MATH-GAINS: Growing as Adaptive Instructors in Gateway to STEM Courses
This project will address the national need to improve quantity and increase quality of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. Along these lines, calculus courses are a gateway to STEM majors and careers; however, the national success rate in these courses is still too low. The premise of the project is that to increase student learning and success in calculus courses, a shift in teaching practices will need to occur. While past efforts have produced a variety of best practices for teaching calculus, these practices are still not used as widely as desired. The University of Central Florida (UCF) MATH-GAINS project will create a departmental model that can be used to address this national need. First, MATH-GAINS will develop a culture in which Department of Mathematics faculty members persistently apply best practices in their teaching of calculus courses. Instructors will work in teams to learn about and practice these teaching strategies and measure student learning in their courses. The project will provide professional development, feedback, and opportunities for reflection. The process of adopting these teaching strategies will be studied to identify the factors that enable faculty at a large, research-intensive university to successfully implement such methods so that the model could be adapted by other departments and institutions. Additionally, MATH-GAINS will allow studies of best teaching practices for postsecondary calculus. A target group of 30 students will be persistently impacted over the three-semester calculus sequence, resulting in increased student understanding of the mathematics, retention and graduation rates for these students, and knowledge about the cumulative effect of evidence-based instruction for researchers and faculty.
The MATH-GAINS project will build on research-based change strategies, and its implementation design will use critical features identified by those theories of change to shift the culture of mathematics faculty. Instructors will participate in long-term interventions that allow them the flexibility to choose instructional strategies that match their interests. Each year, learning communities consisting of faculty members and graduate teaching assistants will learn from the literature, select from a menu of evidence-based teaching practices, develop learning materials for projects involving those practices, and implement their projects during both fall and spring semesters. The Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol will be used to assess the level of implementation of evidence-based practices, prompt faculty reflection, and suggest avenues for improvement. Faculty will collect data on student learning to assess the effectiveness of their implemented practices for diverse student populations in calculus. On-going evaluation will build the knowledge base for the creation of a model for institutional change, where application of evidence based teaching practices in calculus becomes standard and perpetual faculty practice. Faculty participants from each year's learning community will disseminate their projects to other faculty locally, regionally, and nationally.