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Validating a Research Instrument: Diagnostic Test for First Year University of Technology Engineering Mathematics Students

Noor Ally and Deonarain Brijlall
Mathematics, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa

Abstract—Poor performances by first year engineering mathematics students at tertiary institutions in South Africa continue unabated due to a variety of reasons. It is sometimes assumed that the students entering a university have the necessary preliminary knowledge to proceed with the university curriculum. However, when we teach or assess students we find that students have gaps in their school knowledge. Identifying first year engineering students’ basic mathematical competencies and knowledge gaps have become a prime focus of many tertiary institutions in South Africa. Improving these mathematical skills early in the students’ studies is an onerous task. This paper reports on an e-learning research instrument designed for first year engineering students in mathematics. The research instrument was designed to identify areas of weaknesses and strengths thereby isolating ‘at risk’ students at an early stage of their first year mathematics course at a university of technology. The online test compiled of basic mathematics questions was peer reviewed and validated by mathematics lecturers from a mathematics department at a university of technology. Lecturers personally took the online test. A general questionnaire was completed and then each question analysed to ascertain its appropriateness. We found that there was consensus for the criteria of language clarity, question relevance, notation and terminology but discrepancies in cognitive levels. Validation of items in respect of clear language, appropriateness of the questions for the test as well as appropriate use of notation and terminology was confirmed
Index Terms—first year engineering mathematics students, research instrument

Cite: Noor Ally and Deonarain Brijlall, "Validating a Research Instrument: Diagnostic Test for First Year University of Technology Engineering Mathematics Students," International Journal of Learning and Teaching, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 7-14, March 2018. doi: 10.18178/ijlt.4.1.7-14