|Tennessee Board of Regents: Developmental Studies Redesign Initiative
Austin Peay State University
Course Title: Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra
Austin Peay State University (APSU) plans to redesign two developmental math courses, Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra. At least 900 students each year are placed in these two courses based on admissions test scores (ACT, SAT or Compass) in mathematics.
These developmental courses face two academic problems. University retention data show that approximately one-half of the students either fail or withdraw, and many of these students withdraw from the university before completing a baccalaureate degree. A second problem is that the links between the developmental courses and APSU’s core college-level core mathematics courses, Fundamentals of Math and Elements of Statistics, are weak.
The redesign model selected by APSU is based on the Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) model developed by Ferris State University in Michigan. APSU plans to eliminate the developmental courses, which carry no university credit. Enhanced sections of the two core college-level courses, Fundamentals of Math and Elements of Statistics, will be created for students whose admissions test scores place them in developmental mathematics. These core courses will not change in content but will be linked to SLA workshops. Students requiring developmental instruction will enroll in the core course required for their major and receive supplemental academic support on a just-in-time basis to remove the deficiencies in mathematical competencies required for success in the core course. These workshops will consist of computer-based instruction (MyMathLab), small-group activities and test reviews to provide additional instruction on key mathematical concepts within the courses. The statistics workshops will also use Fathom and Minitab in addition to MyMathLab. SLA workshops will be facilitated by students who have excelled in math and have been recommended by math faculty.
During the initial meeting of the workshop, students will be assessed to determine their specific math deficiencies. The math faculty have collectively determined the prerequisite competencies that are required in order for students to successfully complete each of the two core math courses involved in the course redesign. Only the deficiencies which are deemed necessary for success in the core mathematics course will be addressed during the workshops. Students will be individually assigned modules within MyMathLab based on the results of the assessment. Students will complete the modules on a just-in-time basis so that they are prepared to use the associated mathematics skills as the core course requires. In addition, the workshop leader will review the more difficult concepts that were covered during class instruction. Just-in-time instruction on prerequisite competencies is designed so that students will use the concepts during the following class session, which in turn will help them see the value of the workshops and motivate them to do the exercises.
The redesigned courses will encourage active learning. They will enhance each student's learning experience by removing deficiencies in mathematical competencies required for success in the core courses. Students will receive prompt feedback on all of the learning activities as well as individualized support. Consistency across all sections will be provided through standardization of small group activities and instruction. APSU expects the redesigned courses to increase the student success rates in mathematics, increase student retention at the university and decrease the amount of time required to complete the baccalaureate degree.
Student learning will be assessed by comparing baseline data with data from redesigned sections in both the pilot and full implementation phases. Comparison data will include: the percentage of students completing developmental requirements as well as the core mathematics requirements; student retention rates; mean and standard deviation of final grades in core mathematics courses; student performance on common content items on final exams; pre- and post-test results on prerequisite competencies; and the correlation between workshop attendance and course grade.
The redesigned courses will decrease instructional costs from $402,804 to $193,556, a 52% reduction. These savings will be achieved by eliminating the Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra courses, reducing the number of developmental sections from 52 to 0. Thirteen enhanced sections of Fundamentals of Math and 21 enhanced sections of Elements of Statistics will replace the developmental sections. The cost of the redesigned courses includes only half of the 34 enhanced sections (since half of these sections would have been offered in the traditional format for the 50% of developmental students who previously enrolled in these two courses) plus the cost of the SLA workshops for 17 of the 34 sections. In addition, 70 classrooms will become available each week when the supplemental workshops replace full sections. The savings will be used to expand the mathematics department, improve academic advising, and improve the collection of data about student retention initiatives.
Prior to the redesign, students were required to complete one or more developmental courses before enrolling in a core mathematics course. The success rates for the developmental courses were 53% for Elementary Algebra and 51% for Intermediate Algebra.
Because Austin Peay’s redesign eliminated developmental math courses completely, the team did not have comparable data on student learning outcomes for the traditional and redesigned courses. Instead, they were able to compare how well developmental math students performed in two subsequent college-level courses both before and after the redesign. To do this, the team calculated a success rate for what percentage of the entire developmental math population was successful in the two core courses, taking into account that a significant portion of them never enrolled in a college -level math course.
This calculation showed that the percentage of students who succeeded (grade of D or better and completed the requirements for removing deficiencies in the SLA format) in the redesigned mathematics courses, enhanced Mathematical Thought and Practice or enhanced Elements of Statistics, was significantly higher than the success rates that occurred when students were required to complete developmental mathematics (Elementary Algebra and/or Intermediate Algebra) before enrolling in the college-level courses.
Prior to the redesign, 33% of developmental students who enrolled in Mathematical Thought and Practice successfully completed the course. After the redesign, that rate averaged 71%. Prior to the redesign, 23% of developmental students who enrolled in Elements of Statistics successfully completed the course. After the redesign, that rate averaged 54%.
