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A classroom in which a teacher teach mathematics.

Teachers’ content knowledge and experience important to outcomes


The content knowledge and teaching experience of teachers are important factors for pupils’ performance in mathematics. In addition, a good atmosphere at school is important to both teachers’ job satisfaction and pupils’ well-being and performance. This is the conclusion of a new doctoral thesis at the University of Gothenburg.

Anna Toropova
Anna Toropova.

There is a growing consensus that teacher quality is crucial to pupils’ learning. But what is “teacher quality”? Anna Toropova has examined this in her doctoral thesis. The results indicate that content knowledge and teaching experience are important factors in what we call “teacher quality”, and thus for pupils’ learning.

"The results show a positive correlation between, on the one hand, the extent of the teachers’ own studies in mathematics and their teaching experience, and on the other, the results in mathematics by pupils in year eight. In terms of teachers’ experience, it turned out that the pupils’ results got better and better up to the point at which the teachers had been teaching for twenty years", says Anna Toropova.

Data from TIMSS

The doctoral thesis is based on data from TIMSS 2011 and 2015. TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) is an international study that examines skills in mathematics and natural sciences among pupils in year 4 and year 8. As TIMSS also examines pupils’ backgrounds, teachers’ skills as well as the attitudes of pupils and teachers, it is possible to make connections between, for example, teacher characteristics and pupils’ performance.

Factors that contribute to teachers’ job satisfaction

Anna Toropova has also used data from TIMSS to examine the job satisfaction of maths teachers. She shows that teachers’ workload and opportunities for peer collaboration, as well as pupil discipline and behaviour are important factors for job satisfaction.

"This is in turn important to the quality of the teaching, as the teachers who have a sense of job satisfaction have an opportunity to invest their time and energy in performing their primary task: teaching pupils", says Anna Toropova.

Worse results at schools where bullying is prevalent

She has also compared the year-four pupils’ experience of bullying in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish schools. The results show firstly that bullying is more prevalent in Sweden than in the other Nordic countries, and secondly that pupils in schools where bullying is prevalent perform worse in mathematics.

"This shows that it should be possible for Swedish schools to improve the atmosphere in schools, and thus reduce bullying and its adverse consequences, such as worse performance."

More information:

Anna Toropova, phone: +46 76 -570 8070, email:

The thesis is published in digital format.