1. Wendy Smith
  2. https://scimath.unl.edu/Wendy/
  3. Associate Director
  4. SEMINAL
  5. http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/stem-education/seminal/index.html
  6. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  1. Howard Gobstein
  2. Executive Vice President
  3. SEMINAL
  4. http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/stem-education/seminal/index.html
  5. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  1. Chris Rasmussen
  2. SEMINAL
  3. http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/stem-education/seminal/index.html
  4. San Diego State University
  1. Rob Tubbs
  2. Associate Professor
  3. SEMINAL
  4. http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/stem-education/seminal/index.html
  5. University of Colorado Boulder
  1. David Webb
  2. http://www.colorado.edu/education/david-c-webb
  3. Associate Professor & Interim Assoc Dean for Research
  4. SEMINAL
  5. http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/stem-education/seminal/index.html
  6. University of Colorado Boulder
Facilitators’
Choice
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:09 a.m.

    We're the SEMINAL project (Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning), and we're trying to transform the culture of mathematics departments so that actively engaging students is the norm. We understand transformational change can only be achieved via a systems approach, working to improve instructor knowledge and skills, coordination, and curriculum. We're finding that leadership at the department and campus levels is crucial to enact, implement, and sustain cultural changes. Who are the key stakeholders in your location who would need to be engaged in developing a common vision, in order to start local cultural changes?

  • Icon for: Jim Hammerman

    Jim Hammerman

    Researcher
    May 13, 2019 | 12:18 p.m.

    This is great work and it sounds like you've had some good success so far. I'm curious how you support faculty, grad students and other instructors who will be interacting directly with students in these teaching practices that can be much more complex than traditional lectures and recitation. What kinds of experiences and training do they get to understand and facilitate the experiences of students who may be struggling more than they did as learners? What are the elements of the community of practice you mention?

     
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    David Webb
  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 01:02 p.m.

    Our grant is more about supporting local initiatives, so as a project, we don't have a single form of professional development that we offer. We do communicate with partner universities that professional development is a key to improving mathematics teaching practices. We encourage campuses to connect with CoMINDS for grad student development, and send faculty to IBL workshops. We also help dept leaders connect with places that have effective professional development (such as instructor lesson study) to learn from what those places are doing. We are about to have our second annual workshop where we bring several representatives from each campus together, to share what each is doing, and help them learn from each other.

    For communities of practice, we are focused on helping departments increase/improve their coordination of multi-section courses. Having common syllabus, textbook, homework, and exams are important (as is common grading of common exams), but also important are common pedagogical practices and shared discussion about the teaching and learning. As one of our partners said, "coordination with community is just a checklist." We encourage instructors at each site to have regular conversations about teaching and learning--as departments and focused on particular courses. Sometimes campuses have weekly instructor meetings that focus more on the nuts and bolts; administrative details are important, but so are conversations that attempt to anticipate what students will find difficult in upcoming lessons, and what instructors might do to better support student learning. For graduate student instructors, we think such conversations are even more important, both because grad students are typically novice instructors, and because doing this in grad school can set a norm that we talk about teaching and spend time considering the students' points of view. Some of the communities of practice operate as lesson study groups; others don't reach that level but do have regular discussions about student learning and how their instruction can better support students. All of the communities of practice have developed shared materials for teaching (such as in-class activities, lesson plans, etc). The more mature communities of practice have developed ways to onboard new instructors and provide for ongoing revision of shared materials, to better sustain their community through changes in instructors.

  • Icon for: Alex Rudolph

    Alex Rudolph

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 09:11 p.m.

    This is a great program that takes advantage of the known advantages of active learning and focuses on creating systemic and cultural change around those types of teaching practices, a needed change. I have a couple of questions:

    1) You mention the importance of leadership a few times in the video. Can you say a bit more about where the key leadership needs to occur? Is it administrators willing to transform classrooms and support instructors? Is it the department chairs who need to rethink how these classes are offered? Is it the instructors themselves? Or all of the above? Details about the needed elements to recreate your program will be essential to helping others replicate what you have done.

    2) As someone who has used active learning in all my classes for over a decade, mostly in fixed-seat lecture halls, I had a serious case of classroom envy watching you teach calculus in such an active learning-friendly environment. How did you get your administration to buy into transforming your classroom in that way? Is that typical of all your sites?

    3) You mention the improvement in precalculus and calculus success rates at UNL. Are other universities in the consortium seeing similar results? If not, what variables do you think are responsible for any differences?

    4) What are your plans for expansion/dissemination? I noticed you have three CSU campuses in your consortium (San Diego State, Fullerton, and East Bay). As a faculty member at another CSU campus in physics and astronomy, a field which struggles with students unable to progress in our major due to troubles with math, I am intrigued by your model and would like to see it at our campus.

    Congratulations again on a wonderful program! I look forward to hearing more about it.

  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:43 p.m.

