Karakok, Gulden

Committee Member

Bagley, Spencer

Committee Member

Morrison, Katherine

Committee Member

Harding, Jennifer


College of Natural and Health Sciences; School of Mathematical Sciences, Educational Mathematics


University of Northern Colorado

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Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



193 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Developmental mathematics courses, designed to provide remediation for students who are identified as having skills below the college level, have long been a mainstay in community colleges. These courses fill a need and effectively prepare some students for college level math courses, providing access to mathematics courses and college programs they otherwise would not have had. However, a large majority of students experience developmental mathematics as a gatekeeper, rather than a gateway, to higher courses. As such, the status quo of traditional developmental mathematics programs is inequitable, denying access to college-level courses. Recognizing this equity issue as necessitating institutional change, many community colleges have begun reform of their developmental programs and courses. Much of the research regarding developmental mathematics reform is focused on student outcomes measures such as course completion and degree attainment, and the data is largely quantitative in nature. Although instructors and administrators are integral to any reform efforts, their voices are reasonably silent in the existing literature. In my qualitative study, I sought to explain the experiences of various stakeholders involved with one such reform at an urban community college, in particular administrators, instructors and students. I gathered these experiences through surveys, individual interviews, and classroom observations and employed activity theory as both a theoretical and analytical framework for this study. The novel use of activity theory provided a means to operationalize course reform as an activity, allowing me to identify a number of tensions and contradictions arising from the reform process which both illuminate conflicts as a result of reform and act as drivers of change within the reform process. The way in which activity theory facilitated recognition of these tensions highlights the utility of the framework for future studies of course and program reform. The identified contradictions underscore the importance of stakeholder buy in and communication, as well as the need for proactive and ongoing professional development for instructors. Furthermore, the implications for administrators and policymakers indicate the necessity to fully consider the downstream effects of policy and program changes.

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Copyright is held by the author.