Senior pre-university education (SPE) students experience difficulties applying mathematics to physics. This paper reports the outcome of an online explorative quantitative study of teachers' belief systems about improving transfer of algebraic skills from mathematics into physics, conducted among 503 mathematics and physics teachers working in SPE. We used a questionnaire with 16 beliefs about improving transfer, and asked teachers to select a top 5 and distribute 50 points among them. We used agglomerative hierarchical clustering to cluster qualified SPE teachers with more than 10 years of teaching experience. We found 3 large clusters, each containing naïve and desirable beliefs about transfer. These clusters turned out to be rather coherent sets of beliefs. Hence, these clusters can be interpreted as belief systems, to a certain extent justifying Ernest's [(1991). The philosophy of mathematics education. London: Falmer.] idea to cluster teachers based on their belief systems. We found relations between our groups and those of Ernest. Since naïve beliefs turn out to be weak in each cluster, science teacher educators can help science teachers to change their harmful naïve beliefs, into desirable transfer enhancing beliefs. Furthermore, we discuss some implications of our results for science teacher educators, curricula, teachers and textbooks.
- Coherent mathematics education
- quantitative research
- senior pre-university education
- teachers’ belief systems
- transfer of learning