How and why lecturers of mathematics at universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia use or do not use ICT for teaching, a mixed methods study
Alotaibi, Bader Omran B.
This thesis has sought to examine how and why mathematics lecturers in Saudi Arabian universities use software for teaching. It is a large-scale, mixed methods study within a post positivist tradition, utilising data collected from interviews and a questionnaire. Eighteen lecturers from two mathematics departments at two major universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were interviewed individually in their offices. Further, 151 lecturers responded to the questionnaire distributed to lecturers of Mathematics and Statistics at eight long-established state universities in KSA. This study explains why lecturers of mathematics at universities use or do not use ICT for teaching and, in so doing, contributes to an under-researched area of study. It raises questions as to how users and non-users of software regard the nature of teaching and learning of mathematics at universities and the contribution of ICT in university-level mathematics.\ud \ud Previous research on the use of software by mathematics teachers has identified a range of factors affecting take up and use of ICT, including access to ICT resources, knowledge of how to integrate technology into mathematics teaching, and beliefs about the role of technology in learning and teaching and assessing mathematics (e.g. an overreliance on technology, use of technology as a black box, use of calculators in examinations). However, there remains ongoing debate about the balance of internal and external factors in the take up of ICT and whether factors related to easy access to software are more (or less) influential than teachers’ beliefs.\ud \ud The findings of this study revealed that identification with the branch of mathematics was a key factor in determining the lecturers who are likely to be users of software in teaching. In particular, it was found that statisticians and computational mathematicians were more likely to be users of software because they were teaching courses which require the use of software. The findings suggested that despite all of the encouraging conditions, contextual and internal barriers — such as a curriculum with heavy and fixed content; software which was not assessed in many cases; lack of cooperation between lecturers to produce curricula which included the use of software; and doubts about the value of software — were at work here.\ud \ud This study has a special interest in Valsiner’s Zone Theory as a lens to study the take up of ICT. In particular, the Zone Theory demystifies why the take up of mathematical software by the mathematics lecturers was patchy despite the good access to ICT resources and the high potential of the use of software in mathematics teaching. From the Zone Theory’s perspective, lecturers worked within a particularly broad zone of free movement but a weak zone of promoted action so that lecturers’ activity was rarely ‘canalised’ into using mathematical software. The Zone Theory puts emphasis on agency-structure dualism, focusing on the actions carried out by individual lecturers as ‘agents’ in the context of constraining and enabling ‘structures’ when making a decision on whether software should be used in teaching. This thesis has reaffirmed the call for more theoretical and empirical research on the issue of the integration of mathematical software in the teaching and learning of mathematics in higher education.
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