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Importance of trust for developmental mathematics instructors in Massachusetts community colleges: A study of its connections to math anxiety and motivation

Gail Young Hilyard, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

This research study examined the importance of trust between instructor and students learning developmental mathematics in classrooms at 15 community colleges across Massachusetts. The study involved gathering new data using focus groups, field notes, surveys, and follow-up interviews with instructors and departmental chairs. Qualitative analysis was used to find emergent themes and connections to math anxiety and motivation. The study identified seven salient qualities of trust: respect, safe environment for students, belief in student's ability, care for student, competence of instructor, building over time, and destruction by betrayal. Instructors reported that increased classroom participation and student connection to instructor were factors that indicated trust was established. They also suggested teaching strategies to build trust: encouragement, mindful pedagogy, humanistic instruction, enabling student-to-student respect, situated applications, flexibility with assessments, and ensuring success. The causal impact of math anxiety was acknowledged: negative past experiences can block learning; lack of trust breeds hatred; fear and prejudice are barriers to learning; lack of trust can cause math anxiety; and trust lowers math anxiety and allows improved achievement. Instructors reported a "wall" as a metaphor that students use to describe their difficulties learning mathematics. Finally, the study recommends strategies for instructors to use to improve motivation for students learning mathematics: help establish a learning community, encourage self- efficacy, affirm students' questions, nudge students toward understanding, be a cheerleader, and utilize math support services.^

Subject Area

Community college education|Mathematics education|Education

Recommended Citation

Hilyard, Gail Young, "Importance of trust for developmental mathematics instructors in Massachusetts community colleges: A study of its connections to math anxiety and motivation" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3603099.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3603099

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