    Alex, here are responses to your questions:

    1) Specific important leadership: it takes a department chair (or assistant/vice chair) to push change from a few interested instructors to wider implementation; it takes a campus administrator to provide resources to the department (usually via the dept chair), such as classroom renovations, funds for hiring a coordinator, paying for more professional development; sustained changes usually have some type of faculty committee in the dept to oversee the reforms and make ongoing refinements; and leadership of coordinators who can develop a community of practice among instructors, and bring new instructors on board to the vision of effective teaching and learning.

    2) Each campus has a slightly different story, but most were able to use dept leaders' relationship with upper administrators to get funds to at least renovate a few classrooms (1-4), collect data to show students in these classes have better success, and then coax more funds for further renovations. Some sites started with small sections, so this classroom renovation has been for those of us who started with large sections (and still have large sections, with mid-size recitations of ~40).

    3) Across the participating sites, success rates of those who have implemented changes at least 2 years is in the 60-90% range; one campus that started with 80-85% passing rates didn't increase their passing rates but doubled their Calc 2 enrollment. The newer partners are in year 1 of changes; most are starting around 50% passing rates. When we see the big jumps in pass rates, it's from sites that go "all in": professional development (up front and ongoing support), increased coordination, attention to equitable outcomes, collecting and using local data, better student supports, attention to placement, community of practice among instructors, and some additional resources (room renovations, extended time, smaller sections, etc).

    4) We are working on a book from our Year 1 data that will be fully drafted in the next month or so; we'll have an additional book near the end of our 5-year grant. The audience for these handbooks will be math departments/math faculty and other faculty & administrators interested in change. We have a session at the Joint Math Meetings 2020, and are working on getting funding for a broader national dissemination conference in 2020 or 2021. For expansion, we are also working on additional grant funding to further scale up our models, and for ongoing support of networked improvement communities. We don't need every campus to reinvent all the wheels, so collaborating with others in similar contexts trying to make similar changes, is very powerful for accelerating reform efforts. Positive peer pressure is also helpful, particularly when told something is impossible--you can point to campuses where they are already doing what is supposedly impossible. The CSU sites would likely welcome a visit and can explain in more detail what they are doing.

     
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    Alex Rudolph
  • Icon for: Patricia Marsteller

    Patricia Marsteller

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 11:03 a.m.

    Great answers!  I look forward to seeing your book!  I wonder if you all would consider presenting at a BioQUEST workshop or at the Bienniial chem education conference?  All our fields have trouble with implementing changes in mathematical based reasoning  and we all need to learn from each other how to implement change.

  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:41 p.m.

    Thanks, Patricia. BioQUEST and other workshops that have any kind of STEM faculty will be good avenues for dissemination. Our team has had multiple conversations about which aspects of the reforms are particular to mathematics and which are just good practices in general. We don't necessarily have conclusions, since our participants are all in math departments, but many of the findings do seem to be broadly applicable.

  • Icon for: Sehoya Cotner

    Sehoya Cotner

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 14, 2019 | 10:32 a.m.

    Argh, I wish I had taken calculus with your team!!

    This is a nice video and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing.

     
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    David Webb
  • Icon for: David Webb

    David Webb

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 05:17 p.m.

    Thank you, Sehoya, for your encouragement and positive feedback. 

  • Icon for: Patricia Marsteller

    Patricia Marsteller

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 11:07 a.m.

    Love to hear more about the evaluation process. 

    Also can you share more about the ways that campus leaders were persuaded to support the project?  How do you encourage or incentivize faculty participation?

    What works for persuading institutions to invest in the infastructure and faculty development?

     
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    David Webb
  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 11:00 p.m.

    Patricia, each campus had different challenges to getting campus leaders on board. Some change processes were actually initiated by upper administrators, pressing the department to "fix" calculus. All of the campuses aligned their change efforts with university goals/missions (such as improving freshman retention, graduation rates, etc.). On most campuses, more freshman enroll in mathematics than in any other department's classes, so success in math correlates strongly with freshman retention. Having a data-based argument usually goes over well. Many campuses began faculty participation with those who were willing, and then expanded once they had more data to show the success of the reforms. We collect more data than just DFW rates to measure success, including student course-taking trajectories, grades in subsequent courses, majors (do they switch to/away from STEM after taking Calculus 1?), and measures of student experiences and attitudes.

    In terms of persuading institutions to invest resources in improvement efforts, someone has to be passionate about the reforms at the department level, and it helps if that person has some type of formal leadership role. Improvements in student success aren't free, so if the university has a mission about improving student outcomes, then the department can build on that to show how other campuses have gotten better outcomes when they _____________ (offered ongoing professional development, increased course coordination, focused on actively engaging students, had classrooms set up for collaboration, extended the minutes per week of class time, etc).

     
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    David Webb
  • Icon for: David Webb

    David Webb

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 11:22 a.m.

