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Exploring Nontraditional Undergraduates' Resistance to Active Learning in an Online Support Forum in Calculus

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Classroom Practice II: Technology - and Game-Based Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Derrick S. Harkness Utah State University

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I am currently a graduate student at Utah State University working on a Master's degree in Mathematics with an emphasis in Education.

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Angela Minichiello Utah State University Orcid 16x16

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Angela Minichiello is a Principal Lecturer and doctoral candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University (USU). She instructs undergraduate engineering courses via distance delivery methods to students at the USU regional campuses. Angela is a registered professional mechanical engineer with 15 years experience as a practicing engineer. She earned a BSME degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a MSME degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Engineering Education at USU. She is Principal Investigator for Online Learning Forums for Improved Engineering Student Outcomes in Calculus, a research project funded by the NSF TUES program. Her research interests include engineering student learning, distance engineering education, and alternative pathways to engineering education.

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Joshua Marquit Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine

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Joshua Marquit is an Instructor in the Psychology Department at Penn State Brandywine. He has a doctoral degree in psychology, with an emphasis on applied and experimental methodology. He has taught undergraduate and graduate research methods and statistics courses on campus, online, and through distance broadcast learning formats. He has previous research experience with the U.S. National Parks Service, NASA, and Utah Department of Environmental Quality. His research interests include online communication and community dynamics, social stigmas and stereotypes, LGBTQ issues, health and pro-environmental behaviors, and human interactions with built and natural environments.

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This research paper explores resistant behaviors exhibited by science, technology, engineering, education, and mathematics (STE2M) students required to participate in an online discussion forum for graded credit in undergraduate calculus. Student resistance is often highlighted as one of the least explored and, perhaps, least understood of all instructional roadblocks to active learning. Efforts to understand these behaviors may be complicated by context and viewpoint; students may view their own “resistant” behaviors differently than instructors do. Moreover, the reasons why students refrain from asynchronous, web-based active learning opportunities (e.g., online discussion forums) may differ from the reasons why students resist active learning within a physical classroom.

During two recent, sequential academic semesters, researchers gathered qualitative and quantitative data related to student use of the online forum in Calculus I (fall 2014) and Calculus II (spring 2015). The same calculus instructor delivered both courses via synchronous broadcast (interactive video conferencing) to students located throughout the state at several regional university sites. Students were required to post their questions and/or answers to other students’ questions on a weekly basis for graded participation credit. Posting requirements were designed to encourage collaborative learning and peer-instruction among the geographically dispersed students, as well as to improve the frequency and timeliness of the out-of-class support the students received.

Employing a concurrent, embedded, mixed methods research design, the researchers gathered several forms of data including textual forum posts, posting statistics, survey responses, and transcribed student interviews. The researchers conducted an exploratory thematic analysis of the combined dataset to understand how and why students resisted participation in the forum. Results of the study describe the resistant behaviors exhibited by the students within the web-based forum and their associated rationales. Conclusions provide recommendations for instructors interested in using online discussion forums as an active learning strategy for STE2M undergraduates.

Harkness, D. S., & Minichiello, A., & Marquit, J. (2016, June), Exploring Nontraditional Undergraduates' Resistance to Active Learning in an Online Support Forum in Calculus Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26855

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