Student and teacher perceptions of the degree of difficulty in a mathematics course

C. C. Scott, P. J. Fensham

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In designing a curriculum and its constituent teaching and learning strategies, it is important to consider the relative difficulties of the various sub-sections. As single measures of perceived difficulty (from teachers and learners) have been used in some studies, the efficacy of such readily available data has been studied in a tertiary level mathematics course for engineering students. Several approaches (parallel forms, comparison with achievement, and loaded questions) to the reliability and the validity of the measures of perceived difficulty are explored. The results indicate that the findings from such measures need to be interpreted with caution. This was particularly so during the first year of the course when the students have so recently come from a great variety of other mathematics learning environments in secondary schooling. The efficacy of the measures seems to be much improved in the second year of the course and the quite high correlation (0-753) between staff and student perceptions of topic difficulty probably does indicate a real congruence of ' mathematical socialization ' between both sets of participants in this mathematics curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1977

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