- Using journal writing to assess primary five students' learning in fractions

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# Using journal writing to assess primary five students' learning in fractions

Author

Loh, Mei Yoke

Supervisor

Foong, Pui Yee

Abstract

The main purpose of this study is to explore the role of journal writing as an alternative assessment for a class of thirty-eight primary five students in a Singapore primary school. Data were collected from students' journal writings and teacher's field notes. Students' journal writings provided valuable information on their level of conceptual understanding, problem solving processes, reflection on their own learning and attitudes towards learning. Besides, they also provided feedback on the teacher's instructional strategies, students' feelings toward journal writing and suggestions of new teaching ideas. Teacher's field notes provided information on students' behaviour during lessons and conduct of journal writing tasks. In addition, it also recorded the teacher's reflection of her teaching strategies.

Analysis of students' journal entries revealed some misconceptions of fraction concepts and such information may not be available in pen-paper tests. For instance, some students were confused with 'a part of a quantity as a fraction' and 'the value of a fractional part of a quantity'. Therefore, students included unit of measure for 'a part of a quantity as a fraction' which was not necessary. Besides, some students have the misconception that for 'a part of a quantity as a fraction', it must be a proper fraction with the smaller value as the numerator and the bigger value as the denominator. In another journal task, students had difficulty illustrating the commutative property of fractional expressions through drawing. As pictorial representation is an intermediate step to proceed to procedural and mathematical symbols, this would mean that students with difficulty in representing their thoughts in drawing might not understand the mathematics of the fractional expressions. In the various journal tasks, many students consistently expressed that fraction concepts are difficult to understand but most still possessed a positive attitude towards the learning of fractions. They were determined to improve.

In the area of instructional strategies, one of the findings showed that students prefer to use Polya's 4-step problem solving strategy for difficult questions which they could not solve with known methods though they would like to regularly use the final step 'checking' to ensure their answers are correct. As for journal writing, one of the main findings showed that students were positive towards journal writing. They found it a useful strategy in understanding mathematical concepts and it helped them to think thoroughly. They also stated their preference of using computer and board games as a platform for learning mathematics.

In general, journal writing benefits both students and teachers. Journal writing creates a more student-centred environment for learning mathematics. Students could discuss mathematics more openly and voice their opinions on learning strategies in their journal writing. Besides, it also creates a better awareness in students of their own learning progress and thought processes. As the investigator, I could access a wealth of information on students' thought processes, dispositions towards learning of mathematics and feedback on teaching strategies. This information has positive effect on my instructional strategies. I could make modification to my teaching approach and thus be able to help my students more effectively. In view of the above findings, mathematics journal writing has an important role as an alternative assessment in primary school mathematics classrooms.

Analysis of students' journal entries revealed some misconceptions of fraction concepts and such information may not be available in pen-paper tests. For instance, some students were confused with 'a part of a quantity as a fraction' and 'the value of a fractional part of a quantity'. Therefore, students included unit of measure for 'a part of a quantity as a fraction' which was not necessary. Besides, some students have the misconception that for 'a part of a quantity as a fraction', it must be a proper fraction with the smaller value as the numerator and the bigger value as the denominator. In another journal task, students had difficulty illustrating the commutative property of fractional expressions through drawing. As pictorial representation is an intermediate step to proceed to procedural and mathematical symbols, this would mean that students with difficulty in representing their thoughts in drawing might not understand the mathematics of the fractional expressions. In the various journal tasks, many students consistently expressed that fraction concepts are difficult to understand but most still possessed a positive attitude towards the learning of fractions. They were determined to improve.

In the area of instructional strategies, one of the findings showed that students prefer to use Polya's 4-step problem solving strategy for difficult questions which they could not solve with known methods though they would like to regularly use the final step 'checking' to ensure their answers are correct. As for journal writing, one of the main findings showed that students were positive towards journal writing. They found it a useful strategy in understanding mathematical concepts and it helped them to think thoroughly. They also stated their preference of using computer and board games as a platform for learning mathematics.

In general, journal writing benefits both students and teachers. Journal writing creates a more student-centred environment for learning mathematics. Students could discuss mathematics more openly and voice their opinions on learning strategies in their journal writing. Besides, it also creates a better awareness in students of their own learning progress and thought processes. As the investigator, I could access a wealth of information on students' thought processes, dispositions towards learning of mathematics and feedback on teaching strategies. This information has positive effect on my instructional strategies. I could make modification to my teaching approach and thus be able to help my students more effectively. In view of the above findings, mathematics journal writing has an important role as an alternative assessment in primary school mathematics classrooms.

Date Issued

2005

Call Number

QA137 Loh

Date Submitted

2005