An Exploration of the Interplay between Assessment and Mobile Pedagogies, in Secondary School Mathematics

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Secondary school mathematics has traditionally valued individual achievement. However, determining students’ independent capabilities is challenging when assessing mobile technology-supported mathematics. Despite societal recognition that it is becoming commonplace for individuals to use mobile technologies to support their mathematical thinking, it is non-trivial for an education system to evaluate this learning. This thesis considers what teachers perceive to be the value of engaging with student-centred mobile technologies. How do traditional mathematics assessments influence teacher perceptions of the effectiveness of mobile learning? And, given that students have access to mobile technologies, how might we construct assessments that truly allow students to demonstrate their learning? The discussion is informed by the perspectives of mathematics teachers from seven schools across NSW and Victoria. Participant selection focused on diversity in characteristics such as the school’s entry criteria and educational philosophy. With an aim of grounding the research in practice, the study deliberately sought to highlight issues that were faced by real teachers in real classrooms. The findings indicated that those teachers tended to regulate technology use according to students’ perceived academic achievement levels, with lower-achieving students afforded fewer opportunities to use mobile technologies in mathematics. Conversely, with mobile technologies influencing approaches to assessment construction, it was noted that assessment tasks that permitted mobile technology use were limited in their capacity to assess for the confluence of traditionally valued characteristics, such as academic integrity and mathematical correctness. However, while mobile technology-enabled assessments could not offer definitive indications of students’ achievement, they were nevertheless effective for highlighting the relevance of mobile technologies in supporting mathematical thinking. With different forms of assessment book-ending mobile learning in mathematics, it is suggested that teachers consider the establishment of students’ learning dispositions to be hierarchical. The existence of this progression in all of the case studies indicates that the progression offers a structure that schools currently find workable. The mandatory project-based assessment being introduced for matriculation in NSW obliges mathematics teachers to consider the issue of creating tasks for which students will have access to mobile technology. The vagueness of the specification suggests an opportunity for teachers to exercise their own experience and ingenuity to control assessment. In so doing, the changing characteristics of assessment tasks are positioned to mark any shifts in what teachers believe to be important attributes of a mathematical education.
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