Iben Christiansen

Iben Christiansen


Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Mathematics and Science Education
Telephone 08-120 766 37
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 20 A, E-huset, Arrheniuslab
Room P 421
Postal address Institutionen för matematikämnets och naturvetenskapsämnenas didaktik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

My research focus is the knowledge, learning and practices of mathematics teachers. I joined Stockholms University in January 2015, after working and living in South Africa for 15 years.

Currently, I am working with a wonderful team on a project on mapping mathematics teachers' learning from pre-service training to working in schools ( The project interrogates which changes in the teachers' practice occur after graduation, what informs their learning process, and how knowledge from their teacher education programmes is recontextualised. The project has a sister project in South Africa.

Before coming to Sweden, I supervised the first ever mathematics classroom study in Rwanda, a replication of a study previously conducted in South Africa, where I was involved in the study in one province. Taken together, the studies showed substantial differences in teacher knowledge and learner performance between the two countries. In particular, the Rwandan learners seemed to have better mastery of basic numeracy. In addition, the teaching in South Africa was found to be limited in conceptual focus and learner engagement, with the Rwandan teaching offered slightly better opportunities to learn.

A collaborative project (with Dr Carol Bertram and Dr Tabitha Mukeredzi) looked at the learning of early childhood education teachers enrolled in an in-service programme at University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It spans the learning of pedagogical content knowledge related to mother tongue instruction (Zulu), first additional language instruction (English) and numeracy.

And taking about Zulu, I ventured out of my field of (relative) experience, and wrote a paper on creating an app for practising Zulu. Fun!


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2019. Iben Maj Christiansen, Lisa Österling, Kicki Skog. Research Papers in Education

    ‘Good teaching’ remains disputed, but few studies have empirically studied variations in views of good teaching as reflected in teacher education. This study performed a content analysis of criteria for student teacher lesson observations stated in protocols from universities in six countries. Similarities across the protocols were the absence of images of the charismatic and the technical-professional teacher, and the dearth of teleological aspects. The degree to which protocols reflected a knowledge base, had clear implementation requirements, valued reasoned judgement, and valued transformation of content varied. On the basis of this range of images of the desired teacher, we suggest four categories of teacher images: the knowledgeable teacher, the knowledge-transforming teacher, the efficient teacher, and the constantly improving teacher, and further discuss the possibility of an inspired teacher.

  • 2019. Iben Christiansen, Carol Bertram.

    Continuing professional development for teachers is seen as an important factor in improving South African education. However, few studies have interrogated the extent to which teachers develop their professional knowledge and competencies by attending formal professional development programmes offered by universities. The purpose of the paper is to compare the results of two tests, which we designed to measure the professional learning of the Foundation Phase (Gr R – Gr 3) teachers who enrolled on an Advanced Certificate for Teaching (ACT) programme, offered by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. We designed a pen-and-paper test which the participants completed in February 2014 when they enrolled on the ACT programme and then again in October 2015, when they had completed the two-year part-time programme. A comparison of the test results indicate that teachers may have developed slightly more confidence in some areas, that some shifted their beliefs about teaching and learning yet not always in the desired direction, and that the improvement in conceptual knowledge appeared rather limited. We discuss a range of possible explanations for this.

  • 2019. Iben Maj Christiansen, Rosanne Els. Computer Assisted Language Learning

    Few people who did not grow up speaking Zulu have learned the language later. There are limited resources for second language Zulu learning, whether textbooks, readers, or computerised resources. We set out to develop software for this purpose, to support learners’ independent learning. Drawing on research on language learning, we used a number of principles that then informed the design of the programmes. In this paper, we reflect on the applicability of the principles and the difficulties in structuring an application for an agglutinative language.

  • 2018. Viren Ramdhany, Hamsa Venkat, Iben Maj Christiansen. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education 22 (2), 186-195

    The education and professional development of pre-service mathematics teachers occur across different contexts. Key contexts of mathematics learning and learning to teach are school, university undergraduate mathematics and mathematics teaching-related learning in teacher education courses. International literature suggests that each of these contexts legitimises different views of mathematics teaching and learning. For pre-service teachers traversing these contexts, moves between sites can be experienced in more continuous or more dissonant ways. The disjunctures associated with dissonant experiences lead to openings for value judgments related to the distinctions that are drawn, opening possibilities for a wider range of pedagogic decisions. In this paper, we explore, through interviews with four pre-service teachers in one post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE) course, perceptions of continuity and dissonance across sites related to mathematics and mathematics education, and teaching and learning. Our findings point largely to experiences of continuity between the high school and undergraduate contexts, with the PGCE course recognised as different from these contexts.

  • 2018. Tabitha G. Mukeredzi, Carol Bertram, Iben Christiansen. South African Journal of Childhood Education 8 (1)

    Background: There is a growing focus in South Africa on teachers developing appropriate knowledge, skills and dispositions for teaching to support young learners’ development and learning. One such teacher development programme is the Advanced Certificate in Teaching for Foundation Phase teachers, offered by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). This research sought to establish the learning of this sample of teachers as this was the first time the programme was offered at this level in South Africa and in UKZN.

    Aim: The study investigated the knowledge the teachers said they gained, how they acquired it and ways in which they said learning improved their classroom practices.

    Methods: This was a qualitative study. Data were generated from 26 participants through two rounds of focus group interviews in June 2013 and in November 2014. Data were analysed thematically using concepts of accommodation or assimilation, and practical or conceptual knowledge.

    Results: Respondents’ statements indicated development of a range of practical knowledge about planning and teaching strategies, and conceptual knowledge like child development, creative play, circle of courage and others. Teachers also reported ways in which their classroom practices had improved. However, both institution- and student-related learning barriers emerged during the first semester around programme demands and poor curriculum delivery.

    Conclusion: Respondents reported more about acquiring practical than conceptual knowledge and having improved practices in many ways. Participants also reported gaining conceptual knowledge around child development, circle of courage, and learning barriers. They acquired these kinds of knowledge through both assimilation and accommodation.

  • 2015. Marc North, Iben M. Christiansen. Pythagoras (AMESA) 36 (1), 31-41

    In this article we argue that in South Africa the current format of legitimised participation and practice in the examination papers for Mathematical Literacy restricts successful apprenticeship in the discipline of scientific mathematics and limits empowered preparation for real-world functioning. The currency of the subject, then, is brought into question. We further argue that the positioning of the subject as a compulsory alternative to Mathematics and the differential distribution of these two subjects to differing groups of learners facilitates the (re)production and sustainment of educational disadvantage. We draw on Dowling’s theoretical constructs of differing domains of mathematical practice and positions and focus analysis on a collection of nationally set exemplar Grade 12 examination papers to identify legitimised forms of participation in the subject. We conclude by arguing for a reconceptualised structure of knowledge and participation in Mathematical Literacy and make preliminary recommendations in this regard.

  • 2015. Iben Maj Christiansen. Conceptual integration and educational analysis, 129-138
Show all publications by Iben Christiansen at Stockholm University

Last updated: October 24, 2019

Bookmark and share Tell a friend