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Engineering students’ mathematical activities in an online and in a blended learning environment

Shaista Kanwal of the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled “Dynamics of undergraduate engineering students’ learning activities in mathematics in an online and in a blended environment“ and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Thursday 5 November 2020.  Trial lecture 4 November. (Photo: Private)

This study offers empirical and theoretical insights about students’ work in mathematics with and without using digital tools.

Shaista Kanwal

PhD Candidate

The disputation will be held digitally, because of the Corona covid-19-situation. Spectators may follow the disputation digitally – link is available below.

 

Shaista Kanwal of the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled “Dynamics of undergraduate engineering students’ learning activities in mathematics in an online and in a blended environment“ and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Thursday 5 November 2020.  Trial lecture 4 November.  

She has followed the PhD-programme at the Faculty of Engineering and Science with Spesialisation in Mathematical Sciences, scientific field Mathematics Education. This is disputation number 28 within the scientific field Mathematics Education at the Faculty og Engineering and Science PhD-programme.

Summary of the Thesis by  Shaista Kanwal:

Engineering students’ mathematical activities in an online and in a blended learning environment

Use of technology is increasingly becoming common in teaching and learning of mathematics.

A variety of tools and resources with different functionalities are being used to facilitate the teaching and learning process in various ways. The examples include, among others, internet-based automatic systems, digital tools for graphing and visualizing mathematical properties, online- and handheld-calculators, and programming.

Follows students activities

This study analyses mathematical activity of 4 undergraduate engineering students in an online and in a blended learning environment over two consecutive semesters.

The online environment involved administration of online homework and assessments through an automatic system, lectures in the form of tutorial videos, and final examination in digital format.

In the blended environment, face-face lectures and students’ group works through paper and pencil were included in addition to the online homework and assessments.

The data in this study were collected through video-recorded observations of students’ group work, screen-recordings of their computer activity, weekly students’ journals in the first phase of the study, and semi-structured interviews.

Empirical and theoretical insights

This study offers empirical and theoretical insights about students’ work in mathematics with and without using digital tools.

Empirically, the study compares how digital tools and other factors from both environments play a role in students’ interactions with mathematics. Activity theory is used as an overarching framework along with other middle range theories for conceptualizing and analysing students’ activity.

Theoretically, an analytical prototype model of reasoning processes is developed to analyse how factors from the learning environment affect students’ mathematical reasoning.

Digital tools

In the online environment, students had a wide variety of online and digital tools available at their disposal which offered them a huge number of action possibilities.

The action possibilities offered by these tools were spread across both ends of spectrum with regards to the quality of students’ engagement with mathematics.

In some cases, tools facilitated in exploring mathematical properties that led them to engage with the involved mathematics in effective ways.

In other cases, the tools provided the solutions of the tasks without having the students to engage with mathematics involved and thus the mathematics remained invisible for the students.

Selection of digital tools

In this regard, the nature and structure of the tasks played a critical role for which tools were selected and how the tools were used.

That is, whether the tasks asked for applying given algorithms or for exploring the mathematical properties was one of the determining factors for the effective use of digital tools and thus for the students' engagement with involved mathematics.

Another factor that was crucial for students' choice of digital tools was the ability to prepare for the exam format which related to the design of the mathematics course.

The nature of tasks also played a part in the quality of students’ engagement with mathematics without using digital tools.

However, without the use of tools, the students were more engaged with involved mathematics even when the tasks asked for application of algorithms. If there were errors in simple calculations during the task solving process, it was possible to detect those errors and understand the reasons behind the errors. It was due to the reason that the students' solution process was visible to them when they did not use digital tools, but it took them long time to solve the tasks without using tools.

 

Disputation facts:

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place online, via the Zoom conferencing app (link below)

Assistant Head of Department Elna Svege, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and Science, University of Agder, will chair the disputation.

Trial lecture: 17:00 Wednesday 4 November
Public defense: 17:00 Thursday 5 November

Given topic for trial lecture“Networking theories in mathematics education: Necessities, opportunities and obstacles in mathematics for engineers»

Thesis TitleDynamics of undergraduate engineering students’ learning activities in mathematics in an online and in a blended environment

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder.

The thesis is available here:

https://uia.brage.unit.no/uia-xmlui/handle/11250/2686445

The Candidate: Shaista Kanwal (1986, Jhelum, Pakistan) M. Phil in Mathematics, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan (2013-2015), B. Ed., University of Sargodha, Pakistan (2012-2013), M.Sc Mathematics University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan, B.Sc, Mathematics and Physics. Present position: Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, UiA.

Opponents:

First opponent: Professor Chris Rasmussen, San Diego State University, USA

Second opponent: Professor Ghislaine Gueudet, CREAD - Center for Research on Education, Learning and Didactics, ESPE Bretagne, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France

Professor Simon Goodchild, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Agder, is appointed as the administrator for the assessment commitee.

Supervisors were Professor Martin Carlsen, UiA  (main supervisor) and Professor Frode Rønning, NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology (co-supervisor)

What to do as an audience member:

The disputation is open to the public, but to follow the trial lecture and the public defence, which is transmitted via the Zoom conferencing app, you have to register as an audience member.

We ask audience members to join the virtual trial lecture at 16:50 at the earliest and the public defense at 16:50 at the earliest. After these times, you can leave and rejoin the meeting at any time. Further, we ask audience members to turn off their microphone and camera and keep them turned off throughout the event. You do this at the bottom left of the image when in Zoom. We recommend you use ‘Speaker view’. You select that at the top right corner of the video window when in Zoom.

Opponent ex auditorio:

The chair invites members of the public to pose questions ex auditorio in the introduction to the public defense, with deadlines. Questions can be submitted to the chair, Assistant Head of Department Elna Svege at e-mail elna.svege@uia.no