Screening for misconceptions and assessing these by using metacognition in a mathematics course for N2 engineering students at a Northern Cape FET college
Beukes, Susan Cecilia
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This study investigated misconceptions in Algebra of students enrolled for a N2 Engineering certificate at a Further Education and Training College. The study aimed to investigate these students’ misconceptions relating to Algebra which prohibited them to successfully complete their artisanship. The purpose of the research was to determine (i) the nature of these misconceptions, and (ii) the value of screencasts as a technology-enhanced learning (TEL) tool to improve instruction. The research gap that the researcher addressed related to the Mathematics misconceptions that the N2 students had, and whether these misconceptions could be adequately addressed by screencasts. The study method used was a case study design and methodology while simultaneously collecting quantitative and qualitative data. The findings encompassed the determining of main Mathematics misconceptions, producing screencasts, and assessing the screencasts with the intended target group. The study followed a four-phase strategy of testing, interviewing and analysing, and reflection based on qualitative and quantitative research strategies. During the quantitative research the research participants completed a biographical questionnaire, as well as a customised diagnostic Algebra test. The study sample comprised two groups from different trimesters at a rural FET college in the Northern Cape in Kathu, South Africa. The total population of full-time N2 Engineering students related to 113 participants. The diagnostic test comprised twelve questions from the three main Algebra concepts relating to: (i) exponents, (ii) equations, and (iii) factorisation. The same customised diagnostic test confirmed the misconceptions within the same group. Six questions from the customised diagnostic test identified the central misconceptions. The researcher consequently designed, developed, implemented and evaluated screencasts with the intended student population according to the design principles identified during the study. The six questions formed the basis of a second diagnostic test, which was used in phase three with interviews of ten research participants as part of phase 4 of the evaluation of the screencasts. At the end of the second trimester students were ask to complete a questionnaire regarding their use and perceptions of the screencasts—23 participants completed this voluntary questionnaire. At the end of the trimester ten participants were asked to explain their method of calculations during a walk-through evaluation while answering Algebra problems. The results indicated a number of misconception categories: (i) The main reason for misconceptions relating to equations was the participants’ inadequate understandings of the basic concepts of multiply methods used in equations; (ii) Index laws seemed to be the biggest misconception where participants demonstrated insufficient understanding of the laws; and (iii) The participants did not comprehend the basic concepts of factorisation—they could not identify which method to use while factorising. The qualitative findings indicate that the participants found the screencasts valuable when they prepared for tests and examinations, as well as when they did not understanding a basic Mathematics concept. Access to technology in rural areas remains an obstacle to integrate technology learning tools on a large scale at the FET College.
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