Examining the effects of inquiry-based teaching strategies on community college mathematics students
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It is well documented that students are struggling in developmental and introductory mathematics courses at community colleges across the nation. However, the reasons that these students struggle are not as well known. While numerous researchers have investigated the effects of inquiry-based learning on K-12 students, the research on this topic at the community college level is lacking. For my dissertation work, I have collected attitudinal surveys, observational data, and final exams from eight sections of a developmental mathematics course and nine sections of College Algebra at a large Texas community college. Approximately half of the instructors involved in the study incorporated some level of inquiry-based teaching strategies in their classrooms (referred to in this dissertation as “student-led” sections) while the remaining instructors employed a more direct strategy (referred to as “lecture” sections). Using this data, I investigated the relationships between teaching methods and attitudes, teaching methods and content knowledge, and attitudes and content knowledge. The evidence showed that IBL teaching strategies have a greater effect on students’ attitudes for students enrolled in a developmental mathematics course than those enrolled in College Algebra. IBL teaching strategies had no positive effects on developmental students’ performance on a skills-based final exam, but student-led sections performed just as well as lecture sections. In College Algebra, participants in student-led sections scored significantly higher than lecture sections on two out of five objectives: write the equation of a line in slope-intercept form (p<0.001) and use properties of logarithms to write an expression as a single logarithm (p<0.01). Lecture sections scored significantly higher than student-led sections on one objective: write the equation of an exponential function given two data points (p<0.05). However, the wording of the problems for this objective differed between lecture and student-led sections. Finally, when comparing the eight Basic Math Skills objectives with the 17 attitudinal variables, 1.4% of pairs were significantly correlated on the pre-survey and 15.4% of pairs were significantly correlated on the post-survey. Of the five College Algebra objectives and 17 attitudinal variables, 16.5% of pairs were significantly correlated on the pre-survey and 7.1% of pairs were significantly correlated on the post-survey.