How Can Professional Development Contribute to University Mathematics Teaching?

  • Leigh N. Wood
  • Peter Petocz
  • Anna Reid
Part of the Mathematics Education Library book series (MELI, volume 56)


In this chapter we examine the role of mathematics academics in the teaching and learning of university mathematics courses. We consider various ways in which university mathematics educators could enhance their professional work by guiding students towards not only learning mathematics, but also becoming mathematicians. This aim arises from a view that our professionalism as educators can always be improved by reflection on our current practice, rather than from a view that we are not doing our job properly at present. Yet there is a need for such reflection. In mathematics, as in many university disciplines, lecturers are appointed on the basis of their discipline expertise in mathematics itself, and their pedagogical skills are assumed to follow from this. However, their individual teaching approaches may be based on their previous experience as (often atypical) students and the approaches used by their own lecturers. Our students and graduates have certainly made many comments about the problems caused by such an approach. A key question is what approach to professional development is most effective in improving the pedagogical effectiveness of university mathematics educators, and the ultimate aim of enhancing our students’ learning. It is likely that there are a range of effective approaches, and that some will work better than others in different situations. We consider several models of professional development for mathematics teaching at the university level. These include models based on action research processes, models that consider learning from peers, a model based on professional standards and quality assurance processes, and finally, models that have their genesis in a sociological approach to mathematics education.


