Most of the attrition from STEM majors occurs between the first two semesters of calculus, and prospective life science majors are one of the groups with the highest attrition rate. One of the largest factors for students that persist in STEM major beyond the first semester of calculus was a sense of community and a perceived connection with their instructor. Since building a sense of community is one of the stated purposes of formative assessment, we investigated how instructor and student perceptions of the purpose of formative assessment contributed to the formation of classroom community in a calculus for life science course. This qualitative ethnographic case study examined two cases of formative assessment used in difference sections. Although formative assessments have been found to increase a sense of classroom community, students and instructors reported that this was only the case when both the student’s and instructors’ beliefs about the purposes of formative assessments agreed.


Calculus, Classroom Community, Formative Assessment, Taken-As-Shared

Author Bio(s)

Rebecca Dibbs is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Her research interests are in assessment, equity, and special education. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: rebecca.dibbs@tamuc.edu.

Daniel Rios is an undergraduate Regent Scholar at Texas A&M University-Commerce who is majoring in secondary mathematics education. After graduation, Daniel intends to teach high school, and eventually earn aa PhD in mathematics education and enter academia. His research interests are in equity, classroom culture, and educational technology. orrespondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: danielrios610@gmail.com.

Brian Christopher is a doctoral candidate in Educational Mathematics at the university of Northern Colorado. He intends to enter academia after the completion of his dissertation. His primary research interest is in equity and recruiting STEM majors from underrepresented groups. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: brian.christopher@unco.edu.


We want to thank Maria Lahman for her thoughtful consultations and guidance throughout the data collection and analysis phase of the study.

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