    Hello Patricia, 

    To build on Wendy's reply, when department faculty demonstrate initiative to improve student retention and persistence through improved instruction and related support, we have observed that campus leaders often endorse these department/faculty initiated proposals and allocate various institutional resources to such efforts. Deans and provosts often welcome department initiated efforts that can be demonstrated through action plans, internal proof of concept proposals for instructional innovation, etc. 

  • Icon for: Andrea Greenhoot

    Andrea Greenhoot

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 14, 2019 | 11:23 a.m.

    Great project and video! I am interested in the structure of the classes that are being transformed- are they all organized as multiple small sections (like those in the video appear to be) or are some campuses doing this in very large-enrollment sections? And for multiple section courses, are departments required to implement a uniform approach across sections (i.e., all transformed with active learning), and if so how are they navigating this with their instructors? 

     
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    David Webb
  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:54 p.m.

    Andrea, the campuses participating in the SEMINAL grant have all sizes of classes, from 18 to over 700. Instructors with classes up to about 80 have (mostly) found spaces on campus for tables/chairs to facilitate active learning (or at least can push desk/chair units together in clumps). Most of the locations with 100+ students in sections have smaller recitations to go with the large classes, and focus more of the active learning in the recitations (there are still things that can be done in larger classes, but it's much harder for instructors to talk to lots of students during group work). A key to having active learning become the norm for a department is coordination. Most of our sites coordinate not just the syllabus, textbook, and homework, but also have common exams, common grading of common exams, and weekly instructor meetings that discuss approaches to teaching, how to address the concepts students will likely find difficult, etc. Some campuses went "all in" and transformed all sections at once. Others did more of a staged approach, starting with a few sections with instructors who are on board, collecting data to show improved student outcomes, and then expanding to more/all sections. The expansion takes data and takes leadership, usually the chair and the person who assigns instructors to courses. All of the sites are offering professional development to instructors, to help them learn how to start small with increasing student engagement. Most of the campuses have or are developing shared materials. It's easier for an instructor to use clicker questions in a large class if the questions already exist; it's easier to enact group-worthy tasks during class if the materials exist and the instructors have had a conversation about what questions they will ask groups that get stuck, etc. It's certainly not an easy process. Some campuses had an external "trigger" of being pressured to "fix" calculus. All of the campuses aligned their efforts with university goals of improving graduation rates, freshman retention, etc.

     
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    David Webb
  • Icon for: Stephen Alkins

    Stephen Alkins

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 02:06 p.m.

    This is a great support system for students!  A couple of questions:

    1) Do instructors or administrators employ any culturally competent/inclusive curricula to help support their applications of and interest in calculus?  While many students struggle with advanced mathematics, we know that this education debt is only exacerbated when we examine the lense of race and ethnicity.  Are the lowest-performing student groups also seeing the same levels of success, and pursuing advanced classes beyond calculus?

    2) What are the barriers to implementing this widespread that you have experienced in your study?  Do you find it is mostly a funding concern from more executive leadership (board, provost) or is it more from departmental resistance, if any at all. 

     

  • Icon for: Zen Borys

    Zen Borys

    Researcher
    May 15, 2019 | 11:59 p.m.

     Great approach and thanks for sharing!  I found myself wondering about the faculty and instructors in the project.  What kind of data points to shifts in instructional practice?  How do faculty respond to new instructional practices?  And, have there been changes in the types of support faculty want/need once they've worked with the project?  Again, fascinating work and I look forward to you books when they come out.  

  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 08:58 a.m.

    Zen, all of the SEMINAL sites have new/more professional development for instructors. In most cases, this includes both pre-semester workshops and weekly instructor meetings throughout the semester. Some departments have implemented teaching and learning seminars for the whole department, on a regular basis, to normalize the culture that values teaching and the improvement of teaching. Most departments are also coordinating instructional materials, providing worksheets or even common lesson plans (or engaging instructors in lesson study) to support shifts in instructional practice. Once faculty get used to trying new materials and engaging students in small group and whole class discussions, they typically then seek support in helping groups to work more effectively, and to ensuring discussions are both equitable and mathematically productive.

  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 08:54 a.m.

    Stephan, at this point, only one of the SEMINAL sites if focused on culturally-relevant pedagogies. However, half the SEMINAL sites are minority-serving institutions, and all are working on developing appropriate activities and supports for students. Part of the work of SEMINAL is to look at disaggregated student success data, and to try to close big gaps in outcomes (by providing richer opportunities and additional supports).

    Barriers to implementation: within SEMINAL, all of the institutions sought to participate, so we had at least a core group of people at each site who wanted to improve teaching and learning. Resistance can come from the "we've always done it this way" crowd, but we've found that many mathematicians can be swayed with data (as can most administrators), so collecting and sharing local data is a powerful tool to overcome resistance. At the sites where we are working, campus administrators are typically able to find at least some resources to support improvement efforts, particularly when those efforts are accompanied by data to suggest improved student outcomes.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.