Attending to Experience
: a narrative study of early career teachers of primary mathematics, and an early career researcher, in a process of becoming/continuing

  • Caroline J Ormesher

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In the following pages I explore the experiences of early career primary teachers who have an interest in mathematics education. My intention is to become more aware of what they do in their day-to-day mathematical school lives and what they consider significant to their development. In turn I question the role school-based mentors and mathematics teacher educators have in supporting their development.
I bring a narrative ontological and epistemological stance, shaped by postmodern thinking, to my work. I use a range of narrative structures to communicate my developing insights and celebrate the uncertainty of constructions of knowledge and reality.
My analysis, largely of interview data, offers a perspective usually obscured by dominant narratives of deficit and what works. I argue a shift in attention from a focus on the attainment of expertise as an end point, to the continuous processes of learning and change, may support the development of the primary mathematics specialists wished for in primary classrooms in England.
In keeping with the principles of narrative inquiry I recognise the blurring of the boundary between researcher and researched. I study my experiences as a beginning researcher alongside the experiences of the people I interview, establishing the how and the what of my methodology, as I develop my research practices. Staying with stories of development over time, and using approaches I come to describe as storying the small, writing as if and re-storying, in order that I might attend differently to the continuous nature of change, as beginners position themselves on new landscapes, are significant threads.
As a result of my work I seek to highlight methodological implications for working from a narrative position as I recognise connections between narrative inquiry, relational knowing and reflexivity and wonder at the possibilities being slow and knowing slow might offer in learning to attend to experience differently.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorLaurinda C Brown (Supervisor) & Alf T Coles (Supervisor)


  • narrative inquiry
  • primary mathematics education
  • early career teachers
  • primary mathematics specialists

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