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An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Using Exclusively Workshop-style Instruction in the College Algebra Classroom, Focused on Engineering and Engineering Technology Undergraduates

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Techniques in Improving Mathematics Education in STEM Curricula

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.150.1 - 25.150.23

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Paper Authors


Jennifer Vandenbussche Southern Polytechnic State University

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Jennifer Vandenbussche is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Southern Polytechnic State University. In addition to her research in the scholarship of teaching and learning, she does mathematics research in in the area of combinatorics, especially extremal graph theory. Her primary interest lies in coloring and matching problems in graphs. She received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Christina R. Scherrer Southern Polytechnic State University

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Christina Scherrer is an Associate Professor of industrial engineering technology at Southern Polytechnic State University. Her research interests are in the application of operations research and economic decision analysis to the public sector and assessing education innovation. She teaches primarily statistics and logistics courses, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She received her Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology

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An analysis of the effectiveness of using exclusively workshop- style instruction in the College Algebra classroom, focused on engineering and engineering technology undergraduatesOver the past few decades, evidence has grown for the effectiveness of cooperative learning inSTEM fields. Many studies have been conducted under various conditions, and the clear trendindicates an improvement in the performance and the attitudes of students who participate incooperative learning environments. Experience in cooperative learning is also seen as importantpreparation for the workforce in engineering fields, as evidenced by the inclusion of the ability tofunction in a team environment in ABET’s accreditation standards.Despite general agreement over the effectiveness of cooperative learning, the question of howbest to balance cooperative learning workshops with traditional lectures remains open.Particularly for engineering students who need a strong foundation in mathematics, striking themost effective balance in lower- level math courses could be instrumental in retaining them inengineering fields and preparing them for their future careers.To address this question, in Fall 2009, the first author taught a section of College Algebra in acooperative workshop-only format. She taught a traditional lecture section concurrently, givingeach section similar assignments and exams. The two sections were administered surveysthroughout the semester, measuring their attitudes toward mathematics. An undergraduateresearch assistant also conducted interviews of the students.Analysis of the students’ performance at the end of the semester found very little statisticallysignificant difference between the sections, both among the total population and among theengineering and engineering technology majors in the courses. Although not necessarily adesirable outcome, the students in the workshop seemed to perform approximately as well as thetraditional students with considerably less effort outside of class. More importantly, the surveysand interviews indicated that while the workshop students were dissatisfied with a lecture- freeenvironment, many were still eager to maintain a cooperative learning compo nent to their mathcourses. This suggests that a combined lecture and workshop approach may be a moresuccessful format for College Algebra. This paper will present detailed analysis of theassessment and survey results, along with insights from the instructor and student interviews.

Vandenbussche, J., & Scherrer, C. R. (2012, June), An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Using Exclusively Workshop-style Instruction in the College Algebra Classroom, Focused on Engineering and Engineering Technology Undergraduates Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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