Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Students' agency in an in-class computer-centered developmental mathematics classroom: The best laid plans of math and (wo)men
by Aly, Geillan Dahab, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2016, 136; 10109719
Abstract (Summary)

Community colleges are tasked with helping all students regardless of their academic background to receive a degree, certificate, or other form of education. Many of these students need support in learning the mathematical content necessary to take college-level courses. Since a large proportion of students in these developmental classes are students of color, and unlikely to be successful, developmental courses are not leveling the playing field of higher education. In-class computer-centered (ICCC) classes are a possible solution to this social justice issue because they provide students with flexible learning opportunities. Students can work independently on a schedule that matches their needs and can access the multiple learning tools embedded in the software in ways that make the most sense for their own learning.

Research on ICCC mathematics courses has primarily compared success rates with those of traditional lecture classes. These quantitative studies provided a limited view of student activity in an ICCC class and did not demonstrate how students were navigating these courses or the nature of their experiences. This study uses a qualitative research design to explore student actions and their experiences relative to their success.

In my analysis, I utilized Bandura’s construct of agency, defined as the capacity to understand, predict and alter the course of one’s life’s events (Bandura, 2008). My framework also considers agency as a temporal phenomenon residing in the past, present, and future (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998). Agency is operationalized temporally and by using four characteristics, intention, forethought, reflection, and reaction.

This study uses case study research design where students are interviewed and observed in an ICCC class. In it I illustrate the various forms of agency students bring and leverage in the ICCC mathematics classroom in their attempts to be successful. Findings indicate that the students who were successful were most adept at leveraging a variety of resources to help them work towards their goals. There is the assumption that students need flexibility and individualized learning in developmental courses; these needs are addressed by ICCC and are a way in which the ICCC format perfects the traditional lecture. However, this research demonstrates that the question of how to best help developmental students remains open.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wood, Marcy B.
Commitee: Betts, J. D., Milem, Jeffrey, Summers, Jessica
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Teaching and Teacher Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 77/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Mathematics education, Womens studies, Pedagogy, Ethnic studies, Educational technology
Keywords: Community college, Computer-centered instruction, Developmental education, Equity and social justice, Student agency
Publication Number: 10109719
ISBN: 9781339729886
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