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Equity. Access. Excellence.

Looking at the Impact of Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Courses

Through our work in higher education policies, structures, and teaching practices, the Dana Center aims to improve students’ success in postsecondary mathematics and guided pathways.

Read about some of the internal and external evaluations examining the impact of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) courses.

Formative and Summative Evaluation of the DCMP Pathway to Calculus Curriculum

Shore Research leads the evaluation of two Dana Center-designed Pathway to Calculus courses, Reasoning with Functions I and II (RFI, RFII), implemented at two higher education institutions in California and Ohio.

Impact Reported

Researchers evaluated the curriculum and implementation of these Pathway to Calculus courses using interviews, classroom observations, and faculty surveys. Formative evaluation feedback from Shore Research led the Dana Center higher education program staff to revise the course curricula and the ways in which they prepared higher education faculty to implement and teach the curricula. Program staff are also in the process of re-envisioning the Pathway to Calculus theory of change and course content.

Summative findings at the California institution showed that

  • 77% of students who passed RFI enrolled in RFII the next semester,
  • 87% of RFI students who enrolled in RFII passed the course on their first attempt, and
  • 84% of students who passed RFII enrolled in Calculus the next semester

Findings at the Ohio institution showed that

  • 74% of students who passed RFI enrolled in RFII or Applied Calculus the next semester, 
  • 69%* of RFI students who enrolled in RFII passed the course on their first attempt, and
  • 63% of students who passed RFII enrolled in Calculus the next semester

Across both higher education institutions, it was found that 70% or more students agreed or strongly agreed that their instructors engaged in positive classroom practices, such as

  • making themselves available outside of class
  • encouraging students to seek help outside of class
  • listening carefully to students
  • asking questions to determine if students understood the material
  • making students feel comfortable asking questions in class
  • presenting more than one method for solving problems
  • providing understandable explanations
  • applying concepts to real-world situations
  • encouraging students to enroll in Calculus after completing the RFI and RFII sequence, and helping students become better problem-solvers

In addition, 70% or more students indicated they engaged in productive learning practices, such as trying hard to figure out solutions to problems rather than quickly giving up and that they felt confident in their mathematical abilities

Upcoming Reports

The Dana Center evaluation team will conduct a follow-up study beginning fall 2018 where they will collect and analyze student-level data from both institutions and

  • Establish comparison groups in the traditional pathway (i.e., College Algebra) to 
    • Determine how the outcomes of students in Pathway to Calculus compare to those of students in the traditional pathway, including
      • Course pass rates
      • Persistence through the Pathway to Calculus

Findings will be disaggregated by race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and math ability to assess the extent to which successes across demographic groups are equitable.

An Investigation of Course Self-Efficacy and Sources of Self-Efficacy of Students Enrolled in Mathematics Pathways Courses

Linda Zientek, a professor at Sam Houston State University, worked with the Dana Center evaluation team to evaluate the extent to which math pathways courses impacted students’ self-efficacy.

The evaluation found that DCMP students’ feelings of self-efficacy significantly improved in the areas of mastery experience (influenced by past failures and successes), social persuasion (influenced by messages from others) and physiological state (based on stress and emotions).

Upcoming Reports

In fall 2018, Dr. Zeintek will submit a manuscript detailing the research findings to a peer-reviewed higher education journal.