Professional Development Mathematics Educator Professional Standard Action Research Project Academic Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Australian Academy of Science. (2006). Mathematics and statistics: Critical skills for Australia’s future. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science. Online at
  2. Barton, B. (2008). The language of mathematics: Telling mathematical tales. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Begg, A. (2001). Ethnomathematics: Why, and what else? Zentralblatt für Didaktik der Mathematik, 33(3), 71–74. Online at
  4. Bidgood, P., Saebi, N., & Gay, J. (2010). Peer assisted learning in mathematics – An experience to enhance the learning of undergraduates. In L. Gómez Chova, D. Martí Belenguer, & I. Candel Torres (Eds.), INTED2010 Proceedings CD, Valencia, Spain, International Association for Technology, Education and Development, 4506–4513.Google Scholar
  5. Boud, D. (1999). Situating academic development in professional work: Using peer learning. International Journal for Academic Development, 4(1), 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, N., Bower, M., Skalicky, J., Wood, L., Donovan, D., Loch, B., Bloom, W., & Joshi, N. (2010). A professional development framework for teaching in higher education. In M. Devlin, J. Nagy, & A. Lichtenberg (Eds.), Research and development in higher education: Reshaping higher education, July 6–9 (Vol. 33, pp. 133–143). Melbourne: HERDSA. Online at
  7. Burton, L. (2004). Mathematicians as enquirers – Learning about learning mathematics. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  8. Congos, D., & Schoeps, N. (1993). Does supplemental instruction really work and what is it anyway? Studies in Higher Education, 18(2), 165–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. D’Ambrosio, U. (1998). Mathematics and peace: Our responsibilities. Zentralblatt für Didaktik der Mathematik, 30(3), 67–73. Online at
  10. D’Ambrosio, U. (1999). Literacy, matheracy, and technoracy: A trivium for today. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 1(2), 131–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Ambrosio, U. (2007). The potentialities of (ethno) mathematics education. In B. Atweh, A. Calabrese Barton, M. Borba, N. Gough, C. Keitel, C. Vistro-Yu, & R. Vithal (Eds.), Internationalisation and globalisation in mathematics and science education (pp. 199–208). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dahan, H. M., Puteh, M., Sidhu, G., & Alias, N. A. (2008). Reengineering teaching and learning in higher education in the development of human capital – The Malaysian initiatives. In C. Nygaard & C. Holtham (Eds.), Understanding learning-centred higher education (pp. 283–300). Copenhagen: CBS Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dall’Alba, G., & Sandberg, J. (2006). Unveiling professional development: A critical review of stage models. Review of Educational Research, 76, 383–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davies, N. (2002). Ideas for improving the learning and teaching of statistics. In P. Kahn & J. Kyle (Eds.), Effective learning and teaching in mathematics and its applications (pp. 175–193). London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  15. Davies, N., & Barnett, V. (2005). Learning statistics teaching in higher education using online and distance methods. International Statistical Institute, 55th Session, Sydney, Australia. Online at∼iase/publications/13/Davies-Barnett.pdf
  16. Dobbie, M., & Joyce, S. (2008). Peer-assisted learning in accounting – A qualitative assessment. Asian Social Science, 4(3), 18–25. Online at Google Scholar
  17. Gordon, S., Reid, A., & Petocz, P. (2007). Teachers’ conceptions of teaching service statistics courses. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(1). Online at
  18. Griffin, M., & Griffin, B. (1998). An investigation of the effects of reciprocal peer tutoring on achievement, self-efficacy, and test anxiety. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23, 298–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grigutsch, S., & Törner, G. (1998). World views of mathematics held by university teachers of mathematics science (Schriftenreihe des Fachbereichs Matematik, Preprint 420). Duisburg: Gerhard Mercator University. Online at Summary at with pdf available from there.
  20. Haggarty, L., & Postlethwaite, K. (2003). Action research: A strategy for teacher change and school development? Oxford Review of Education, 29(4), 423–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hammond, J., Bithell, C., Jones, L., & Bidgood, P. (2010). A first year experience of student-directed peer-assisted learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11(3), 201–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Henkel, M. (2005). Academic identity and autonomy in a changing policy environment. Higher Education, 49(1/2), 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hicks, O. (1999). Integration of central and departmental development: Reflections from Australian universities. International Journal for Academic Development, 4(1), 43–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Higher Education Academy. (2006). The UK professional standards framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy. Online at
  25. Kahn, P., & Kyle, J. (Eds.). (2002). Effective learning and teaching in mathematics and its applications. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  26. Kay, J., Owen, D., & Dunne, E. (2012, in press). Students as change agents: Student engagement with quality enhancement of learning and teaching. In I. Solomonides, A. Reid, & P. Petocz (Eds.), Engaging with learning in higher education. Faringdon: Libri Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Kember, D. (1997). A reconceptualisation of the research into university academics’ conceptions of teaching. Learning and Instruction, 7(3), 255–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kline, M. (1977). Why the professor can’t teach. New York: St Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  29. Krantz, S. G. (1999). How to teach mathematics (2nd ed.). Providence: American Mathematical Society.Google Scholar
  30. Ling, P., & Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development. (2009). Development of academics and higher education futures: Vol. 1. Report. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.Google Scholar
  31. McNiff, J. (2002a). Action research for professional development. Concise advice for new researchers. Dorset: September Books. Online at
  32. McNiff, J. (with Whitehead, J.). (2002b). Action research: Principles and practice. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  33. Nardi, E. (2008). Amongst mathematicians: Teaching and learning mathematics at university level. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  34. Oates, G., Paterson, J., Reilly, I., & Statham, M. (2005). Effective tutorial programmes in tertiary mathematics. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 36(7), 731–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. OECD Institutional Management in Higher Education. (2009). Learning our lesson: Review of quality teaching in higher education. Paris: OECD. Online at
  36. Paterson, J., Thomas, M., & Taylor, S. (2011). Reaching decisions via internal dialogue: Its role in a lecturer professional development model. In B. Ubuz (Ed.), Proceedings of the 35th Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Vol. 3, Ankara, Turkey, pp. 353–360.Google Scholar
  37. Reid, A. (2002). Is there an ideal approach for academic development. In A. Goody & D. Ingram (Eds.), Spheres of influence: Ventures and visions in educational development. Perth: University of Western Australia. Online at
  38. Reid, A., & Marshall, S. (2009). Institutional development for the enhancement of research and research training. International Journal for Academic Development, 14(2), 145–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Royal Statistical Society. (2011). Teaching statistics in higher education. Plymouth: RSS Centre for Statistical Education. Plymouth, University of Plymouth. Online at
  40. Schuck, S. (2011). Resisting complacency: My teaching through an outsider’s eyes. In S. Schuck & P. Pereira (Eds.), What counts in teaching mathematics: Adding value to self and content (pp. 61–73). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Senge, P. (1994). The leaders’ new work: Building learning organisations. In C. Mabey & P. Iles (Eds.), Managing learning (pp. 5–21). Oxford: The Open University/Thompson Business Press.Google Scholar
  42. Smith, G. H., Wood, L. N., Crawford, K., Coupland, M., Ball, G., & Stephenson, B. (1996). Constructing mathematical examinations to assess a range of knowledge and skills. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 27(1), 65–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wood, L. N., & Petocz, P. (2008). Learning excellence and development team: LEADing change in learning and teaching. Asian Social Science, 4(3), 2–9. Online at
  44. Wood, L. N., & Smith, N. (2007). Graduate attributes: Teaching as learning. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 38(6), 715–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wood, L. N., Joshi, N., Bower, M., Vu, T., Bloom, W., Loch, B., Donovan, D., Brown, N. & Skalicky, J. (2011). A National Discipline-specific Professional Development Program in the Mathematical Sciences. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leigh N. Wood
    • 1
  • Peter Petocz
    • 2
  • Anna Reid
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Business and EconomicsMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  3. 3.Sydney Conservatorium of MusicUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations