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Calculus I Course Policy Changes and Impact on Various Demographic Student Group Success

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 4

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Paran Rebekah Norton Clemson University


Karen A. High Clemson University

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Dr. Karen High is the Associate Dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University. She also holds an academic appointment in the Engineering Science and Education department and joint appointments in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department as well as the Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences department. Prior to this Dr. Karen was at Oklahoma State University where she was a professor for 24 years and served as the Director of Student Services as well as the Women in Engineering Coordinator. She received her B.S. in chemical engineering from University of Michigan in 1985 and she received her M.S. in 1988 and her Ph.D. in 1991 in chemical engineering both from Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Karen’s educational emphasis includes: critical thinking, enhancing mathematics, engineering entrepreneurship in education, communication skills, K-12 engineering education, and promoting women in engineering. Her technical work and research focuses on sustainable chemical process design, computer aided design, mixed integer nonlinear programing, and multicriteria decision making.

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William Bridges Clemson University

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The objective of this paper was to examine the impact of departmental policy changes on the trend in DFW rates (proportion of students receiving a grade of D, F, or withdrawing from the course) for introductory calculus at a large research university. Calculus I has been shown to be a gatekeeper course, and increasing student success in this course is essential for retaining more STEM majors. We defined three distinct policy periods: Traditional (2002-2005), Active Learning (SCALE-UP) (2006-2013), and Return to Traditional (2014-2015). Regression analysis showed DFW rates were increasing during the Traditional period, significantly decreased after the switch to SCALE-UP, remained fairly consistent during the SCALE-UP period, and then significantly increased during the Return to Traditional period.

These trends were not consistent across demographic subsets of students. We defined eight student groups based on ethnicity (white/non-white), gender (male/female), and major (STEM/non-STEM) combinations. Specifically, white female STEM students typically had the lowest changes in DFW rates corresponding to policy changes, whereas non-white male non-STEM students had the highest changes in DFW rates. In addition to responding differently to the policy changes, the different demographic subsets of students were not equally represented in the course, with white male STEM students being the largest group and non-white female STEM students being the smallest group.

Individual trends for D’s, F’s, and W’s were also analyzed. The two policy changes had a greater influence on the trend in F and W rates than D rates. F’s and W’s were further analyzed based on demographic groups. Policy changes appeared to have almost no impact on the F rate for white female students, whereas the policy changes appeared to have the greatest impact on F rates for non-white males. The data also suggested that the change to the SCALE-UP policy had the biggest impact on reducing F’s for non-white students. The policy changes did not appear to change the W rates for white female STEM students. However, the W rates for non-STEM students did appear to change due to policy, specifically by the change from SCALE-UP back to Return to Traditional.

Norton, P. R., & High, K. A., & Bridges, W. (2017, June), Calculus I Course Policy Changes and Impact on Various Demographic Student Group Success Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27999

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