This thesis reports the findings of quantitative and qualitative research to evaluate the
effectiveness of mathematics support and to examine the issue of student engagement
in relation to its effectiveness. Usage data regarding Loughborough University's
Mathematics Learning Support Centre was analysed to understand which students
make use of the support and the extent of that usage. It was found that the majority of
students who need mathematics support were not accessing the resources. Rich
contextual data were gathered by interviews and focus groups, which indicated that a
number of barriers had prevented students from initially using the support. However,
whilst some students overcame these barriers to become regular users of the support,
other students (who were 'at risk' of failing the mathematical component of their
courses) did not. Students who were 'at risk' and had not accessed the support lacked
the motivation to engage with mathematics and the available support.
This thesis also evaluated the effectiveness of a proactive support initiative involving
small group teaching. Despite encouraging students to engage with mathematics
support, since they did not have to take the initiative themselves, it was revealed that a
lack of student engagement had had a profound effect on the success of this support.
Qualitative data was analysed to provide an insight as to why students had failed to
engage with the initiative. Constructs of students' attitudes towards mathematics and
their learning approaches were investigated. In particular, it was found that students
who engage with mathematics support are generally well-motivated and cognitively
engaged. These students held generally positive attitudes towards mathematics and
deployed metacognitive learning strategies by regularly monitoring and directing their
learning in order to achieve their high educational aims.
This study ... has implications both for research and practice. From a practical
perspective, it appears that mathematics support has moved from one of remedial
support to one of enhancement. It is recommended that action should be taken to
provide extrinsic motivation to encourage engagement with the support. However,
from a research perspective, a more rigorous investigation of the students' attitudes
and learning approaches and how these constructs relate to their levels of engagement
with mathematics support would be useful. Further information in this area could be
used to provide further quantification of the efficacy of mathematics support.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.