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Title:College mathematics instruction in transition: A study of reform in a college algebra course for "at-risk" students
Author(s):Murphy, Teri J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Travers, Kenneth J.
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Mathematics
Education, Sociology of
Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies
Abstract:Historically, students from academically disadvantaged and minority populations have experienced disproportionately high dropout and failure rates in college mathematics. These students often place into courses considered remedial at the college level. The current national reform movement includes initiatives designed to address the failure of mathematics education to meet the needs of underrepresented populations. This research examined an effort to make a college algebra course more effective for "at-risk" students, admitted to a research university through an academic support program. In particular, the study analyzed the extent of reform in this course and the impact of the course on student outcomes, and identified barriers and enhancers to implementing reform in this context.
The reform efforts included employing active learning and student collaboration strategies and attempting to create a "Treisman-style" workshop environment. These strategies challenge instructors to check their impulse to show and tell, and instead, to facilitate and coach; correspondingly, instructors design challenging activities that differ from the standard manipulation exercises often found in textbooks. This study followed an instructor through her first semester of attempting to implement these strategies.
A combination of retrospective and prospective data was utilized. Admissions and transcript records enabled the calculation of background characteristics (demographic and academic) and persistence rates (university retention and course and career paths). Prospective data included classroom observations, instructor and researcher journals, a diagnostic pre- and posttest, and student interviews.
The results indicated that (a) the academic support program provided a supportive, inclusive environment for both students and instructor; (b) the course employed active learning and student collaboration, but the content presented remained at lower cognitive levels; (c) the instructor experienced frustration in trying to balance content coverage with student involvement, in learning to release control to the students, and in discarding traditional notions of remediation; and (d) the treatment did not adversely affect student skills or attitude, and in some cases the course enabled students to pursue their chosen fields.
Recommendations include upgrading the cognitive level of the course content, providing instructor development opportunities, and--most importantly--strengthening partnerships between the units involved (program, department, and instructor) in the conduct of the course.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Murphy, Teri J.
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9543680
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9543680

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