Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Gary S. Straquadine


Gary S. Straquadine


Martha Whitaker


Edward M. Reeve


James T. Dorward


James S. Cangelosi


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe what experiences, attitudes, and learning strategies developmental mathematics students believed contributed to their failure to gain basic math skill proficiency in the past and what experiences, attitudes, and learning strategies these students now believed were most likely to enhance the successful learning of basic math skills. To gain an understanding of the lived experiences of successful developmental mathematics students who were previously unsuccessful, structured, open-ended interviews were conducted, classroom observations were made, and formative and summative assessments for the students were collected. Fourteen students from a western 4-year college were selected purposefully based on instructor recommendations and preliminary survey results. The students, who were eight males and six females, ranged in age from 19 to 51. Seven were considered traditional students and seven nontraditional. Based on the data analysis, five prevalent themes emerged: turning point, attitude, motivation, learning environment, and learning strategies. Motivation was the most common reason given as the difference between being unsuccessful and successful math skill development. Underlying their motivation were the students' own beliefs. In the unsuccessful period, every student had the fixed mindset of not being capable of learning mathematics. When successful, the students exhibited a growth mindset, believing that if they exerted time and effort, they would be able to learn. This mindset made the difference in their motivation and attitude. Previously they hated mathematics. When successful, students actually enjoyed learning mathematics and expressed confidence that they would be successful in the subsequent course. When unsuccessful, students were field dependent. Most were children or adolescents. They had no control over their learning environment or selection of learning resources. The predominant coping strategy was one of avoidance. When successful, students were more field independent. They could choose their teachers and actively seek learning resources. When asked what changes in their K-12 experience would have helped them be more successful, the students paradoxically suggested that a close monitoring of their progress might have made a difference. However, during their unsuccessful period, students did everything they could to avoid being labeled as needing help.