Ministry of education (1994) since independence teaching mathematic has been a challenge, while lack of participation being an aspect of this challenge leading to the poor performance in the subject of Mathematics particularly at Upper Primary.
Mathematics’ Numeracy and literacy are core features of primary education, thus Mathematics and the languages are the most important subjects in the curriculum in this phase and participation is one of the fundamental requirements. Millar (2004) states that abstract ideas cannot simply be transferred from teacher to learner, the learner must play an active role in appropriating these ideas and making personal sense of them.
Learners should learn mathematics by doing Mathematics and thus should experience inquiry in the Mathematics classrooms. According to NIED (2015) Learners learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process through a high degree of participation, contribution and production.
According to Mwetulundila (2000) reports that leaners in Namibia especially girls do not fully participate in mathematics because of the following reason: The South African colonial education was inferior particularly With regard to Mathematics; the low participation of females is carried-over from secondary schools or high schools to tertiary level; the “hidden curriculum,” which not only lacks gender equality regarding what is taught, but also regarding how it is taught; socio-economic factors .This study focused more on higher grades not primary and also have left unanswered question on factors in the classroom that can lead to lack of participation in a mathematics lesson.
The rationale for studying Mathematics involves observing, representing and investigating patterns and quantitative relationships in social and physical phenomena. These cannot be achieved if learners are not motivated to participate in Mathematics lessons (NIED, 2015). Wade (1994, p. 12) considered the “ideal class participation” as one in which all students take part in the discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions. Participating in classroom activities provides a critical occasion for learning new skills. Participation helps pupils make deep, meaningful connections in the mind that are important in learning (Bean and Peterson, 2003).
Furthermore, the importance of learners’ participation is also stressed by Jackson (2002) who maintain that participation provides the setting in which learners can construct and shape identities as members of the classroom. Moreover, research has shown that participation in classroom activities is important in learner centered curriculum for effective learning to take place, especially in Mathematics (Jeffrey & Adam, 2010).
They further noted that participation increases the likelihood learners will study and have a sense of responsibility for their learning when they actively voice their opinions and thoughts in the classroom. Despite the benefits of participation in the classroom, lack of participation is a common phenomenon in grade4 mathematic lessons at the primary School. This problem (lack of participation) was identified by the researcher during School Based Studies Phase 3 at the primary School in Mathematic lessons, as one of the major problem contributing to high failure in Mathematics, when he was conducting his teaching practice.
As observed, the majority of learners in this grades were not participating in the classroom during the Mathematics lesson presentations. Therefore, teachers are encouraged to derive strategies on how to motivate learners to participate in Mathematic lessons. This prompted the researcher to carry out a case study in order to find out more about factors contributing to lack of participation and find out strategies that could be used by Mathematic teachers to enhance learners’ participation.
Statement of the Problem
More of literature have been written regarding the value and importance of learners’ participation in classroom discussion but few, if any, teachers (particularly at school level in Namibian Mathematic classrooms) would dispute the position that learners who participate in class learn more(Petress, 2006) .
However, actual evidence to support this hypothesis seems somewhat lacking. Despite the shift from teacher centered to the learner centered approach of teaching and learning there still seems to be very little freedom and autonomy amongst learners (Rocca, 2001).Vygotsky (1978) is of the opinion that to be autonomous, learners need to be able to have some choices as to why and how of the curriculum and, at the same time, they should feel responsible for their own learning and for the learning of those with whom they interact. In addition, it still gives educators question marks on why most of our learners refuse to participate in classrooms apart from the fact that we have a learner centered notion that in one way promotes learners freedom on the curriculum (Rocca, 2001).
It really brings frustrations when teachers ask their learners whether they understood a topic or not, what is commonly observed is that learners in grade 4 at this primary School always tell their teachers that they understand the topic yet when it comes to the home works, tests, oral question or class works, they underperform. Deducing from observations, one of the reasons they say we do understand a topic even if they do not is probably fear and lack of freedom of expression, since the whole lesson they are passive.
There is an absence of literature available that deals with factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematic in Namibian schools previous work has only focused on gender, social culture and social economy as key factor contributing to lack of participation in mathematics. It is against this background that a case study will be conducted to seek a deeper understanding on the factors contributing to lack of participation and find out strategies that could be used to enhance learners’ participation in Mathematic lessons for grade 4 at a primary school.
Research aims and objectives
The primary purpose of this study was to examine the factors contributing to lack of participation in grade 4 Mathematic classroom. Secondly, it was to suggest strategies that could be used to enhance participation by teachers in Mathematic lessons at the primary School.
