Date of Award

Fall 12-9-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)



First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Lumpe

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Nyaradzo Mvududu

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Robin Henrikson


metacognition, calculus, mathematics, reflective writing, high school


Grounded in metacognitive theory (Flavell, 1976) and historical foundations that reach back as far as the writings of Plato (1973), the last few decades have seen an increase in research regarding the impact of metacognitive practice on student learning, often through the use of reflective writing. Studies have focused on a range of aspects, from how to measure metacognition to the effect metacognitive practice has on the academic achievement of students in a variety of subject areas. Specifically with regard to mathematics, researchers have studied the impact of reflective strategies on primary, secondary, and university level students.

The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of reflective writing practice on the achievement of Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus students in a comprehensive high school setting. This quasi-experimental study utilized a pretest-posttest control group design, with nonrandom assignment of students to the control and experimental groups. The independent variable was the use of reflective writing prompts, completed only by the experimental group. The non-calculator multiple choice portion of released AP Calculus AB examinations served as the dependent variable.

Descriptive statistics were evaluated to determine if the data met the requirements for parametric analyses. Analysis of covariance was completed to analyze the data for statistically significant differences between the groups. In addition, theme extraction was carried out using Semantria® text analysis software to examine common themes within the reflective student writings as well as Sentiment values for those themes. Finally, Pearson’s r correlation coefficient was calculated to determine any correlation between number of extracted themes and posttest score.

The ANCOVA revealed a statistically significant difference between the groups, but with the control group maintaining a higher mean than that of the experimental group. Common themes in the reflective writing included a variety of calculus concepts addressed during the timeframe of the study. A statistically significant correlation was found between the number of extracted themes and student’s score on the posttest.

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