The research on the format and long-term effect of a technique mastering programme in the first year Calculus course involves a group of first year engineering students at the University of Pretoria. Apart from conceptual understanding these students are also expected to master a certain amount of basic knowledge and rote skills in the Calculus course. The process of acquiring and assessing basic knowledge and rote skills (also referred to as must knows and techniques, respectively) is known as the technique mastering programme at the University of Pretoria. This study addresses two research questions. The first question deals with the issue as to whether the paper-based assessment format for the technique mastering programme in first year Calculus can be replaced by computer-based assessment without a significant difference in performance. The second question deals with the long-term effect of the techniques mastering programme and the study investigates which and how much of the knowledge and skills embedded by the technique mastering programme in the first year is retained after a further two years of study. In answer to the first question, the study shows that statistically there is no significant difference in performance in the technique mastering tests when the paper format is replaced by an online format. Yet, for a large group of students the logistics are formidable and the change to the online format under investigation is not practically feasible. The second part of the study shows that, in general, there is a disappointing decline in performance over a period of two years. There are, however, areas in which students performed better after the elapsed period. The research is of diagnostic value in determining the future of the technique mastering program with regard to both its format and contents.
Dissertation (MSc (Mathematics Education))--University of Pretoria, 2006.