The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R)
Seton Hall University
Course Title: Beginning Algebra
The developmental math program at Seton Hall University offers Beginning Algebra to students who have scored 510 or lower on their SAT math section. The traditional course enrolls approximately 430 students divided into sections of 12–14 students. Students meet each week for two 1.5-hour lecture periods and 50 minutes of mandatory tutoring. Student work is assessed by graded homework assignments, quizzes and tests. The course is taught by a combination of full-time faculty (19 sections), adjunct faculty (11 sections) and graduate teaching assistants (8 sections.)
The department of mathematics and computer science has been concerned with the high failure rate in the developmental math program. As a result of the high failure rate, students are delayed in taking their required college-level math course until their sophomore year. One contributor to this problem is the quality of instruction; 60% of the course sections are taught by adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs).
Seton Hall will use the Replacement Model in its redesign. The course software, MyMathLab, will provide interactive, guided, homework problems and practice tests; online tutorials and assessment tools; and student progress tracking. Sections of 30 students will attend two one-hour lab sessions and will meet one hour per week in groups of 15 for lecture/check-in with their instructors. Additional small group tutoring will be offered for at-risk students. Sections will be taught by two full-time faculty members, two GTAs and two adjunct faculty. The redesigned course will serve approximately 660 students, which will accommodate a greater of number of students who have been placed in the developmental math program.
The interactive nature of the web-based materials will allow for individual student growth and self-directed learning coupled with individualized instruction from instructors and tutors. Materials will be available to students via the campus computing infrastructure for use at all times. Seton Hall University provides laptops and technology support to all of its undergraduate students, ensuring equity in fundamental resources and necessary tools. Using MyMathLab, and its associated textbook, will provide a learning environment fostering active learning, building upon provided resources. In addition, the structure of the course will facilitate collaborative learning in small groups within the lab and classroom settings. The reduction in the number of sections taught will ensure that students will receive instruction from experienced instructors.
The impact of the redesign on student learning will be assessed in both the pilot and full implementation phases. During the pilot, scores on common examinations from parallel sections of the traditional and redesigned formats will be compared. The full implementation of the redesign will compare scores collected from the pilot parallel sections and from the fully implemented redesign to historical data from 2000 to 2004. In addition, Seton Hall will administer satisfaction surveys to students.
The redesign will enable Seton Hall to serve more students with fewer faculty. The number of full-time faculty will decrease from seven to five, and the number of adjunct faculty will decrease from eleven to five. The use of course management software and automated grading will reduce the number of hours faculty members spend on these repetitive tasks and the number of students will increase from 432 to 660 annually. The redesign will reduce the cost-per-student from $866 to $321, a 63% decrease.
A textbook has been chosen to be used with MyMathLab, Beginning Algebra by Martin-Gay. Seventeen students were part of the spring 2005 pilot; 60 students are in the traditional lecture format. Changes in the redesign plan that will be made as a result of the pilot include: 1) instituting a weekly short recap lecture to engage students in a discussion of the material to reinforce the learning objectives; 2) expanding the lab period from 50 to 75 minutes to allow students enough time to finish assignments; 3) adding small-group tutoring to support low-achieving students; and, 4) setting up learning contracts with students who need to work at a slower pace and intend to register for another semester to finish the work.
In fall 2005, SHU fully implemented the redesign of both the Beginning Algebra course and the Pre-Algebra course. Students worked through their homework and practice problems under the guidance of a faculty member and a learning assistant during class periods. Instructors also offered students drop-in tutoring and one-on-one work within the lab setting.
The students gave the redesign favorable reviews for the way the course was structured and delivered. They enjoyed the active learning environment, using the software for homework, the immediate feedback they received from online testing and the help that was available whenever they needed it. To the delight of the teaching team, students did more homework using MyMathLab tutorial tools than was observed in previous years. Instructors used the students’ scrap papers to determine if partial credit would be awarded.
The instructors liked being able to give the students more one-on-one instruction and grading fewer papers. Team meetings, which were held to review student performance and to address any issues that came up, were invaluable in refining the program and in providing an opportunity for professional development.
The team encountered a facilities challenge when their Mathematics Learning Lab was moved in August. The majority of sections ran temporarily in a public computer lab, and a few sections met in regular classrooms with students using their university-leased laptops.
The computer-mediated program allowed students to work at their own pace within structured deadlines. The team decided to implement three tracks for students – fast, regular or gentle. If students were failing the course after the second chapter test, they were encouraged to sign a learning contract which stated that they would work through the course material in two semesters instead of one. This is the gentle track. As a result of this innovation, 12 students are attending a class which covers the second half of the material during spring 2006. After successful completion, they will be able to go on to their college-level math class. A few students worked on the fast track and finished the course before the end of the semester. These students enjoyed having extra time to focus on their other courses at the end of the term when the workload seemed to be heaviest.
The first round of test results has been very successful with more than 90% of the students achieving at least 70%.
Wendiann Sethi, Director of Developmental Mathematics, has shared her redesign experience at three different conferences: 1) NJEdge.net conference in November 2005; 2) BbWorld in February 2006; and, 3) a conference on Developmental Education for the New York College Learning Skills Association in March 2006.
Overall the team believes that the redesign has been a success and that they are now just fine-tuning the program.