Data Collection Methods
I distributed a survey at the beginning of the school year to all 40 fourth graders to whom I taught math. My primary purpose was to gather background information on each of my students to put in a student profile that I could add to over the course of the study. I used this survey to identify student attitudes, interests, real-life connections, and preferences in the area of mathematics, in addition to some introductory information on skills such as problem-solving and knowledge of times tables. Two sample questions from the survey are as follows (for the complete survey, see Appendix 1):
1. Read the word problem below and answer the question that follows.
Adam, Brad, and Caitlin counted their trading cards. Adam counted 7 trading cards. Brad had 5 times as many trading cards as Adam. Caitlin counted 4 times as many trading cards as Brad. How many trading cards does Caitlin have?
Circle the number that best describes how you would feel about solving this word problem.
1 2 3 4
WORRIED BORED INTERESTED SUPER EXCITED
I don’t know I can do it, Looks like I want to solve it
what to do! but I don’t it might be right now! Can
Help me! really want to fun to try I do another one?
2. Rank the following math activities in order from 1 (your most preferred) to 6 (your least preferred). If you have never done the activity, put an X next to it.
____ Math games ____ Math homework
____ Math centers ____ Math quizzes/tests
____ Math worksheets ____ Math projects
As a periodic check in or following specific tasks, I asked students to write reflections in their math journals. These entries were used to capture student attitudes and understandings, and also as pre- and post-assessments on specific skills. Some examples of journal prompts I used this year were “When you hear the words ‘math class’ what do you picture?” and “What is division?”
On each day the students visited the learning stations, I asked all of them to complete exit cards and/or brief surveys about their experiences in the learning stations. I used this data to capture their feelings about the different stations, to record the frequency of certain behaviors (e.g. choosing to work with a partner), to plan adjustments to the activities in the learning stations, and to identify students to interview (for a sample exit card, see Appendix 2).
One day during the fall semester, a fellow graduate student was present during our learning stations time and traveled around the room to different clusters of students asking them questions about their experiences. These conversations were videotaped and I was able to analyze the footage at a later date. Some of the questions the students were asked during the interviews can be found in Appendix 3.
Near the end of my data collection cycle, I gave the students another survey specifically focused on their experiences in learning stations. The survey asked about station preferences, the importance of choice, outcomes related to the students’ station work, and ideas or suggestions they had for improving the stations (to view the survey, see Appendix 4).