Online Assessments and Interactive Classroom Sessions: A Potent Prescription for Ailing Success Rates in Social Science Calculus

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Title: Online Assessments and Interactive Classroom Sessions: A Potent Prescription for Ailing Success Rates in Social Science Calculus by Helena Dedic, Steven Rosenfield and Ivan Ivanov of both Vanier College and the Centre for Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP) at Concordia University.

Key words: College Education, Mathematics, Achievement, Perseverance, Self-efficacy

Abstract: This study aimed to determine whether trends of declining enrollment and decreasing student achievement in Calculus courses could be reversed by use of an improved instructional design, principally by adding a web-based homework system, WeBWorK, as a course component. Three instructional designs were assessed in the course of this study:

  • traditional lectures, coupled with paper-based assignments (C1);
  • traditional lectures coupled with WeBWorK assignments (C2);
  • traditional lectures, coupled with in-class interactive sessions designed to provide teacher and peer support for students working on WeBWorK assignments (C3).

Students’ academic performance, persistence in mathematics courses, self-efficacy and motivation were examined as outcomes. Students’ prior knowledge of algebra and functions was also assessed, and the question of whether such knowledge impacts on their learning of Calculus was examined. On average, the probability that students, who graduated from high school and enrolled in the program under study in 2006, had sufficient knowledge of algebra pertinent to Calculus is 23%, and of functions pertinent to Calculus is less than 20%. However, students’ knowledge of algebra and functions grew significantly during Calculus instruction, which may explain why prior knowledge did not significantly impact upon students’ final grades or achievement in Calculus. It seems that both students and instructors compensated for gaps in prior knowledge. Students in condition C3 outperformed students in the other two conditions, between which there were no significant differences. In addition, students in condition C3 put more effort into their studies and were also likely to persist more. Women significantly outperformed men in all three conditions and they were also significantly more likely to pursue further studies in mathematics than their male peers. Finally, there was a significant interaction between condition and gender in terms of self-efficacy.

Link to complete report on this research: [1]

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