Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Christine Browning

Second Advisor

Dr. Dwayne Channell

Third Advisor

Dr. Laura Van Zoest

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Terry Grant


The purpose of this study was to examine how including alternative assessments in a reform-based mathematics course affects pre-service teachers’ mathematical beliefs. A single section of a mathematics course designed for elementary education majors that employed three different alternative assessments was the setting for the study.

A pre- and post-belief survey completed by students enrolled in the section under study represented the first level of data collection and analysis. The results of the pre-belief survey guided the selection of seven informants from the section and provided belief statements for the informants to verify during subsequent interviews. Based on the data from these interviews, it was determined that all but one of the informants believed mathematics to be a pre-existing set of facts and procedures that are passed along by some mathematical authority. Moreover, all the informants reported that they believed assessing in mathematics meant giving a paper-and-pencil test. Further data collection methods, including a card sort of assessment practices and perusing classroom vignettes, and subsequent analysis identified each informant’s previous mathematical experiences as traditional, especially regarding assessment.

A comparison of the pre- and post-belief surveys indicated that the alternative assessments had indeed affected the mathematical beliefs of almost 50% of the students so that they now held more productive mathematical beliefs. During the final informant interviews, however, it became evident that apparent shifts in beliefs were not as profound as indicated by the comparison. Although all seven informants had become more aware that tests represent only one of many ways to assess students in mathematics, most of the informants clung to their original beliefs about the nature of mathematics. The two informants who exhibited more productive beliefs credited the alternative assessments as the most influential factor from the course under study.


Fifth Advisor: Dr. Zoe Barley

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access