“I have taken [learning] into my own hands to actually go back and see where I struggled…”
Developmental mathematics is an important area of teaching and learning. I am an Adult Educator, and I teach pre-college mathematics courses in the Transitional Studies department at Clark College. My students enroll in contextualized mathematics courses as they get ready for college and gain job skills that prepare them for academic programs and high wage jobs. Students often enter Transitional Studies courses with previous academic experiences that were not successful, and sometimes traumatic. The student experience in my classes must support their mathematical development and the skills needed to be successful learners. In addition, their experience in this course must encourage students to develop ownership of their learning through increased self-regulation.
Each week, I chose to focus on student development skills such as organization in online classes, using metacognitive strategies, finding and correcting errors, and managing test anxiety to focus on with the students. I began integrating student reflection as an academic practice with my students’ course experience after reading an article in the MathAMATYC Educator titled “The Role of Student Reflection and Self-Assessment in College Mathematics” (Odafe, 2010). This article got me thinking about the importance of intentionally incorporating reflections regularly into my course. Now at the beginning of each week my students answer check-in questions reflecting on their challenges and successes from the prior week and comment about the skills that we worked on and how it affected their learning. The questions are connected to the previous week’s development skills. Sample questions from a check-in that students complete following a week focused on reflection on learning is shared below.
Sample Questions from a Student Check-in Focused on Bringing Questions to Class
The reflection practice is an important way I develop meaningful instructor-student relationships within my classes by helping me assess how the students are doing in class, navigating the college system and in life in general. It is an opportunity to hear what their successes and concerns are. However, I did not know how students felt about their experience with reflections, and how it did or did not impact student ownership of their learning.
My SoTL inquiry examined how practicing and reflecting on student skills in a developmental mathematics course impacted students’ perceptions of their ownership of learning. I conducted a case study (Yin, 2018) in Spring of 2020 in a pre-college Math Applications course. A total of 7 students participated in the study. This study took place during a stressful time for students and instructor due to the transition to online learning because of the coronavirus. Students engaged in the learning to learn practices, and completed the weekly reflection on their experience as described above. However, this was the first time the practices were implemented in a full distance learning. All students in the class were provided the same content, and participated in the same assignments and activities, including the reflection practice, whether they participated or did not participate in the study. At the end of the term, a final reflection was given to ask what interventions were the most helpful in helping them take ownership of learning during the term. In this final reflection, 4 of the 7 participants named the weekly reflections as one of the most valuable course elements for developing ownership of their learning.
To analyze the remaining data, I looked closely at the weekly check-in reflections to find patterns and examine the trajectory of student reflection throughout the course. A question that students responded to each week was “How does reflection on learning learning help you improve as a student?” Several themes emerged in student responses and are summarized below.
Responses to Survey Question “How does reflection on learning help you improve as a student?”
This SoTL project gave me the opportunity to hear the benefits of reflection from a student perspective. It affirmed the value of these reflections not only as check-ins but also as impactful experiences for student development of ownership of their learning. As a result, I have incorporated reflection into other aspects of my course and refined the type of questions that I ask.
This study is important right now because many two-year-colleges have moved to online teaching because of COVID-19. These reflections were a way for students, during a very challenging term, to reflect weekly on their growth, progress, and needs as well as a chance to interact with their instructor. I hope that by hearing the positive impact that weekly reflections had on student development of ownership in my small case study, other instructors will be encouraged to try similar strategies in their courses. There are many directions that future SoTL projects related to ownership of learning through reflection could go. Looking specifically at the usefulness of reflections to facilitate ownership of learning at various levels of math and in various class modalities would be interesting and would build upon my project. My next inquiry will likely examine student development of metacognitive skills through the use of reflection.
Odafe, V. (2010). The role of student reflection and self-assessment in college mathematics. MathAMATYC Educator, 2(1), 26-29.
Yin, R. K. (2007). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.