Students were considered successful only if they removed mathematics deficiencies (determined by post-testing) and earned core course credit. Students who achieved a grade of A in the core course were considered to have removed their mathematics deficiencies without demonstrating deficiency removal on the post-test.
The success rate in Mathematical Thought and Practice of those students who completed the traditional Intermediate Algebra was 85% compared with the success rate of students who removed mathematics deficiencies by enrolling in enhanced Mathematical Thought and Practice, which averaged 71%. The success rate in Elements of Statistics of students who completed the traditional Intermediate Algebra was 56% compared with the success rate of students who removed mathematics deficiencies by enrolling in enhanced Elements of Statistics, which averaged 54%. However, as noted in fall-to-fall retention data shown below, almost half of the students who were required to enroll in developmental courses in the traditional format did not return the following fall. Thus, many students who were required to enroll in six hours of developmental courses or who were unsuccessful in the first attempt never attempted a core course.
Prior to the redesign, the percentage of Elementary Algebra students who received a grade of D or higher was 53%. For Intermediate Algebra, it was 51%. After the redesign, the percentage of students in Mathematical Thought and Practice who received a grade of D or higher (thus successfully removing the mathematics deficiency by completing the core course) was 69%, In Elements of Statistics, it was 54%
The fall-to-fall student retention rate for students who enrolled in the developmental math courses under the traditional format never exceeded 59%; thus, 41% of those students (approximately 200 students) never attempted a core math course. During AY 2006-07, 57% of students who had been enrolled in a traditional developmental math course returned to the university the following fall. During AY 2007-08, 66% of developmental math students returned to the university the following fall after completing the enhanced mathematics courses.
APSU saved approximately $209,248, a 52% reduction. The university realized the savings by:
The computer labs in which the SLA instruction took place were previously used for computer-based developmental courses. Thus, no additional expense was incurred.
In addition, reducing the number of sections offered saved classroom space. Estimates indicate that the university saved 70 classroom hours per week with the redesign.
Of equal importance is the cost savings to students. Students no longer spend one or two semesters (or more, if they needed to repeat the course, which many of them did) in non-university level courses that do not count toward a degree. Thus, students are saving both time and money with the redesign.
These savings enabled the mathematics department to add five Ph.D. level faculty positions and to eliminate temporary and adjunct positions. In addition, APSU added one position to its institutional research office, a supervisor of Structured Learning Assistance and three academic advisors in the schools of nursing, education and business.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
Cost Savings Techniques
APSU eliminated 52 developmental math sections per year. Rather than requiring students to enroll in developmental courses which did not count toward a degree, the APSU redesign placed students in the core mathematics course required for their major with a co-requirement of Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) workshops. Students were able to remove their deficiencies while completing the core mathematics course. Successful removal of the deficiency required students to pass the core course in which they were enrolled as well as all the workshop requirements including a post-test.
The TBR Strategic Plan placed developmental studies in the community college; the closest TBR community colleges are in Nashville , more than 50 miles from Clarksville , where APSU is located. Retaining a way to address mathematics deficiencies at the university level provides higher education access for students who are time and place bound and most likely would not be able to attend the nearest community college. At this point, the university has no plans to change the way mathematics deficiencies are addressed.
Student success rates have improved as has the quality of instruction. The fall-to-fall retention rate of students with mathematics deficiencies is higher for students enrolling in enhanced core courses than it was for students who were required to enroll in developmental mathematics courses. Removing the requirement for non-university credit courses provided students the opportunity to enroll in a core mathematics course that is required for the baccalaureate degree and thus complete degree requirements in four years. Greater consistency has been achieved in multiple sections of courses as indicated by the use of common writing prompts in Mathematical Thought and Practice and common activities in Elements of Statistics. Common questions embedded in exams for both the enhanced and regular sections of the two core courses suggest that the same rigor is being maintained in both formats. Anecdotal comments from students suggest that the support they receive from SLA workshops has made a difference and enabled a higher level of success. Instructional considerations that must be addressed in the future have been identified.In response to the redesign successes, the university applied for and received a $2 million Title III Grant, which will provide funding over the next five years to support course redesign. The focus of the redesign effort is on core courses which have D-F-W rates of 30 percent or more. Workshops on course redesign were provided for all faculty by Dr. Tristan Denley , Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and an NCAT scholar. Following the workshops, 11 faculty members submitted proposals to redesign courses. Five were accepted and will be piloted during the 2009-10 academic year. These courses include Elements of Statistics, Fundamentals of Public Speaking, General Chemistry, Human Anatomy and Physiology and Wellness Concepts and Practices. These redesigns are expected to achieve similar results as the math redesign: improved student learning and cost savings that will permit a redirection of funds to other academic initiatives.