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

  • Author / Creator
    McFeetors, Pamela Janelle
  • 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.

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  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • McGarvey, Lynn (Elementary Education)
    • Kirova, Anna (Elementary Education)
    • Graven, Mellony (Rhodes University)
    • Glanfield, Florence (Secondary Education)
    • Johnston, Ingrid (Secondary Education)