Agnes Scott College

Gloria Gilmer

Effects Of Small Discussion Groups On Self-Paced Instruction In a Developmental Algebra Course
Marquette University


The large variation in the mathematical maturity of two year college students who enroll in remedial mathematics courses makes self-paced courses an attractive alternative to teacher-paced courses. The advantages of self-paced courses do not off-set the problems of procrastination and high withdrawal rates which appear to be unintended outcomes of self-pacing. In this study, some strengths and weaknesses of self-paced courses were examined in relation to the degree of peer interaction in the course. Consequently, the study surfaces certain conditions which might account for procrastination and reaffirms certain strengths associated with self-paced courses.

Chapter 1 Summary

In Chapter 1, it was noted that some instructors of self-paced Developmental Mathematics Courses (DMC) believe that learning related student behaviors such as procrastination, lack of motivation, and lack of self-discipline lead to the failure of many students to complete self-paced DMC and are unintend outcomes of the lack of group discussions. As these beliefs were based upon undocumented observations, the purpose of this study was to investigate effects of small discussion groups on certain student behaviors in self-paced DMC. The student behaviors selected were achievement, intellectual involvement in the course, course interest, attitude towards the course, and course pacing. Withdrawal rates were selected for analysis since they constitute one measure of the effectiveness of DMC.

The study has implications for curriculum planners in that it provides empirical evidence from which to derive some perspective on the role of peer discussions in DMC.