Adult mathematics students: reflections on their learning

Evens, Hilary (2003). Adult mathematics students: reflections on their learning. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The experiences and conceptions of learning of five Open University adult students are reported and explored in this study. The students were studying Open Mathematics, a first level 30 point supported distance-learning course. The course included activities designed to encourage active and reflective learning.

A phenomenographic approach was used to capture a variety of students’ conceptions of learning, including their awareness of their own learning (metacognition). I interviewed each student individually three times, twice during the year of the course and again one year later. I asked the students to think about their learning in a reflective way and to report on any changes in their learning.

This study found that the students tended to separate the mathematical activities from the Teaming to learn’ activities, sometimes resisting or even deliberately avoiding the latter. However a variety of issues was raised and explored, such as the different kinds of writing required by this course and the uses and meanings of the language of learning. Other issues included barriers to learning, problems of finding time for study and the difference between distance-learning and face-to-face study.

With such a small number of students, generalisations were not possible or even aimed for. Instead the study shows a wide range of different experiences and preconceptions of learning and describes changes in learning made by the students during the course.

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