A while back I posted about a survey that I gave my students during the first week of school. My intent was to get information about their definition of mathematics and their sense of mathematical identity/agency. I am nearing the end of my research period, so I decided to go ahead and give them the same survey to see how/if things had changed for them over the year. I must say, I'm a bit skeptical about this sort of data that attempts to show a change in "x" because of "y." With that said, here are there responses before and after. I found it useful to compare percentages.



The new question I have is how to get more information from the students about this data. What caused certain changes? What caused other areas to remain static?

I would love any thoughts or suggestions. What areas does it seem like there might be some opportunity to discuss further with students?


03/02/2013 6:46pm

This is powerful stuff! As I said in the e-mail, I was especially struck by the two questions that seem most connected to students' sense of agency (i.e. being the creators of mathematics). I love your next step of talking to the students about what is behind these shifts. What do you think this might look like? What will you ask? Who will you talk to? Interviews or another focus group seems like a great next step to give you more depth to wrap up the study!

03/02/2013 8:13pm

These two questions are the most interesting to me:
A: "I need to learn the steps for how to do a math problem before I can do it on my own:
B: "I can create mathematical ideas, formulas, and rules"

These seem to be the overarching ideas of every single other thing. It so bizarre that they agreed LESS with A, but MORE with B. In every single every other question (besides A) they're leaning more towards the idea of making their own mathematics. Which is why it's so weird that they're so much more into wanting steps, and also so weird that they're so much more into being creative. Such opposing thoughts!!

Bryan Meyer
03/03/2013 9:58am

Hi Meghan...

Yeah, I agree. In looking at their "before" and "after" responses, it seems that their responses to both questions have started to move in a positive direction but by different amounts. I am eager to ask them about the difference that you point out here. I'm not sure if all students feel this way, but here is what one student wrote in the optional "additional comments" section of the survey:

"Going from schooling where I was simply told how to solve a problem, and made to memorize it. I never actually "learned how to" solve problems, I "memorized how to" solve problems. And in my adolescence I confused one for the other thinking they were the same. But I soon found that after coming to this, and more specifically this class, that I didn't really "know" much of anything pertaining to the creation and solving of mathematical equations in the form of written problems. So to ask "I need to learn the steps for how to do a math problem before I can try it on my own" leaves me with a torn answer because for 10 years plus of schooling that was all I knew. Although at my mental maturity, in younger years, I don't actually know if I could have been given a problem and told "solve it" or "experiment" without some sense/source of direction. And this is how I felt the first couple weeks at a new school where I was asked those very questions without any direction as to where to start. But since coming here I think that I could and will solve math problems or attempt them without any direction from a teacher or peer."

I'll keep you posted on how the focus group goes this week to follow up with students about some of these survey items. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Meghan!

04/04/2013 12:49pm

Hi Bryan,
Just wondering if you were thinking of doing any significance testing with this data. I'd be extremely interested in finding out if any of these changes were statistically significant. Are all those numbers accurate on the graphs?

My dissertation work was on students' attitudes towards PBL (girls specifically) and I asked about empowerment and agency, so there's definitely an overlap in these questions. It was a narrative study so I could talk to you about how to get more descriptive feedback from the kids. Of course, it's not causal.

04/04/2013 10:31pm

Hi Carmel...

I recently came across your work and noticed that you and I had similar interests. I am so happy to see you stop by here and leave your thoughts!

I haven't done any significance testing and don't think I intend to (but, yes, the numbers on the graphs on accurate). Although I found these results pretty interesting, my research agenda has not been to show/prove that things I am doing are changing student agency. Rather, I was interested in looking closely at moments of student agency and then trying to capture a qualitative analysis of the classroom factors that contributed to those moments.

My research period is "technically" over...mostly because I need to finish writing up my thesis in the next few months. I am getting close to being done and I would be happy to share my writing with you if you are interested. Feel free to send me an email. I would also love to read more about the work that you did and are currently doing. Please forward some things my way if it isn't too much trouble.



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