June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.447.1 - 13.447.8
Do Students in Summer Bridge Programs Successfully Improve Math Placement and Persist? A Meta-Analysis.
In attempting to learn more about the efficacy of summer bridge programs, we discovered a general dearth of relevant performance data in the literature. We identified and examined 12 engineering summer bridge programs that serve new freshmen whose math placement is at or below pre-calculus, and for which meaningful student performance data has been published. The data that we compiled suggests that bridge programs are very successful in helping students to advance in math placement by at least one level. Less clear is whether bridge students outperform control group students in the years beyond the bridge program (as measured by retention, graduation, and grades), but some evidence suggests that this is the case.
New freshmen in many engineering programs matriculate with math placement below calculus. Many of these freshmen have difficulty with first year math courses due to inadequate math preparation, poor academic skills, lack of interest (particularly when introductory math is divorced from engineering applications), and other factors. The students’ difficulty in math often results in a pattern of taking other courses out of sequence and related academic problems.
At least two principal approaches are commonly used to address these issues. One approach is to rearrange the curriculum to include more engineering content in the early years, and delay some math courses until students have more maturity and buy-in with the program. Another approach is to provide summer instruction during which students can improve their math placement hopefully gain greater understanding of fundamental concepts.
While we see merit in both approaches, we focus here on the latter approach of the summer bridge program. This is largely motivated by circumstance at UW-Milwaukee, where we teach; academic placement of new students is math-driven (and will be so for the foreseeable future), and most of our students – nearly 70% – matriculate with math placement below calculus12. Similar circumstances exist at many other schools as well.
To respond to our needs, our College of Engineering & Applied Science (CEAS) instituted a summer bridge program during Summer 2007 to help new freshmen engineering students improve their math placement, study skills, and acculturation to college life. The CEAS bridge program serves students whose math placement is below pre-calculus (i.e. students who are not yet eligible to take College Algebra or Trigonometry). Students at this level comprise approximately 35% of the entering freshman cohort in CEAS. We note that many students in the bridge program have already taken prerequisites for pre-calculus or even pre-calculus in high school, but due to their scores on the UW System Math Placement Test, these students are not eligible to enroll in pre-calculus in CEAS.
The current format of the bridge program is very basic, and is primarily focused on delivering instruction in pre-calculus. The program is free of charge, lasts 4 weeks, and culminates in the retaking of the Math Placement Test. No credit hours are earned through the bridge program.
Papadopoulos, C., & Reisel, J. (2008, June), Do Students In Summer Bridge Programs Successfully Improve Math Placement And Persist? A Meta Analysis. Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3956
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