A Comparative Analysis of the Effects of Reform and Traditional Pedagogy on Content Knowledge and Mathematics Affect in College Algebra Classes

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Elizabeth Kreston


Judith Beauford


Nancy Robbins


The purpose of this research is to determine whether students who are taught College Algebra by means of reform pedagogy—student-centered, inquiry-based instruction, including the use of calculator technology—learn more mathematics content than students who are taught by means of traditional pedagogy—teacher-centered, direct instruction, with an emphasis on discrete tasks. Pre- and post-test content knowledge comparisons revealed significant gains in achievement for the reform pedagogy cohort over the traditional pedagogy cohort, irrespective of gender, traditional versus non-traditional student status, or major field. Also, significant correlation was found between content test differences and affect differences for both treatments as measured by the Attitudes Toward Mathematics Inventory. When students were classified according to the Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire, significant content gains were noted for the reform cohort over the traditional cohort for all learning styles except Global Learners, while significant affective gains were found for Visual Learners compared to Verbal Learners within the reform cohort. A small qualitative study was incorporated into the research in order to complement the findings by allowing the student participants to describe their experiences in the course, especially as relates to the pedagogy used in the reform course. Also included was a research journal noting observations of both the researcher and the students during the reform pedagogy class.

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