The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Investigations into students’ attitudes toward mathematics learning is well documented in the literature. The student’s perception of the usefulness of his/her mathematical studies to his/her chosen degree pathway can affect retention rates, as well as progression in later STEM study. The OU Level 1 Mathematics module MU123 serves a wide variety of students from multiple disciplines and on various pathways, and so constitutes an ideal context for an investigation into student attitudes of the usefulness of mathematics.
The proposed project forms the first phase of a larger strategy within the School of Mathematics to enhance the provision of Level 1 service mathematics. This first phase, undertaken by members of the MU123 module team, seeks to explore student perceptions of the usefulness of their mathematical studies on MU123 and develop exemplar student personas. This will be done through an analysis of tutor reflections on the tutor-student discourse at two key stages of the MU123 student journey.
Previous experience shows that the fourth block of MU123 contains many threshold concepts (such as algebraic fluency and statistical literacy) which students struggle with. Tutors will be invited to reflect on difficulties students face at two key assessment stages, and to reflect on their students’ perceptions of the relevance of these concepts to their overall development in the students’ chosen degree pathway. This will allow the module team to develop a series of typical student personas to gain a better understanding of the diversity of students studying MU123 and their perceptions of the usefulness of their mathematical studies.
In later phases, it is hoped that the student personas will help the MU123 module team to inform the development of teaching and support interventions to better improve retention and progression of MU123 and other service mathematics modules.