Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Ruth M. Heaton. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Mary Williams


Reforms of undergraduate mathematics (e.g. Bressoud & Rasmussen, 2015; Laursen et. al, 2011) are changing the practice of teaching and learning within their courses. Prior research has established strong connections between practices and beliefs (Brickhouse, 1990; Raymond, 1997; Aguirre & Speer, 1999), therefore changing the practices within these courses may be affecting the beliefs of those tasked to enact the reformed practices. Thus, part of the work of the reforms in undergraduate mathematics is to learn how and why these beliefs may or may not be changing in this culture of reform.

In this qualitative case study, I analyzed the beliefs of two instructors, one who was the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and the other who was the Learning Assistant (LA), and two freshman level students. All four participants were part the same section of a semester-long College Algebra course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which had been reformed to include more student-centered practices. The central question of this study is: What happens to instructors’ and students’ beliefs about teaching and learning mathematics when taking a reformed College Algebra course? Data analyzed included pre and post surveys, interviews using the pre and post surveys, interviews using video clips of moments from their classroom, and observation notes of the class.

Analysis suggests that beliefs held by these participants change in different ways. One kind of change observed reflected a transformation from believing one set of beliefs to a very different set of beliefs. For other participants, their beliefs changed in more subtle ways. Learning from these kinds of change are important and necessary for reforms to become sustainable and successful (Cohen & Hill, 2001). I also find that making teaching decisions public was a significant catalyst for why beliefs were changed.

Advisor: Ruth M. Heaton