Throughout the 2-day workshop, participants engaged in a series of discussions about possible avenues for continued research (see Box 6-1) in the ongoing journey to reform developmental mathematics education and increase success for all students. On the second day of the workshop, participants divided into four groups (two planning committee members acted as facilitators for each group) to discuss the future of developmental mathematics education. Each group was asked to depict its visions for mathematics education by 2030, to identify the evidence that is needed to advance these visions and track progress, and to describe the actions that could transform these visions into reality. One facilitator (i.e., planning committee member) from each group served as the group’s reporter on the final panel of the workshop, which was moderated by planning committee chair Howard Gobstein. During the panel presentation, key takeaways from the four group conversations were shared. The workshop concluded with final reflections on the current state of developmental mathematics education and potential next steps to achieve a vision of reform that would best serve all students.
Group 2 facilitator and reporter Julie Phelps described a vision for developmental mathematics education by 2030, constructed by several workshop participants during the small group discussions:
- All students would have equitable opportunities to learn the mathematics they need to navigate the world and achieve their life goals;
- Students would experience the power and beauty of mathematics and experience joy in doing mathematics; and
- Mathematics education would enable people to use mathematics tools effectively and ethically in integrated ways.
Group 1 facilitator and reporter Linda Braddy added to these ideas shared by Phelps, emphasizing the equity dimensions of the vision. She
explained that “developmental mathematics education” would be eliminated and could be replaced by “college mathematics for all” or “mathematics literacy for all” by 2030. Demographics would no longer be barriers, a national free college model would be available, and a greater diversity of graduates would be working in high-demand fields, she continued. Barriers among K–12, 2-year, and 4-year institutions would be eliminated, with pathways aligned to span the entire spectrum of education. Braddy also emphasized that normative practice in 2030 would include new student success measures, a commitment to support and serve students effectively, and guidance (instead of placement) into appropriate rigorous pathways with academic support tailored to individual learners.
Group 4 facilitator Vilma Mesa shared more ideas on the vision for the future of mathematics education that came up during her small group’s discussions:
- All faculty would be full-time status and able to provide high-quality instruction that addresses past inequalities and supports students not currently being well served.
- Professional development would be sustained, discipline- and context-specific, and inclusive of history about the discrimination of communities of people.
- Academic institutions would have a process for institutional cost/benefit analysis and would be funded and directed to support student services, advisement, faculty development, curriculum redesign, data collection and analysis, and human resources.
Building on Mesa’s shared ideas, Braddy highlighted a difference in teaching loads for faculty in 2- and 4-year institutions and noted that, without additional funding, community college faculty will not have the time or the incentive to commit to achieving this vision.
Group 4 member Aditya Adiredja remarked that the mathematics education community should be critical and reflective of its language choices; for example, “college mathematics for all” does not promote the improved success of black students (see Larnell, 2016). Instead, specific attention is needed for particular groups of students, he continued. Group 2 member Cammie Newmyer explained that while she “appreciates the spirit of the phrase ‘college mathematics for all,’” it can be “offensive and anxiety inducing,” especially for low-income students and students of color. Phelps noted that, likewise, “developmental mathematics” often evokes emotions of failure, difference, and inferiority among students. Thus, many workshop participants suggested the development of a new, carefully chosen title for the field that would be approachable for and inclusive of all students.
Adiredja encouraged participants to consider who would be responsible for continuing to do this work and continuing this discussion in 2030.
Phelps noted that the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges’ IMPACT: Improving Mathematical Prowess and College Teaching (2018) discusses how to create a ripple effect for these conversations. Group 1 member Heidi Schweingruber said that the National Academies are committed to taking this work forward and raising its visibility.
RESEARCH AND DATA NEEDS
Group 3 facilitator and reporter Tatiana Melguizo highlighted the additional evidence that would be needed to realize many of these proposed visions, based on what was shared by a number of participants during the small group discussions. She noted that a national dataset of student-level educational pathways is needed, and that this dataset would include K–12 through labor market data that are disaggregated by race/ethnicity and income and focus on additional educational and psychosocial (e.g., sense of belonging) outcomes. She said that data are needed to identify the students who cannot access or are not being well served by the pathways, and qualitative data, in particular, are needed to understand student race-based experiences in mathematics reform and instructional practices. Additionally, Melguizo explained that research design by 2030 would need to be broadened to include the following:
- more qualitative work to understand the context of interventions (i.e., where they are occurring), which is critical as differences in the fidelity of implementation of the interventions are observed;
- mixed methods to understand how practitioners make sense of reform and implement changes while they see on-time data related to changes in outcomes; and
- researcher–practitioner partnerships that promote collaboration among faculty, researchers, and practitioners across systems.
