Faculty views of developmental math instruction at an urban community college: A critical pedagogy analysis

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Journal Article

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A disproportionate number of students entering postsecondary education are considered academically unprepared and not ready for college-level work (ACT, 2011). A majority of those students are students of color, particularly those who identify as African-American or Latino and come from low-income families (Bragg, Eunyoung, & Barnett, 2006; Green, 2006; Ogbu, 1990). Due to the lack of readiness, colleges and universities, specifically community colleges, are challenged to meet the academic needs of students by offering developmental education courses such as Developmental English and/or Developmental Math. Mathematics in postsecondary education has been proven to be a gatekeeper regarding college completion due to math anxiety and lack of mathematics skills upon entry into the college. Therefore, the study was conducted to investigate developmental math instruction at an urban community college. I concluded that enhancing developmental math instruction by using concepts from critical pedagogy would improve learning, enhance classroom engagement, and subsequently promote overall retention and advancement to college-level math. The purpose of the study, guided by principles from qualitative research, was to determine how community college teachers are preparing students to gain basic mathematics skills that will enable them to accomplish their educational goals. The research questions for the study focused on the experiences, beliefs, and attitudes of instructors who teach developmental math courses. Therefore, I conducted a case study at an urban community college located in a northeastern city. Critical pedagogy was used as the theoretical perspective to support the study, with foundational tenets from critical literacy and critical-mathematical literacy. In this dissertation I demonstrated the need to not only offer developmental math in postsecondary education but also to apply pedagogical practices that consider race, class, histories, personal experiences, and backgrounds of students while teaching math concepts. Furthermore, I examined the social practices and educational structures that influence a students' readiness for college-level work such as family income/socioeconomic status, race, and unequal K-12 schooling practices. I presented the influences relevant to college readiness in order to explain the need for developmental math courses in higher education, as well as instruction that is informed and framed with a critical inquiry framework.