Significance of the study
People who will benefit from this study will be educators, teachers and learners in Zambezi region as well as all over country. The results of this study are important as they would inform the policy makers of the factors that inhibit teachers from engaging their learners in a meaningfully manner in Mathematics lessons Thus, they can come up with possible strategies to enhance learners’ participation. Teachers will benefit as they would be aware of the different strategies to enhance their leaners participation in Mathematics lessons which will enrich the teaching and learning process.
Limitations of study
There are not many studies done in Namibia on participation of learners in Mathematics. This is a big limitation especially to get secondary data for the literature review. Second, the size, convenience, and homogeneity of the sample will limit the generalizability of this study. Limited time needed to carry out the study will be a limitation too.
Research participants was restricted to Mathematics teachers and learners at this School, in the Zambezi region. Other people were not directly involved in Mathematics classroom, for example; the principal and other teachers who do not teach Mathematics.
Definition of Terms
Classroom participation: Wade (1994) considered the “ideal class participation” as one in which all students take part: in discussions that go on in the classroom, learning, and listening to others’ ideas, comments, and questions.
Teaching strategies: Teaching strategies comprise the principles and methods used for instruction (Effective Teaching Strategies, 1994).
Motivation: Donyei (1998) defines motivation in Second Language Learning as the dynamically changing cumulative arousal in a person that initiates, directs, coordinates, amplifies, terminates and evaluates the cognitive and motor processes.
Phenomenon: refers to something which is observed to happen or exist, in this case learners’ lack of participation in Mathematics lessons (Cambridge Online Dictionaries. 2016).
Learner centered: “teaching means the student is at the center of learning. The student assumes the responsibility for learning while the instructor is responsible for facilitating the learning. Thus, the power in the classroom shifts to the student” (Jeffrey & Adam, 2010, p.135).
Autonomy: is defined as the ability to make your decisions about what to do rather than being influenced by teachers (Cambridge Online Dictionaries, 2016).
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO CONTRIBUTING TO LACK OF CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION
No teacher will ever deny that active classroom participation plays an important role in the success of language learning (Tatar, 2005). As involvement and participation are essential for language acquisition, the more utterances the learners offer, the better their spoken language is and vice versa.
This phenomenon is termed Matthew Effect that is “rich get richer, poor get poorer” (Chau, Fung-ming, 1996. P. 67).This context the rich get richer while the poor get poorer simply means that those that participate frequently in the Mathematic lessons improve their skills and while those that are always passive remain behind in terms of language development and subject content.
Jones (2004) defines this phenomenon in language learning situation as a fear provoked when the learner is asked to speak in the second or the foreign language in public, with the risk of social embarrassment. Oxford (1990), Jones (2004), Von Worde (2003) concludes that anxiety has a negative effect in language learning.
Fears, nervousness, timidity and lack of self-confidence are related to language anxiety. The experience of participating in Mathematics Lesson is both mentally and emotionally demanding for most learners (Timothy, 2007). Larkin and Pines (2003) emphasize that most second or foreign languages are learned in classrooms, where there is constant performance evaluation by the teachers and peers.
This situation can be frightening for most learners, especially those who are shy, due to their desire for approval from others and fear of negative evaluation. In Mathematics class for instance, where English as a foreign language, especially a class that emphasizes speaking and listening, shy students seem to be at a great disadvantage since they do not draw attention to themselves, either by not volunteering to answer questions in class, or by avoiding opportunities for oral communication.
LACK OF PREPARATION
Also another cause of students ‘silence to participate in Mathematic class. The findings of a study conducted by Macro thinker Institute (2008) revealed that some learners felt nervous when speaking English without any preparation. Second language learners in most cases have to think in their mother tongue when asked a question in English so when they are caught offside it becomes difficult for them to participate (Miller, 1995; 1996; Larkin and Pines, 2003).
FEAR OF VOLUNTEERING TO ASK OR ANSWER A QUESTION IN CLASS
Being afraid to speak in class for fear of making mistakes was of concern for learners. Liu and Littlewood, (1997) discovered that when learners were asked in a research on how they felt concerning asking and answering questions during class, most of them reported that they often felt afraid of asking a question to teachers during class.
Shyness was another influencing factor which could affect students’ participation. However, shyness, according to Anthony (2004), is a behavior that could be the result of any one oral combination of the following factors: social introversion, lacking confidence in subject matter, and/or communication apprehension.
FEAR OF MAKING MISTAKES AND BEING LAUGHED AT
Fassinger, 1995; Krupnick, 1985; and Crombie, (2003) mentioned that fear of making errors is often cited as another cause of the perceived silence and passivity. This anxiety factor is also allegedly related to certain aspects of Eastern culture, such as the desire to be right and perfect and fear of losing face (Cheng, 2000). Melvin and Lord (2006) noted that anxiety of making mistakes reduce participation because they think their mistakes make them feel incompetent. Learners think making a mistake in Mathematics classroom will distort their image in front of their classmates.