POSSIBLE ACTIONS FORWARD
Summarizing the ideas presented during the small group discussions, group 4 facilitator and reporter Tristan Denley shared the possible actions needed within the next 5 years to maintain momentum to achieve these visions for 2030. He highlighted the following possible action items:
- Fund and create a coordinated research agenda to codify the latest successful practices on a solid research base and to seek answers to open questions about students not yet being successful and differential effects across student groups.
- Amplify and understand students’ voices and experiences.
- Develop a broad community of practice centered on continuous educational improvement.
- Cultivate faculty development initiatives at scale to address issues of equity and evidence-based instructional practice.
- Establish a coordinated national communication strategy that leverages research and champions (i.e., researchers, faculty, chairs, deans, institutional leaders, system leaders, and professional organizations) to amplify the success (through data) of current work.
- Engage accreditors as levers for change at scale.
- Revise tenure and promotion guidelines to honor reform work.
- Commence a companion discussion with other disciplines, such as English, in an effort to transform the “academic literacy for all” space.
Group 3 member April Strom proposed that members of the Mathematical Association of America’s Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education community could be leveraged to create a research agenda around mathematics education in community colleges, and Denley hoped that such a research agenda would also focus on the 4-year space. Schweingruber suggested understanding the differences of student outcomes in 2- and 4-year institutions as an important opportunity for the future.
As the workshop drew to a close, planning committee members shared their final reflections on developmental mathematics education reform. Phelps reiterated the value of engaging faculty in discussions about the meanings of different types of student data and the associated implications for teaching during professional development. She suggested that if faculty take “ownership” of the data, they might be more likely to make changes within their classrooms. Denley described the Chancellor’s Learning Scholars Program in Georgia, in which a select group of 110 faculty are paired with the University System of Georgia’s Centers for Teaching and Learning (and other professional development entities). Each scholar then leads a “faculty learning community” with an additional 10–12 faculty, which includes weekly meetings to discuss “what it means to be a faculty member in a new paradigm of student success and what it means to address students’ needs in a variety of ways.” Championing the efforts described by Phelps and Denley to better serve students, Braddy asserted that administrators and educators are guilty of “educational malpractice” if they do not stop offering outdated, ineffective systems of mathematics instruction.
Philip Uri Treisman noted that institutional leadership is essential if institutional practices are to change—for example, administration, financial
aid, student services, and tutoring centers will all need to evolve and connect. He proposed national policies to ensure that all people can participate in education, as well as local governance structures that would institute shared responsibility for the community of students jointly served by different educational sectors (e.g., K–12, 2-year institutions, and 4-year institutions). Melguizo noted that an integrated data system would enable such connections between high school and community college districts as well as between community college districts and 4-year institutions.
Planning committee chair Gobstein concluded the event by thanking participants, reflecting on the key themes of the 2-day workshop, and sharing his thoughts about next steps for mathematics education. He began his remarks by saying that mathematics is critical, and that changes in mathematics cannot and do not occur alone; they occur in structural, organizational, and systemic ways. The most powerful change agents are champions (e.g., faculty members and state leaders), he continued, whose initiatives need to be supported and whose communication should be leveraged with national platforms in engaging ways. Gobstein explained that educational leaders should be incentivized to transform, and that local adaptation is needed in order to transition from program alignment, to collaboration, and, ultimately, to the “development of more extensive and robust educational ecosystems—edusystems.” He emphasized the need to “stretch ourselves—we need to think bigger, and we need to think differently.” To do this will require changes in policy, organization, and practice at every level of our institutions and across our institutions and sectors, and such a change requires partnerships (e.g., Jobs for the Future, Transforming Postsecondary Education in Mathematics, Association of Public & Land-grant Universities, Achieving the Dream, and institutions of higher education), he continued, that build platforms for collaborating, learning, sharing, and tracking progress. Gobstein stressed that transformation at scale, in the form of a “larger and interactive edusystem,” is one of this era’s most challenging phases of education and social policy. He concluded by explaining that making progress will require collective efforts to align, connect, and “push in the same direction.”