Beliefs of college algebra instructors
Morgan, Margaret Lynn
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The high failure rate in College Algebra is a problem for the instructors who teach the course, the administrators of the institutions that offer the course, and the communities those institutions serve. And clearly, failing the course is a problem for the students because it often affects their future course taking and therefore career options. In this study I sought to give voice to instructors because few, if any, studies have considered this problem from the point of view of the instructor and because instructors represent the intersection of the four groups affected by the problem. The six participants in this study were affiliated with open-admission institutions in Georgia, had at least 10 years experience teaching, and had taught College Algebra multiple times. The participants represented a variety of educational backgrounds and work experiences. Each participant completed a background questionnaire and three interviews. During the third interview, participants were given an opportunity to member check the initial analysis. A second member check was conducted after the third interview. A modified version of Ernest‘s (1989) framework was used to analyze the participants‘ beliefs about mathematics, teaching and learning. One participant expressed an instrumentalist view of mathematics, one participant had a Platonist view of mathematics, and the remaining four participants had a combination view of mathematics. The participants also indicated beliefs that not everyone could learn mathematics equally well, that technology is not essential to teaching mathematics to adults, and that students are responsible for their own learning despite the fact that adults face many impediments to learning mathematics. With regard to the high failure rate in College Algebra participants‘ beliefs about the curriculum, administration, instruction, and students were identified. The conclusions from this study are that there may be a better curriculum for students who will not take calculus, time constraints affect both College Algebra instructors and students, teachers need additional preparation to teach College Algebra, students are not adequately prepared for College Algebra, and self-efficacy issues lead to students failing College Algebra. Each of these conclusions has implications for college administrators and/or College Algebra instructors.