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Effects of writing to learn in pre-calculus mathematics on achievement and affective outcomes for students in a community college setting: a mixed methods approach




Ray Parsons, Michelle, author
Gloeckner, Gene W., advisor
Kennedy, Paul A., advisor
Banning, James H., committee member
Aragon, Antonette, committee member

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The intent of this study was to explore an intervention, Writing to Learn, within a college level mathematics course and examine how Writing to Learn Mathematics as an assessment tool in Trigonometry relates to overall achievement and self-reflection with respect to learning mathematics. The purpose of this study was to provide empirical evidence and determine the effect such an intervention had on undergraduate students' academic achievement as well as their mathematic conceptual growth and metacognitive growth. This study employed a mixed method approach using a qualitative study design element with emphasis on template analysis and was supported with inferential statistics from a cross-over study design implemented in a concurrent and parallel format. The quantitative portion of the study examined differences in students' exam scores for the portion of the course where students experienced Writing to Learn Mathematics versus the portion of the course where students did not experienced Writing to Learn Mathematics to determine if writing had an effect on students' performance on exams. While the results from the quantitative portion of the study were not statistically significant, effect sizes indicated a small effect. Paralleling the quantitative phase, the qualitative portion of the study utilized an approach referred to as Template Analysis to reveal the nature of students' individual metacognitive functioning and changes that occurred during the course of this study as students utilized various writing activities which engaged students in individual reflective writing as part of the course. The initial, a priori, codes were modify, expanded, and revised to reveal three themes focused on metacognitive transformations: changes as a learner, reflections and writing, and value of writing. While there were inconsistencies between results due to different methodological approaches in data collection, information that may otherwise have been overlooked was available. The integration of results revealed many students made significant changes in approaches to learning and also made deep and meaningful conceptual connections as a result of Writing to Learn Mathematics. It also was apparent writing in mathematics and about mathematics encouraged students to reflect on what they were learning and facilitated meaningful connections about content and themselves as learners.


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adult education
alternative assessment
mixed methods study
writing to learn


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