East Lansing, Michigan
July 26, 2020
July 26, 2020
July 28, 2020
Early calculus courses are often barriers for student persistence in engineering. Several factors contribute to the difficulty of calculus courses, including poor math preparedness and, perhaps more importantly, low math self-efficacy. We previously conducted a systematic review that summarized numerous ways in which institutions and instructors are innovating calculus experiences, including adding engineering applications and using active pedagogies. We have used the insights from this literature review, as well as our own institutional-level observations, to re-imagine the calculus experience for a pilot group of civil engineering students at The Citadel. Our goal is to turn early calculus courses into mastery experiences that build self-efficacy and encourage students to remain in engineering.
We have created an extended calculus sequence that allows students to complete their Calculus I and II requirements over three semesters, rather than two, in a small-cohort structure with personal, academic, and professional structures intentionally designed to help students build self-efficacy. During the summer before their freshmen year, the cohort participated in a residence-based experience to help them adapt to college life and complete essential math requirements before the rigors of the academic year. As part of this program, students completed Calculus I with an embedded precalculus review. To encourage success, students worked with a peer leader, academic coach, and supplemental instruction leader. In addition, students participated in a parallel engineering applications seminar to connect math topics with future coursework and professional practice. The course indeed served as a mastery experience for students, as they all received grades of “C” or higher. Furthermore, results from a follow-up focus group and previously-developed survey instrument support that students generally experienced gains in self-efficacy and a positive outlook heading in to their freshmen year. We wanted to sustain students’ math preparedness and success, while still providing them with flexibility to manage other areas of academic life during their freshmen year. Subsequently, we created a two-semester Calculus II course to allow students to continue to sharpen their math skills but at a more relaxed pace. Preliminary results suggest that students are performing well in their courses, as well as becoming involved in other campus activities and groups. We are interested in scaling up our extended sequence and believe that re-imagining the early calculus experience can provide GIFTS for other institutions as well.
Watson, M. K., & Ghanat, S. T., & Wood, T. A., & Davis, W. J., & Hornor, T., & Bower, K. C. (2020, July), GIFTS: Reimagining the Early Calculus Experience Paper presented at 2020 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan. https://peer.asee.org/35770
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