Title page for ETD etd-05312012-001958

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Mofolo-Mbokane, Batseba Letty Kedibone
URN etd-05312012-001958
Document Title Learning difficulties involving volumes of solids of revolution : a comparative study of engineering students at two colleges of Further Education and Training in South Africa
Degree PhD
Department Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
Advisor Name Title
Prof A Harding Co-Supervisor
Prof J Engelbrecht Supervisor
  • three-dimensional thinking. cognitive development
  • graphing skills
  • learning difficulties
Date 2012-04-19
Availability unrestricted
This study investigates learning difficulties involving volumes of solids of revolution (VSOR) at two FET colleges in Gauteng province, in South Africa. The research question for this study was: Why do students have difficulty when learning about volumes of solids of revolution? In order to answer the research question five skill factors were identified as the conceptual framework, subdivided into 11 elements. The five skill factors are: I. Graphing skills and translating between visual graphs and algebraic equations/expressions, II. Three-dimensional thinking, III. Moving between discrete and continuous representations, IV. General manipulation skills and V. Consolidation and general level of cognitive development.

Before collecting the main data for this study, a preliminary study and a pilot study were conducted. The data for the main study were then collected in six different investigations. The investigations consisted of two runs of a questionnaire, classroom observations, examination analysis; detailed examination responses and an interview with one student.

The results from the questionnaire runs as well as the pilot study reveal that students performed poorly in tasks involving three-dimensional thinking (Skill factor II), moving between discrete and continuous representations (Skill factor III), and consolidation and general level of cognitive development (Skill factor V). Students' performance was satisfactory in tasks involving graphing skills and translating between visual graphs and algebraic equations/expressions (Skill factor I) and general manipulation skills (Skill factor IV). Students were also more competent in solving problems that involved procedural skills than those that required conceptual skills. The challenges that students were faced with in class, evident from the classroom observations allude to the fact that the topic of VSOR is difficult to teach and to learn.

It is recommended that VSOR be taught and assessed more conceptually in line with the five skill factors; that curriculum developers must communicate with other stakeholders like industries and other institutions of higher learning and that the Department of Education must provide adequate training for these teachers and liaise with industry in this regard. It is also recommended that the suitability of this topic for the particular cohort of students be reconsidered as it appears to be of too high cognitive demand.

2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Mofolo-Mbokane, BLK 2011, Learning difficulties involving volumes of solids of revolution : a comparative study of engineering students at two colleges of Further Education and Training in South Africa, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05312012-001958 / >


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