טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
M.Sc Thesis
M.Sc StudentSabbah Soryna
SubjectIntegration of Arab Students at the Technion - Cultural
Aspects and Mathematical Identity
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Dr. Einat Heyd-Metzuyanim
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

The purpose of this research was to understand Arab female students’ acclimation process in studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the academia, focusing particularly on the Technion. The main theoretical framework used was that of figured worlds, which are realms of interpretation with characteristic actions, values, actors, and roles. The figured world of the Technion was compared with the Arab females' home figured world. Figured worlds offer certain opportunities to author identities and enact agency with relation to the space of authorship - those narratives in the figured worlds that are authored by the person and are relevant to the author’s identity. In addition, the study builds on the commognitive framework and its definitions of identity as a collection of reified and significant narratives about a person. These narratives can be about the current situation (current identity) and about the future, expected or wished for situation (designated identity). This discursive conceptualization of identity is coupled by the commognitive theorizing of mathematical learning as a process that develops from ritual to explorative participation.

The research questions were: (1) How do the participants author their identities, current and designated, during the first stages of their acclimation into university level mathematics studies? In particular, how do these identities develop in relation to assisting and constraining factors in the students' figured worlds? (2) In what ways do the participants enact agency in relation to: a. The narratives regarding ethnicity and gender in their space of authorship? b. The academic mathematical discourse they are expected to learn, specifically, calculus.

The study was qualitative and involved 13 Arab female undergraduate students from the faculties of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering studying at the Technion in their first semester. Research tools included two semi-structured interviews, at the beginning and end of the semester, two diary interviews during the semester and stimulated recall interviews around mathematics tutorials.

Data was analyzed using a grounded theory approach coupled by discourse and narrative analysis. The participants' mathematical discourse was analyzed according to the theory of commognition.

Findings included recurring gaps between the participants' evaluations of their selves as learners (current identity), which deteriorated as the semester progressed, and their expectations of themselves to excel (designated identity).  Agency was found to be a crucial aspect of successful acclimation, cultivating choice in the face of very high academic demands, as well as complex social and political conflicts. The social stress to succeed, coupled by the structural constraints of learning in a foreign language and in a different figured world, led students to ritual participation in mathematical learning.

The significance of the study lies in turning attention to the importance of Arab female students' awareness of the social and ethnic conflicts they face upon entering a foreign figured world.  Also, the study contributes to our understanding of the interaction between cultural and mathematical identities, showing how such interactions shape the ways in which students participate in mathematical learning.