Developing practice through research into university mathematics education
Simon Goodchild and Barbara Jaworski
The paper provides a very brief outline review of research into some key issues that affect students’ performance in mathematics in higher education. Community of practice theory is used to frame and focus the discussion. Policies regarding the recruitment of students, institutional practices for grouping students and the cultures of teaching and learning mathematics are considered. The research reviewed provides a context for examining the contributions of the research reports included within this thematic issue of NOMAD. The reports address three themes: regular approaches adopted in teaching mathematics in higher education, innovative approaches to teaching and learning, with emphasis on student participation in the educational process, and the characteristics of mathematical knowledge students appropriate. The paper endorses calls for large scale studies, especially those which relate teaching approaches, both regular and innovative, to the qualities and characteristics of students’ learning. The absence of a single overarching theoretical framework that embraces all the studies is also perceived as an obstacle that interferes with scientific developments in the field of researching university mathematics education. However, the value of teachers researching their own practice and their students’ learning is argued to be crucial for developing knowledge ”in practice” and this underscores the value of the papers included in this issue of NOMAD, both for the authors and the inspiration of other higher education mathematics teachers who, it is hoped, will be inspired to engage in similar studies.
Simon Goodchild is Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Agder, he is also leader of MatRIC, Centre for Research Innovation and Coordination of Mathematics Teaching. MatRIC is one of eight Norwegian centres for excellence in higher education. He has over two decades of experience of school classroom research and school mathematics teaching development. In his role leading MatRIC he is using and extending his experience of mathematics teaching development in the context of university mathematics education.
Barbara Jaworski is Professor of Mathematics Education at Loughborough University and coordinates research, including a group of eight PhD research fellows, within MatRIC. She has held positions of Chair of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics; President of the Congress of European Researchers in Mathematics Education; and President of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. She has been research mathematics teaching and teaching development for over three decades.