, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 439-453
Date: 06 Oct 2012

Examining the discourse on the limit concept in a beginning-level calculus classroom

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Abstract

Existing research on limits documents many difficulties students encounter when learning about the concept. There is also some research on teaching of limits but it is not yet as extensive as the research on student learning about limits. This study explores the discourse on limits in a beginning-level undergraduate calculus classroom by focusing on one instructor’s and his students’ discourses through a communicational approach to cognition. The findings indicate that some of the limit-related contexts in which students struggled coincided with those in which the instructor shifted his elements of discourse on limits. The instructor did not attend to the shifts in his discourse, making them implicit for the students. The study highlights that the discrepancies among participants’ discourses signal communicational breakages and suggests that future studies should examine whether teachers’ explicit attention to the elements of their discourse can enhance communication in the classrooms.