Academic journal article The Journal of Educational Research

Influence of Collaborative Group Work on Students' Attitude towards Mathematics

Academic journal article The Journal of Educational Research

Influence of Collaborative Group Work on Students' Attitude towards Mathematics

Article excerpt

The Study

A large number of studies are conducted on attitude towards mathematics but studies like teaching experiment focusing on a change in students' attitude towards mathematics are rare in the mathematics education. The purpose of this study is to explore the influence of the intervention throughout whole teaching term on students' attitude towards mathematics. The attitudes of students influence their level of engagement and learning (Eagly & Chaiken, 2005) but attitudes are not fixed. A potential benefit of Collaborative Group Work (CGW) is that attitudes are affected positively, which will inform engagements and learning. For that reason, the students' attitudes are monitored in the study for detecting change. They "can be seen as constantly in the process of being recreated and renegotiated by those who hold them - attitudes can change" (Moreira & Noss, 1995, p. 157). During CGW, the students' subjective and objective knowledge influence each other and can change their attitudes about mathematics either in a positive or negative way. Such change has influence on their engagement and learning. One of the challenges in this kind of research is to define the construct; what is attitude?

Literature Review

What is attitude?

Zan and Di Martino (2007, p. 621) state that despite a large number of studies about attitudes, there is no clear definition of the construct itself. They provide three definitions; a simple, a bi-dimensional and a multidimensional, which are given below:

1. A "simple' definition of attitude, that describes it as the positive or negative degree of affect associated with a certain subject. According to this point of view the attitude toward mathematics is just a positive or negative emotional disposition toward mathematics (McLeod, 1992; Haladyna, Shaughnessy & Shaughnessy, 1983).

2. A multidimensional definition, which recognizes three components in the attitude: emotional response, beliefs regarding the subject, behaviour related to the subject. From this point of view, an individual's attitude toward mathematics is defined in a more complex way by the emotions that he/she associates with mathematics (which, however, have a positive or negative value), by the individual's beliefs towards mathematics, and by how he/she behaves (Hart, 1989).

3. A bi-dimensional definition, in which behaviours do not appear explicitly (Daskalogianni & Simpson, 2000): attitude toward mathematics is therefore seen as the pattern of beliefs and emotions associated with mathematics

The researchers preferred neither the simple nor the multidimensional definitions of attitudes. The simple definition only tells about the "positive emotional disposition' or "negative emotional disposition' of an individual. This ignores the role of beliefs, which seem to be important to attitude (Eagly & Chaiken, 2005). Another reason for not considering the simple definition is an issue of measurement. For example, if one says mathematics is a good subject, it shows he/she has positive views about mathematics. However in most attitude measuring questionnaires, the items used are positive but could be related to different constructs as shown in the Table1.

The three "positive' items in Table 1 create confusion whether "positive' related to emotion, beliefs, or behaviour when we use in any attitudes questionnaire. Actually, three meanings are overlapping. Zan & Di Martino(2007, p. 160) argue that:

The differences in the use of the adjective "positive' not only imply different choices of assessment /measurement instruments: it also triggers a different formulation of the research problem to be dealt with. For example, the problem of identifying how to push a "positive attitude', typically encountered in this field of research, requires a completely different approach depending on whether the positive attitude refers only to the emotional component or it refers to a particular pattern of beliefs and emotions, to be assumed as a model. …

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