Quality, Meaningful Educational Experiences: An Autobiographical Study of Algebra 1 Students at a Small Urban High School

Marya Ray


This autobiographical study of teaching and learning Algebra 1 was developed to examine classroom experiences through the lens of the researcher and to explore the perceptions of teachers and students involved in the study. The goal was to identify the quality, meaningful educational experiences in the classroom which led to the development of algebraic thinking and self-efficacy among students who previously demonstrated a struggle to learn mathematics. The inspiration for this study was my personal experience as a student, as I also struggled to develop algebraic thinking as a high school student. The school district in which this study was conducted was the same district which instilled in me the desire to become an educator, and in which I have worked most of the years of my career. During this study I examined classroom experiences using interviews and observations to understand what quality, meaningful learning experiences were available in the classroom. Throughout the study, teachers were provided with full-faculty and differentiated professional learning and support. The target for these professional learning experiences was to enable teachers to develop learning experiences that led to student development of algebraic thinking. Classroom observations focused on the nature of learning experiences presented to students. Through my study I found evidence of students' need to develop mathematical concepts through experiences which allowed them to collaborate with peers and be supported by teachers as they developed algebraic thinking. Lessons that included a balance of student interaction and the development of conceptual understanding resulted in greater student engagement.