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A mixed methods study of a journal-writing intervention for undergraduate students in a college mathematics course

Mary Grace Zeleny, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This mixed methods study examined the impact of a journal writing intervention on college math students. Quantitatively, the study probed the writing intervention's impacts on students' sense of belonging in the math course, math anxiety, math efficacy, writing attitudes, and final grades. Qualitatively, the study explored the writing impact on students through semi-structured interviews and writing responses. This study was conducted in four sections of a mathematics college course offered to pre-service education majors (N=83). Participants in two sections of the course (N = 45) were randomly assigned to either an experimental (E) or a writing and contact control (WCC) group. The two other sections of the course served as a true control (TC) group (N=38). Throughout the semester, writing prompts were distributed to the E and WCC groups. The E group was prompted to convey thoughts and feelings about their math course, while the WCC group—which was set up to control for experimenter and writing activity effects—was prompted to write about math questions. Both groups received one-minute writing probes similar to their writing prompts. All groups received pre/post measures, demographic survey, and mid/end-term evaluation. This study was a testament to mixed methods research. Although quantitative analysis showed little or no differences, the qualitative data showed that writing became an important part of students' math course experiences. Student interview responses suggested that journaling was meaningful, fostered learning, helped develop strategies and fostered communication. Student journals indicated they used writing in meaningful ways, including expressing feelings about math and becoming aware of learning needs. Student journals likewise indicated that writing led to strategies and helped foster connections with other students and teachers. Overall, students' qualitative data matched hypothesized predictions that writing would be tied to a sense of belonging and positive affect. Results generally imply that writing in math classes can help create meaningful student engagement, reduce anxiety surrounding mathematics, provide beneficial communication, and assist with students' learning processes.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Educational psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Zeleny, Mary Grace, "A mixed methods study of a journal-writing intervention for undergraduate students in a college mathematics course" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3590999.