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Authoring Themselves as Mathematical Learners: Students' Experiences of Learning to Learn High School Mathematics Open Access


Other title
mathematics education
learning processes
high school
constructivist grounded theory
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
McFeetors, Pamela Janelle
Supervisor and department
Simmt, Elaine (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Glanfield, Florence (Secondary Education)
Johnston, Ingrid (Secondary Education)
McGarvey, Lynn (Elementary Education)
Graven, Mellony (Rhodes University)
Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
High school mathematics students often complete homework and study for unit tests without support to consider how these actions could contribute to their mathematical learning. However, students can, through the process of learning to learn mathematics, to bring into view how they learn mathematics. Mathematics class is an interesting context to study the ways in which students could improve their approaches to learning because of the compulsory nature of course enrolment and the contentious nature of the content. This dissertation responds to the research question: How can we understand students’ learning as they actively develop their processes of learning mathematics? Constructivist grounded theory, repositioned in symbolic interactionism and constructivism, framed this interpretive inquiry. Thirteen grade 12 students from a Mathematical Learning Skills class, taken concurrently with an academic mathematics class, volunteered to co-construct data with the researcher over a four-month period. Data included interactive writing, small group sessions, interviews with students and the teacher, student working papers, and researcher field notes. Sensitizing concepts of intention/al/ity, voice, (re)forming identity, and relationships with sources of knowledge informed a comprehensive coding process. Categories of analysis were developed through prototypical exemplars and their integration resulted in theorizing about learning with the metaphor of authoring. Students inquired into systemically defined and externally imposed tasks as they participated in learning-based conversations. They engaged in becoming aware, incorporating suggestions, verbalizing possibilities, and (re)forming intentions as ways of learning to learn mathematics. Viewed as dynamic and authentic, the processes for learning mathematics students developed included examples like “creating summary sheets” and “formulating verbal explanations.” The students also developed and verbalized mechanisms for making sense of mathematical ideas, component elements within the processes for learning mathematics. The mechanisms included: breaking down, putting together, connecting, and writing down. As the students were learning to learn, they were authoring. Authoring, as a metaphor for learning, is a generative activity of making meaning of experiences and interactions which shapes self and the world. I use the metaphor of authoring to draw together the complex experiences of the students’ learning within the context of mathematics, as an abstract interpretive understanding. Students were authoring processes for learning, authoring mathematical ideas, and self-authoring as they began to see themselves as mathematical learners.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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