Mathematics and dumping lectures?: another perspective on the shift towards learner pragmatism

Cretchley, Patricia (2005) Mathematics and dumping lectures?: another perspective on the shift towards learner pragmatism. In: 5th Southern Hemisphere Conference on Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics Teaching and Learning: Kingfisher Delta'05, 22-26 Nov 2005, Fraser Island, Australia.


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A provocative report by Dolnicar [1] proposes that a shift towards learner pragmatism “defines the reality” of
the current tertiary learning environment. It identified a group of so-called “pragmatics” (17% of the students
investigated, and mainly Commerce and IT students) who claimed that they attended lectures almost solely to
gain essential course information, as against enjoyment or to learn. This group is reported to have claimed the
lowest levels of lecture attendance, yet delivered “the highest grade point average of the students in the
study”. Are Mathematics students pragmatic in the sense that they only come to lectures to obtain essential
course information, not to learn or enjoy? Are Mathematics lectures valuable in that they have an effect on
performance? I present data from 85 Mathematics and Engineering students in an Algebra & Calculus course
in Australia, in which all resources were readily accessible outside of lectures. Students attending class two
thirds of the way through the course achieved statistically higher levels of performance on all but one of the
course assessment items (significant at the .05 level) than those not in class at that point. “Strategic” learning
styles, which may characterise the “pragmatics” described in [1], yielded only small non-significant
correlations with performance. Lecture attendance has diminished very little in this Mathematics course,
despite full and easy access to all course information and materials, online and in hardcopy. Hence there was
little evidence of the pragmatism reported in [1] for Commerce and IT students. A follow-up study indicated
that mathematics attendees regarded lectures as an efficient and companionable way to meet new material and
build understanding and confidence. Lectures were motivating, enjoyable, kept students on track, provided a
sense of community and common purpose, and clearly suited those who prefer learning by hearing, seeing and
asking, rather than reading. The strong relationship between attendance and mathematics performance
indicates the value of explicit teaching. Clearly ICT alternatives need quality resourcing and careful support.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information (displayed to public): Author retains copyright.
Depositing User: epEditor USQ
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Maths and Computing
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:28
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:34
Uncontrolled Keywords: learner pragmatism, student achievement, lectures, strategic learning style
Fields of Research (FoR): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130303 Education Assessment and Evaluation
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy

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