During the previous session of the workshop, Rahim Rajan described the importance of focusing on students’ needs when scaling developmental mathematics education reforms. Vilma Mesa moderated a panel on the second day of the workshop about how to build capacity within institutions to meet students’ needs in this era of reform. Panelist April Strom, professor of mathematics at Chandler–Gilbert Community College and a vice president of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), contributed to the classroom practices chapter of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Instructional Practices Guide (Mathematical Association of America, 2018) and served on the Steering Committee for AMATYC’s instructional standards guide, IMPACT: Improving Mathematical Prowess and College Teaching (American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, 2018). Panelist Karon Klipple, executive director of the Carnegie Mathematics Pathways at WestEd, leads the Network Improvement Community, which includes more than 100 U.S. postsecondary institutions working together to “change how students learn mathematics and gain the skills they need to be successful in their careers and their lives.” Panelist Christine Brongniart is the interim university executive director of the City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), where she supports a nationally recognized associate degree completion program that has since been replicated in four states. Mesa shared that the objective of this panel is to share insights on the implementation of high-quality instruction, the development of resources and best practices for faculty, and the creation
of relevant wraparound supports all in the service of effectively supporting students in introductory and developmental mathematics courses.
REFORMING INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES
Strom began her presentation by discussing high-quality instruction as a key part of achieving student success in mathematics classrooms. High-quality instruction builds students’ conceptual knowledge through active learning, contextualized problem solving, and student-led solution methods (Zachry Rutschow, 2019). Strom mentioned that several professional societies have established task forces and published documents to help faculty think about why and how to implement high-quality instruction in their classrooms. She provided an overview of one of these efforts, the MAA’s Common Vision Project, which identified common curricular themes in the documents of five mathematics and statistics organizations (see Figure 5-1).
Strom explained that two themes that are especially important for the instructional reform needed in developmental mathematics education are that the status quo is unacceptable and that active learning methods should replace more traditional lecturing approaches in the classroom. The MAA Instructional Practices Guide emerged from the Common Vision Project as a tool for faculty to use to implement high-quality instruction, and it has been used most recently to train graduate teaching assistants. This guide, and the chapter on classroom practices in particular, suggests that fostering student engagement and sense of belonging begins by building community
within a classroom—connecting students to one another, to the instructor, and to the discipline of mathematics (Mathematical Association of America, 2018).
Strom noted that AMATYC also produced an influential document on high-quality instruction: Improving Mathematical Prowess and College Teaching (IMPACT), a faculty-led effort to revise standards for teaching, learning, assessment, evaluation, and professional development in the mathematics offered in the first 2 years of college. This guide offers strategies to expand students’ mathematical proficiency, to help students develop “ownership” of mathematics learning, to foster intellectual curiosity and motivation in the learning of mathematics (for both students and instructors), and to stimulate student achievement in mathematics (American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, 2018).
THE ROLE OF FACULTY IN ENHANCING STUDENT LEARNING
Klipple shared her perspectives on the important role that faculty play in helping to meet the diverse needs of developmental mathematics students at the level of instruction, and described specific ways in which faculty need to be prepared to facilitate new modes of learning and engagement in the classroom. She introduced the notions of routine and flexible expertise (see Hatano and Inagaki, 1986). Routine expertise is the ability to know how to use a procedure to solve a problem. However, she continued, routine expertise is difficult to apply to new challenges or in new contexts, and so it is essential that faculty also help students to develop flexible expertise, which requires critical thinking and conceptual understanding. Helping students to develop both routine and flexible expertise will allow them to understand why procedures work as well as to apply and extend procedures to new situations. She explained that faculty need to create an environment in which students are involved in three recurring and sustained learning opportunities in order for them to gain flexible expertise:
- Students should interact and grapple with rich mathematics content (i.e., “productive struggle”) to which they have to bring their own knowledge and experiences to bear, in order to expand their knowledge-base and problem-solving techniques.
- Students should develop the ability to “make explicit connections between concepts and procedures” both within and across courses and disciplines.
- Students should engage in “deliberate practice” that becomes both more challenging and more diverse over time.
Klipple shared that faculty need particular supports in order to create classrooms that offer these opportunities, and effective professional development to prepare them in this way should have the following characteristics:
- Flexible and responsive to faculty needs—emphasizing real-world problems and contexts that faculty encounter on their campuses.
