TECHNOLOGY MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN COMMUNITY COLLEGE MATHEMATICS TEACHING

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Kungliga Tekniska Hogskola]On: 10 October 2014, At: 20:49Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

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    TECHNOLOGY MAKES ADIFFERENCE IN COMMUNITYCOLLEGE MATHEMATICSTEACHINGThomasenia Lott Adams aa College of Education , University of Florida ,Gainesville, Florida, USAPublished online: 09 Jul 2006.

    To cite this article: Thomasenia Lott Adams (1997) TECHNOLOGYMAKES A DIFFERENCE IN COMMUNITY COLLEGE MATHEMATICS TEACHING,Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 21:5, 481-491, DOI:10.1080/1066892970210502

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  • TECHNOLOGY MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN COMMUNITYCOLLEGE MATHEMATICS TEACHING

    Thomasenia Lott AdamsCollege of Education, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

    This study examines the influence of graphing calculators on a teacher's assessmentpractices in a college algebra course. The researcher focused on three techniques ofalternative assessment: oral discourse, teacher observations, and problem-solvinginvestigations. The teacher's assessment practices were revealed during 6 weeks ofclassroom observations. The researcher examined the teacher's assessment practicesbefore and after the teacher used graphing calculators as tools for teaching andlearning mathematics. The use of the graphing calculators enhanced the teacher'sassessment practices as related to oral discourse, classroom observations, andproblem-solving investigations. The results of the study indicate the potential fortechnological tools to influence teachers' practices of alternative assessment in themathematics classroom.

    Assessment is viewed by many mathematics educators as a means ofreforming the teaching and learning of mathematics. This view isencouraged by the development of and emphasis on techniques ofclassroom assessment that allow educators to increase and improveinformation obtained about instruction and learning. In addition, thesenew, authentic techniques of assessment are purported to be replace-ments for or supplements to traditional methods of assessment. Tech-niques of authentic assessment are characterized by assessmentmethods that are implemented to obtain multiple facets of informationabout teaching and learning in order to improve teaching and learning.These techniques are alternatives to traditional forms of assessment,which often provide only a one-dimensional view of learning and verylittle information about teaching.

    Many techniques of alternative assessment are applicable in themathematics classroom: constructed-response items, essays, oral dis-course, exhibitions, experiments, portfolios (Feuer & Fulton, 1992),

    Address correspondence to Thomasenia Lott Adams, University of Florida, College ofEducation, Gainesville, FL 32611-7048, USA

    Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 21:481-491, 1997Copyright 1997 Taylor & Francis

    1066-8928/97 $12.00 + .00 481

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  • 482 T. L. ADAMS

    journals (Bagley & Gallenberger, 1992), projects, group work (Mathe-matical Sciences Education Board & National Research Council, 1993),observations, diagnostic interviews, problem-solving investigations(Sammons, Kobett, Heiss, Fennell, 1992), and self-reports (Ginsburg,Jacobs, & Lopez, 1993).

    Various tools for teaching and learning (e.g., manipulatives) are usedin the mathematics classroom. It is important that educators viewassessment techniques in light of the tools used in the classroom.Mathematics educators heavily promote the use of computers andcalculators in mathematics classrooms at all grade levels (NationalCouncil of Teachers of Mathematics, 1980, 1989,1991). As a means ofassessing students' learning of mathematics while using computers,calculators, or both, many researchers have examined the impact oftechnology on students' achievement in mathematics (e.g., Koop, 1982;Palmiter, 1991; Rich, 1990). In most instances, students in these studieswere assigned a score on an instrument before and after participationin an experimental use of computers or calculators. Like many tradi-tional methods of assessment, these scores provided only partial in-formation about students' mathematical strengths and weaknesses(Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics, 1992) and almost noinformation about the teaching that occurred. In the wake of assessmentreform in mathematics education, mathematics educators have rarelyaddressed the question of how the use of technology, particularly theuse of graphing tools, affects assessment practices in the mathematicsclassroom (Senk, 1992).

    The framework of this study was built on three premises. First,among other things, assessment is a procedure for ascertaining whatstudents know (Webb & Briars, 1990; Mathematical Sciences EducationBoard, 1990). When teachers are able to determine what students know,they are more informed about the pace and effectiveness of the instruc-tion (Stiggins, 1988), and they are better equipped to inform studentsand other interested parties who are concerned about students' learning(Clarke, Clarke, & Lovitt, 1990). The idea that teachers should beinterested in what students know does not negate the idea that teachersshould not attend to students' mathematical weaknesses. However, bydirecting focus on students' mathematical knowledge and strengths,teachers can make more informed decisions about the appropriatenessof the curriculum and instruction.

    Second, mathematical assessment in particular is "the comprehens-ive accounting of an individual's or group's functioning within mathe-matics or in the application of mathematics" (Webb, 1992, p. 663). Ifassessment is to be aligned with the curriculum, as suggested by Cainand Kenney (1992), then one must design assessment that reflects the

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  • COMMUNITY COLLEGE MATHEMATICS TEACHING 483

    content of the curriculum and that provides some insight on the qualityof the interaction between the learner and the curriculum presented bythe teacher and between the learner and the instruction facilitated bythe teacher.

    Last, the power of technology and its application in mathematics canbe realized when computers and calculators are used as tools for teach-ing and learning. Computers and calculators can play a significant rolein the teaching and learning of every mathematical topic. These toolscan have a great impact in the mathematics classroom (Leitzel, 1989).

    I conducted the study reported here to examine a mathematicsteacher's classroom assessment practices before and after use of atechnological tool used for teaching and learning mathematics. Thepurpose of the study was to describe the effect of using graphingcalculators on three areas of the teacher's assessment of students: oraldiscourse, observation, and problem-solving investigations.

    Oral discourse is characterized by conversations in the instructionalsetting that take meaning from the curriculum and instructional prac-tices. The oral discourse can be teacher directed or student directed andinvolves the exchange of information that takes its context from themathematics and the processes of teaching and learning mathematicsthat occur in the classroom environment. My focus was on the influenceof using graphing calculators on oral discourse as related to teachingand learning mathematics.

    Teachers' observations of students' work and of students at work is avery important component o