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
In this chapter the study describes the methodology and different procedures used during data collection and analysis. In the first part research design is discussed. The second part will be on the instrument and procedures of data collection which consist of observation and interview. The third part relates to the data processing and analysis. The last part will be the ethical issues consideration
Research design may be referred to as the plan of the study that will answer the research objectives. Research designs are the specific procedures involved in the research process which are; data collection, data analysis and report writing (Creswell, 2012: 20). In addition to that Yin (1994) explains a different way of thinking about research design that it is a “blueprint” of research, looking at four problems: what questions to study, what data are relevant, what data to collect and how to analyze the results. The purpose of research design is to help the researcher to organize his or her ideas in a way that the researcher will be in a good flow. The researcher chose case study design to work with in the research.
In this study the researcher employed a case study design to be able to answer the research questions. Stake (2004) gives the definition of a case study that is both a process of inquiry about the case and the product of that inquiry. Yin (2003: 18) argues that “case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon in depth and within its real life context especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident”.
In order to find out the factors contributing to lack of participation amongst grade 4C-E learners in the Mathematics classroom at the school, qualitative approach was used. Qualitative approach allows researchers to get at the inner experiences of participants, to determine how meanings are formed through culture and to discover rather than test variables (Corbin & Straws, 2008: 5).
Creswell (2012) stresses that, qualitative research is suitable in addressing a research problem which you do not know the variables and need to discover. The natural setting of this study was in a Mathematics classroom where teaching process occur. Teachers and learners were observed and interviewed on the factors contributing to lack of participation and strategies that they use in teaching to enhance participation in their classes
Population may be defined as certain group of people in which a researcher is interested in. Cresswell (2012) defines population as a group of individuals with some common defining characteristic that a researcher can identify and study. In this study the population was formed by two teachers and ten learners which involve four learners from 4C and three from 4D and 4E respectively. All the teachers and learners were purposeful selected from the Mathematics classes.
SAMPLING AND SAMPLING PROCEDURE
Susan (2012), Sampling says is a method of studying from a few selected items, instead of the entire big number of units. The small selection is called sample. Purposive sampling method will be used as the sampling procedure (Cohen &Manion, 1995). From the population 3 teachers will be selected and 10 learners from grade 4A-4D
Purposive sampling is when a researcher chooses specific people within the population to use for a particular study or research project unlike random studies, which deliberately include a diverse cross section of ages, backgrounds and cultures, the idea behind purposive sampling is to concentrate on people with particular characteristics who will better be able to assist with the relevant research (Cohen &Manion, 1995). In this study teachers to be interviewed will be purposively selected based on the subject they teach Mathematics in this case. Two Mathematic teachers will be interviewed in this study. Four learners from grade will be interviewed.
During the examination on the factors contributing to lack of participation in Mathematics classroom interview and observation were used.
The observation was my main instrument of collecting data. Since the study was about the factors contributing to lack of participation amongst grade 5C–E learners in the Social studies classroom, therefore it was important to see what teachers do in the classroom. Maxwell (2005) argues that it is known that observation often provides a direct and influential way of learning about people’s behavior and context in which this occurs.
In line with this Gall et al (2007) says observation provide rich data sources that offer an in-depth explanation of the case.
In this study the researcher observed factors contributing to lack of participation and teaching strategies which were used by the teachers during classroom instructions in Mathematics lessons grade
The researcher also observed strategies that teachers use to enhance participation Mathematics classroom. The observation method may supplement what the oral interview may not suffice. I used non-participant observation. I believe that non-participant observation gave me a great chance to observe what the teachers are doing in an inclusive class.
Advantages of observation
Observation is very important among the data collection instruments. According to Marshal and Rossman (1995) the following are the advantages of observation. It is used to find out complex interactions in natural social settings. They also believe that even in depth interview studies, observation plays a significant role as the investigator notes body language and affects in addition to the person’s worlds.
Limitations of observation
Limitations which are likely to occur during observation are closely related to the role of inquirer in observation. This may be because the researcher assumes the participant, nonparticipant, or middle-grounded position. Taking the field notes, recording quotes perfectly for inclusion and determining the good timing for moving from a nonparticipant to participant. Researchers sometime tend to disclose themselves to the participants, sharing relationships with other individuals and attempting to disengage from the site (Cresswell, 2007 p.139).
This study involved semi-structured interviews which are attached in appendix A and B. The interview involved open-ended questions that were asked to the interviewees. The questions were constructed from my knowledge gained from literature on classroom participation, my experience on Namibia’s educational system, my educational background, and my personal interest.