- Designed for collaboration and social learning—affording opportunities for faculty to learn through active engagement.
- Grounded in real teaching—providing space for faculty to observe high-quality teaching in action.
- Job-embedded—creating opportunities for faculty to experiment with new approaches in their classrooms.
- Sustained over an extended period of time—offering training opportunities on a regular basis.
The Carnegie Math Pathways Faculty Support Program, in particular, offers various forms of engagement for faculty, including workshops, virtual training, and peer mentorship.
IMPLEMENTING WRAPAROUND SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS
A third approach highlighted to meet the needs of students is wraparound support, and Brongniart shared about the experiences of students who receive additional supports both within and outside of the classroom through CUNY ASAP.1 She described CUNY ASAP as a “common sense approach to comprehensive wraparound support for students,” and provided an overview of the program’s components, including the following:
- Structured pathways—Consolidated full-time course schedules, first-year blocked courses, and winter and summer courses.
- Comprehensive supports—High-touch, individualized advisement; career readiness development; academic support services; and early engagement.
- Financial resources—Tuition gap waivers, textbook stipend, and transportation support.
CUNY ASAP serves 25,000 students across nine institutions in the CUNY system and is run through the Office of Academic Affairs. By using data intentionally and embracing faculty feedback, CUNY can provide
structured and clear pathways to graduation for students. Students are successful in CUNY ASAP owing to early engagement and connectivity afforded by the cohort model, she explained. The model has been replicated at three community colleges in the state of Ohio, with the support of Ascendium Education Group, and new plans include implementing the program in the San Mateo County Community College District in California. Additionally, the program has been adapted for two of CUNY’s senior colleges—John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Lehman College—as the Accelerate, Complete, and Engage2 [ACE] Program, providing 4 years of support3 in an effort to double the 4-year graduation rate.
Brongniart said that CUNY ASAP has had a doubling effect on 3-year graduation rates over the past 12 years (see Figure 5-2 for a representation of this trend in the Fall 2007 through Fall 2014 cohorts), and early analysis of the replicated program in Ohio indicates similar success. By welcoming all eligible full-time, first-time freshmen into the program at Bronx Community College, it will be possible to better understand the implications of wraparound supports on systemic reform. She added that with the program expanding at this scale, increased investment in technology and tools to support advising will be needed.
Observing that it can be difficult for faculty to change their instructional practices, Mesa wondered how to embed high-quality instruction in all developmental courses and how to use institutional resources to support faculty in “this era of math pathways.” Quoting her mentor Pat Thompson, Strom noted that “changing one’s teaching practices is as hard as changing somebody’s personality.” She emphasized that investing in professional development that engages faculty in activities that they would actually do with their students is the first step to implementing high-quality instruction. She described active learning classrooms as a “game changer,” in which faculty provide the mechanisms to encourage students to think. Access to high-quality materials is essential, and faculty need to be engaged in sustained, coherent, and meaningful professional development, Strom continued. She added that faculty would benefit from 100 hours of professional development each year. Klipple agreed with Strom that institutions should commit to faculty development and align their resources accordingly. She asserted that it is imperative to make space and time for faculty to improve their practice, and that one way to achieve this is to engage faculty as stakeholders in the process, making data about students visible to them to
3 This model provides 2 years of support to transfer students.
motivate change. Implementation of high-quality instructional practices, she continued, requires a cultural change for faculty, and although that could be difficult, many faculty are eager for opportunities to re-envision their roles, and these cultural changes could eventually transform faculty hiring and evaluation processes.
Mesa wondered about the cost to implement such extensive programs and suggested performing an analysis to understand how much these initiatives would save an academic institution over time if students persisted as a result. Klipple referenced prior work on the return on investment for pathways that engaged faculty in this kind of professional development. In the course of evaluating more than six institutions, it became clear that the return on investment was positive for all of these institutions and more than 50 percent for many of them. Brongniart said that CUNY has performed an extensive cost/benefit analysis of its support programs. Although up-front costs to support faculty and students are significant, especially to maintain dedicated personnel and to replicate the program, the returns to the taxpayer and to the institution are apparent. Klipple reiterated Rajan’s previous point that although it is more expensive for an institution to recruit new students than it is to help existing students succeed, reforms are
still not being implemented at scale. She emphasized that a failure to invest now will negatively impact students, especially their economic mobility.
