Oehrtman, Michael C.

Committee Member

Powers, Robert A.

Committee Member

Leth, Steven C


Educational Mathematics


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

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306 pages

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Born digital


Prior research on formative assessment in classrooms documents a link between formative assessment and increased performance on achievement tests but little is known about how formative assessment helps undergraduate mathematics students improve. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to examine which purposes of formative assessment were relevant to students in two sections of introductory calculus that used a set of in-class labs based upon approximation and students’ understanding of limits. The data for the qualitative portion of the project consisted of classroom observations of students’ experiences with formative assessment and case studies of nine students. Students’ mean achievements on the limits, derivatives, and definite integral labs were compared across participation levels (�=54). Specifically, the researcher examined how asynchronous formative assessments, low stakes assignments completed outside of class for the purpose of feedback and teacher planning, facilitated academic socialization, provided a basis for classroom discussion, allowed for effective student feedback, activated students as learning resources for each other, and increased student ownership of their learning using Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development as a theoretical lens. Additionally, since asynchronous formative assessment is a type of participation, the researcher explored how formative assessments could open a dialogue between students and instructors. The findings suggested that the learning trajectory of students was dependent on the regularity of participation in the formative assessments. Although classroom discussion based upon students’ questions was less effective as the semester progressed, students who utilized individual written feedback on a draft showed great improvement on their final assignment. There were also indications of attribution and calibration differences between students who participated regularly in formative assessment and those that did not; these differences merit attention in future research.

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