The research reported in this thesis investigated staff-student collaboration in advanced undergraduate mathematics course design and delivery at a research-intensive UK university. Staff and students collaborated to redesign and deliver two courses: Vector Spaces and Complex Variables. The collaboration in the design of the two courses involved students who had completed the courses and then who worked as interns together with a small team of academic staff. The collaboration in the delivery of the two courses involved the implementation of a Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme in which third-year students facilitated the learning of second-year students in optional scheduled sessions. The study employed a mixed-methods research strategy involving an ethnographic approach to the study of the course design process and PAL sessions followed by an observational study (a quasi-experimental design) to investigate the impact of PAL attendance on the achievement of PAL participants.
This thesis reports findings from a three-phase research design. Phase one explored the nature of the collaborations in course design and its impact on staff teaching practices and on the student collaborators. Phase two investigated the characteristics of the PAL sessions for the advanced undergraduate mathematics courses and the roles played in those sessions. Phase two also explored the impact of PAL in qualitative terms on both PAL participants and PAL leaders. Phase three investigated the impact of PAL in quantitative terms on the achievement of students who participated as PAL participants. The study found that staff-student collaboration in course design and delivery led to emergent Communities of Practice in which staff and students engaged in mathematics practice which led to identity transformation of student collaborators, a deeper understanding of the mathematics on which the students worked and some change in staff teaching and course design practice. The also showed that staff-student collaboration in the delivery of course units via PAL resulted in a learning community in which PAL participants and PAL leaders engaged in mathematics practice which led to increased student achievement and enhanced affective outcomes for both PAL participants and PAL leaders.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.