With consideration for such expansive changes, Mesa inquired about other types of resources that might be needed over the long term to best serve the populations of students who are not prepared for college. Brongniart pointed to CUNY ASAP as an example, remarking that the program is built on a public-sector partnership (curated through support of the city of New York) that relies on data on best practices to “serve students and propel their academic momentum.” By tracking students’ academic and engagement data, both individually and in the aggregate, program leaders can better understand how students’ progress through a holistic model such as CUNY ASAP and, more specifically, how students are impacted by it. In addition to the resources enabled by this partnership, CUNY ASAP relies on the support of academic advisors to be “navigators” for students while they acclimate and learn to make decisions about their academic futures.
Mesa asked the panelists to consider how to overcome any other significant challenges for successful implementation of these initiatives at scale. Strom explained that although national-level data are useful, local-level data are crucial. She emphasized the value of qualitative research from community college instructors to better understand what is and is not enhancing mathematics learning in the classroom. She and Mesa are engaged in such a study with support from the National Science Foundation, for which they are watching 400 hours of videotaped instruction from 88 community college instructors. She encouraged others to participate in similar research. Klipple reiterated that champions are needed to initiate change, and leaders are needed to institutionalize change. No longer can initiatives afford to operate as pilots; prototype-to-scale is the ideal model, she continued. Brongniart agreed and reaffirmed that ASAP’s goal is to not be relevant anymore—when reforms occur at full scale, common sense practices are applied across the spectrum to meet the needs of all students: full-time, part-time, and transfer populations.
The panelists invited workshop participants to share their perspectives on building capacity within institutions to better meet the needs of students. Aditya Adiredja reiterated his suggestion from the first day of the workshop to infuse issues such as racism, sexism, and ableism into this discussion and into the research about how faculty can better serve students. Strom agreed that educators should better understand how to identify equity issues and how to overcome them, both in reforming teaching practices and in implementing appropriate course content. The mathematics education community, she continued, could spark these conversations locally, especially for faculty who do not have the resources to attend national workshops and conferences. Mesa urged that students, especially underrepresented students
in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, be reminded that they deserve to be in college-level courses and that they are capable of succeeding. She suggested that professional development that imbues issues about historical oppression is necessary for faculty to become more sensitive to the challenges that some of their students face.
Referring back to Brongniart’s remarks about intensive advising as a mechanism for student success, Heidi Schweingruber wondered about building capacity, in terms of professional development for advisers to do intensive advising, which would potentially be very different from what some of them may be used to. In response, Brongniart explained that dedicated training in intensive advising helps academic advisers to become comfortable with identifying students’ individual needs and then tailoring the modality and frequency of interaction with those students appropriately. Because advising relationships tend to be established around “academic progress momentum,” which can be interpreted in various ways, Brongniart said that it is important to build a foundation and develop shared competencies between faculty and academic advisers. Philip Uri Treisman noted that innovative, time-consuming teaching experiences tend only to attract 10–15 percent of faculty, so he wondered how to engage more faculty in structural reform initiatives. Klipple acknowledged this problem but noted that she has encountered institutions where at least half of the faculty are involved in these labor-intensive initiatives. Strom suggested that the expectations and incentives for educators be increased; educators should think of themselves as lifelong learners who continually take advantage of opportunities to do their jobs better. Schweingruber added that different models of professional development be considered for 2- and 4-year institution faculty, as these two populations have unique issues.
Given the differential outcomes for CUNY ASAP students who were assessed as proficient compared to those assessed as needing developmental education, John Hetts asked Brongniart about the potential inequity of how students are assessed for placement into CUNY ASAP and the related consequences for understanding the effectiveness of the program. She replied that when CUNY ASAP began in 2007, students with developmental education needs at the time of application were not accepted. However, because of the relationship CUNY ASAP now has with CUNY Start (which addresses developmental education needs in the prematriculation space), this issue of inequity in access to the program has been alleviated. She added that CUNY is moving toward broader reforms that would, for example, abandon the use of ACCUPLACER in favor of multiple measures assessments to determine student placement. In terms of the relationship among assessment, access, and program outcomes, Brongniart said that effectiveness is not studied by program component—CUNY ASAP has
been and will likely continue to be studied as a comprehensive model. She commented that the ultimate goal is to transform CUNY ASAP from a “program model” to standard practice infused throughout all the areas of operation on each campus.
This page intentionally left blank.