THE PERSISTENCE AND SUCCESS OF UNDERGRADUATES IN REMEDIAL MATHEMATICS: A MIXED METHODS STUDY ON MATHEMATICS SOCIALIZATION AND SEGREGATED SPACES IN UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION
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This explanatory sequential mixed methods study (QUAN-QUAL) was developed to investigate the question: “How do sociohistorical, intrapersonal, and institutional factors relate to the persistence and success of undergraduates enrolled in remedial mathematics classes at a four-year university?” To understand this complex phenomenon, I employed Martin’s (2000) Multilevel Framework for Analyzing Mathematics Socialization and Identity Among African Americans for both streams of data collection and analysis. I collected and analyzed departmental and survey data quantitatively, to identify broader patterns of relationships that existed among the participants’ intrapersonal factors, demographic characteristics and their persistence and success (n=316). The participants’ high rates of persistence (92%) and success (68.4%) could partially be explained by enrollment in a corequisite versus emporium remedial mathematics course, but also institutional (non-randomized sorting and placement into course type by placement test score), sociohistorical (primarily advanced high school mathematics course-taking) and intrapersonal (perceptions of the teacher) factors. Age, gender, African American identity, first-generation status, and high school mathematics course-taking all contributed to persistence and success to some degree, but gender was a stronger predictor of persistence and success than minority or first-generation status, and high school mathematics course-taking was the most influential demographic predictor of persistence, when course enrollment was excluded from the regression model. The intrapersonal factor, perceptions of the teacher, was also a significant predictor of persistence, and to a lesser extent, success. This finding led me to select extreme perception of teacher cases (n=5) for the qualitative portion of the study. The qualitative data revealed that several institutional and classroom factors impacted the emporium participants’ experiences, beliefs and perceptions and ultimately, their persistence and success. These participants presented negative perceptions of their emporium course’s online instructional platform and revealed the negative impact the course structure had on teacher behaviors, their relationship with their teacher and the classroom environment overall. The three STEM majors had more negative socio-academic experiences at the university than the two non-STEM majors because their placement into remedial mathematics was a barrier that prevented them from declaring and pursuing coursework for their STEM degree. Socio-economic factors, such as not having the financial means to live on campus and having heavy work and family responsibilities, compounded the adverse effects of remedial mathematics placement for two of the STEM majors, and the two female STEM majors were diverted out of STEM altogether. The two non-STEM participants who persisted through their emporium courses reported leveraging a variety of intrapersonal, academic and social assets, such as their financial motivation, the socio-academic support of their peers and advisors, their parents’ positive perceptions of their academic abilities, and university academic supports, when they were faced with challenges in their emporium classes. Although the STEM majors did not persist, they were nonetheless actively engaged in agentive behaviors dedicated to their degree attainment.