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Integrating First-Year Experience Programming into a First Year Engineering Mathematics Course

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

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August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Andrew Skelton York University

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Andrew is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at York University in Toronto, Canada, with responsibilities for teaching and coordinating first-year engineering mathematics courses, coordinating an undergraduate mathematics education program and supervising a volunteer student peer-support program.

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Jermin Bates York University

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Jermin is a senior undergraduate student in the Mathematics for Education department, interested in Math Anxiety, Equity in Mathematics Education, and Experiential Learning in Mathematics, who is planning a career as a mathematics educator.

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Julia K Frank York University

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Julia is a current Bachelor of Education student who recently completed an undergraduate degree in the Mathematics for Education, B.Sc. program. She is specifically interested in the use of vertical non-permanent surfaces and collaborative learning in mathematics, and is planning a career as a secondary mathematics teacher.

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The gold standard of First-Year Experience (FYE) programming is the prevalent First Year Seminar, which has been extensively researched and identified as a high-impact practice. At many institutions, however, such seminars are far less common. An alternative model is to integrate FYE content into the academic curriculum. Challenges of curricular integration of FYE programming include cost-effectiveness, sustainability, student buy-in, instructor buy-in and loss of efficacy due to pedagogical restrictions.

We will present results from the first two years of a pilot study investigating the integration of FYE programming into a first-year engineering mathematics course.

In Phase 1 (Fall 2019), 236 students enrolled in one section of a first-year engineering mathematics course were given the opportunity to complete up to five FYE activities and were formally rewarded with a final course grade re-weighting proportional to the number of activities they completed. In Phase 2 (Fall 2020), the activities were redeveloped based on student feedback and made available to 251 students enrolled in the same course. Students were formally rewarded with 5% of their final grade to complete up to 5 activities. In Phase 3 (Winter 2021), programming was expanded to 1124 students in a second-semester first-year engineering mathematics course, where activities were embedded in traditional assessments, rather than as standalone topics within the course.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the cost and benefit of maintaining the high-impact nature of such programming while embedding into the curriculum. From the student perspective, the benefit (skills improvement, academic success, and direct academic reward) must be balanced with the cost (time, effort, and motivation). We will present the results of a student survey and grade analysis that analyzed the student cost and benefit, demonstrated which activities were associated with stronger academic performance and suggested using activity completion timelines as a potential Early Alert metric.

The work-in-progress associated with this project is to consider the faculty perspective, where the benefit (improved student outcomes, retention, and preparation for advanced courses) must be balanced with the cost (time, workload, motivation, perceived sacrifice of course content and TA support, lack of confidence and knowledge of such materials).

This project was inspired by an investigation into mathematics preparedness at our institution and the discussion of a 2017 meta-analysis “Applying an alternative mathematics pedagogy for students with weak mathematics” (Lake et al). The authors categorized strategies into 16 key themes such as mini courses, diagnostic tests, peer-assisted learning support, learning model changes and bridge programming, many of which the subject of an investigation at our institution. This project approached mathematics readiness from the theme of Developmental Support in Mathematics in which the focus is simultaneously on both mathematical and non-mathematical skills and has been shown to be an important factor in both competence in mathematics, retention, and professional success.

Skelton, A., & Bates, J., & Frank, J. K. (2021, August), Integrating First-Year Experience Programming into a First Year Engineering Mathematics Course Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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