Asee peer logo

Where’s My Whiteboard? The Challenge of Moving Active-learning Mathematics Classes Online

Download Paper |

Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Faculty Development Lighting Talk Session 1: COVID-19 Focus

Tagged Division

Faculty Development Division

Page Count

6

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/38056

Download Count

6

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Jill K. Nelson George Mason University

visit author page

Jill Nelson is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at George Mason University. She earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BA in Economics from Rice University in 1998. She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for graduate study, earning an MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering in 2001 and 2005, respectively. Dr. Nelson's research focus is in statistical signal processing, specifically detection and estimation for applications in target tracking and physical layer communications. Her work on target detection and tracking is funded by the Office of Naval Research. Dr. Nelson is a 2010 recipient of the NSF CAREER Award. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and the IEEE Signal Processing, Communications, and Education Societies.

visit author page

author page

Jessica Rosenberg

author page

Kathryn Fernández George Mason University

biography

Julie Shank George Mason University

visit author page

Julie Shank is a PhD Candidate in the Education PhD Program at George Mason University. Ms. Shank is a former assistant dean of student life at the United States Naval Academy and retired naval officer. She also taught Ethics and Moral Reasoning at the Naval Academy while working there and more recently as an adjunct instructor. Previously a graduate professional assistant with the Early Identification Program at Mason, she is currently a graduate research assistant with the NSF-IUSE funded project, Building a Culture of Active Learning through Course-Based Communities of Transformation. Her research interests include: STEM education, Student Veterans, success in higher education, and self-regulated learning.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

This research paper studies the challenges that mathematics faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) faced when moving active and collaborative calculus courses from in-person to virtual instruction. As part of a larger pedagogical change project (described below), the math department at a public Research-1 university began transitioning pre-calculus and calculus courses to an active and collaborative learning (ACL) format in Fall 2019. The change began with the introduction of collaborative worksheets in recitations which were led by GTAs and supported by undergraduate learning assistants (LAs). Students recitation periods collaboratively solving the worksheet problems on whiteboards. When COVID-19 forced the rapid transition to online teaching, these ACL efforts faced an array of challenges. Faculty and GTA reflections on the changes to teaching and learning provide insight into how instructional staff can be supported in implementing ACL across various modes of instruction.

The calculus teaching change efforts discussed in this paper are part of an NSF-supported project that aims to make ACL the default method of instruction in highly enrolled gateway STEM courses across the institution. The theoretical framework for the project builds on existing work on grassroots change in higher education (Kezar and Lester, 2011) to study the effect of communities of practice on changing teaching culture. The project uses course-based communities of practice (Wenger, 1999) that include instructors, GTAs, and LAs working together to design and enact teaching change in the targeted courses alongside ongoing professional development for GTAs and LAs.

Six faculty and five GTAs involved in the teaching change effort in mathematics were interviewed after the Spring 2020 semester ended. Interview questions focused on faculty and GTA experiences implementing active learning after the rapid transition to online teaching. A grounded coding scheme was used to identify common themes in the challenges faced by instructors and GTAs as they moved online and in the impacts of technology, LA support, and the department community of practice on the move to online teaching.

Technology, including both access and capabilities, emerged as a common barrier to student engagement. A particular barrier was students’ reluctance to share video or participate orally in sessions that were being recorded, making group work more difficult than it had been in a physical classroom. In addition, most students lacked access to a tablet for freehand writing, presenting a significant hurdle for sharing mathematical notation when physical whiteboards were no longer an option. These challenges point to the importance of incorporating flexibility in active learning implementation and in the professional development that supports teaching changes toward active learning, since what is conceived for a collaborative physical classroom may be implemented in a much different environment. The full paper will present a detailed analysis of the data to better understand how faculty and GTA experiences in the transition to online delivery can inform planning and professional development as the larger institutional change effort moves forward both in mathematics and in other STEM fields.

We suggest a roundtable or traditional presentation method for this paper.

Kezar, A., & Lester, J. (2011). Enhancing shared leadership: Stories and lessons from grassroots leadership in higher education. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity (1st pbk. ed..). Cambridge University Press.

Nelson, J. K., & Rosenberg, J., & Fernández, K., & Shank, J. (2021, July), Where’s My Whiteboard? The Challenge of Moving Active-learning Mathematics Classes Online Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38056

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015