Mathematics coursework as facilitator of formative assessment, student-centred activity and understanding

We seek to illuminate reasons why undertaking mathematics coursework assessment as part of an alternative post-compulsory, pre-university scheme led to higher rates of retention and completion than the traditional route. We focus on the students’ experience of mathematical activity during coursework tasks, which we observed to be qualitatively different to most of the other learning activities observed in lessons. Our analysis of interviews found that these activities offered: (i) a perceived greater depth of understanding; (ii) motivation and learning through modelling and use of technology; (iii) changes in pedagogies and learning activities that supported student-centred learning; and (iv) assessment that better suited some students. Teachers’ interviews reinforced these categories and highlighted some motivational aspects of learning that activity during coursework tasks appears to provide. Thus, we suggest that this experience offered some students different learning opportunities, and that this is a plausible factor in the relative success of these students.