Cox, Murray William (2011-08). The Effects of Behaviorist and Constructivist Instruction on Student Performance in College-level Remedial Mathematics. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The number of American students with insufficient post-secondary mathematical abilities is increasing and the related rate of student attrition increases alongside the upsurge in college developmental programs. As a consequence, the demand for quality remedial mathematics classes is also growing. Institutions that place learners into remedial classes must also fund these same programs and are increasingly faced with disgruntled students, the appearance of having lower standards, and a demoralized faculty. The legal implications concerning placement and access have gone as far as litigation over student rights. The threat of performance based funding means that educational institutions are in need of demonstrably effective mathematical remediation techniques.

    This study examines the effect of pedagogical style for college-level remedial mathematics students and the effect of the chosen assessment method in determining student success. Specifically, this study explains student achievement for college students exposed to a pedagogical style from either the constructivist or behaviorist foundation as measured with short-answer, rote-knowledge questions and with long-answer, deductive-reasoning questions. Furthermore, consideration of student self-efficacy is investigated in order to account for any variation in instructional method. Ultimately, this study describes the effects of both instruction type and assessment method on the success of college-level remedial mathematics students.

    The findings in this study reveal quality teaching is of paramount importance in educating the remedial college student. Students from both methods, with instruction being performed with high fidelity, demonstrated statistically significant improvement over the semester. Moreover, the findings in this study further reveal that remedial students with strong reasons to succeed (combined with the quality teaching method) find success in the developmental mathematics classroom regardless of assessment method. In fact, though students tend to score higher on short-answer questions than extended-answer questions, the amount of improvement after a semester of quality teaching is nearly equal in question types under both instructional methods.

publication date

  • August 2011