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Survey 2005-06

Curriculum Survey 2005-06

Date:. April 8, 2006

 

TO: NYSMATYC membership

 

FROM: Sean Simpson

 

Re. 2005 - 2006 Curriculum Survey on Developmental Math courses

 

Each year, the Curriculum Chair of NYSMATYC is charged with conducting a survey on a topic important to the mathematical education of two year college students. The 2005 - 2006 survey was designed to quantify the issues in the developmental mathematics courses across the state.

 

The survey was distributed to the NYSMATYC campus representatives at 51 two-year college campuses in New York State. The campus representatives were asked to either take the survey themselves, or pass on the survey to a member of the department with extensive knowledge about the developmental mathematics course(s) available at their school. The survey responses from 36 of the campuses were linked on a web-based survey through a (nonpublic) link on the NYSMATYC website. The 70.6% response rate was a result of four e-mails being sent to the campus representatives over a 10 week period.

 

The Curriculum Chair would like to thank Ken Mead publicly for his assistance in creating the webpage for the survey and the file for keeping track of all the information as it came in. His work made the collection of the data a much easier task for the Curriculum Chair.


 

Summary of Main Results

 

In considering all of the data collected, it is clear that no consensus has been reached on the topic.  The number of developmental courses varies widely from a low of 0 courses at one school to a high of 6 courses another school. On the whole, graphing calculators are not commonplace. However, some technology is common, running the gamut from the four function calculator to computer lab technology. 11 schools have an online version of at least some of their developmental courses while 19 others are not considering an online version.

 

Number of courses

 

Of the 36 responses, only 1 (2.8%) reported that they have no developmental courses. An additional 7 schools (19.4%) report one developmental course. 14 schools (38.9%) report having two developmental courses while 7 schools (19.4%) report having three developmental courses. Of the remaining 7 schools, 3 of them (8.3%) report four courses, 3 others (8.3%) report five courses and 1 (2.8%) reports six courses. For the purposes of this survey, a developmental course is a course that the college does not consider to be college level.

 

Additionally, 2 of the schools (5.6%) reported that they are considering a new developmental math course, while 3 schools (8.3%) report that they are considering abandoning at least one of their developmental math courses.

 

We did not ask for information on every developmental math course offered. The remainder of this report is based on questions that were answered using the developmental course closest to a first algebra course.

 

Contact Hours and Credits

 

Of the 36 responses received, 11 of them (30.6%) report that the course in the survey is a three contact hour course. Another 10 schools (27.8%) report a four contact hour course. 8 more schools (22.2%) report a five contact hour course. Of the remaining 3 responses, two (5.6%) report that their school has a six contact hour course and one (2.8%) reports a 3.33 contact hour course.

 

Of the responses, 15 schools (41.7%) report that the course considered gives no credits. Another 7 schools (19.4%) report that the course gives three credits and 5 (13.9%) report that the course gives four credits. However, this is not the entire story. 21 schools (58.3%) report that the course does give credit for the purposes of financial aid, but does not give credit for the purposes of GPA. 5 schools (13.9%) report that the course does give credit for the purposes of financial aid and also give credit for the purposes of GPA. Only 3 schools (8.3%) report the course can be used for graduation credit; of these, 1 school reports the course can be used to fulfill the math requirement.

 

Other Versions

 

It is the opinion of the curriculum chair that there will always be a place for the traditional lecture-based course. However, that does not mean other versions of the courses do not exist. More importantly, these should be reported on.

 

One school (2.8%) reports an alternative workbook version of the course. 7 schools (19.4%) report a computer based or laboratory based version of the course (not pure online course). 1 school (2.8%) reports a hybrid version of the course; 1 school (2.8%) reports a workshop version of the course; 1 school (2.8%) reports a mediated learning environment version of the course and 3 schools (8.3%) report a self-paced version of the course. It should be noted that only 1 school reported more than one alternative version - all other member colleges reported one or no alternative versions of their course.

 

Textbooks

 

Not surprisingly, the member campuses report a significant number of authors and textbooks. We will not list the texts here, since each campus (potentially) gave information about a text for only one of their developmental courses.

 

Of the authors mentioned by the campus representatives, Martin-Gay was mentioned 7 times. Angel and Aufman/Barker/Lockwood were both mentioned by 6 campuses. Bittinger/Ellenbogen was mentioned by 5 campuses. Other authors mentioned were Cass/O'Conner (one campus), Lial/Hestwood (3), Szymanski (1), Carson (1), Kaseberg (1), Johnston et al. (1), McKeague (2), Tobey/Slater (1), Hutchison (2), Gage (1), Tussy/Gustafson (1) and Math in Action (1).

 

Clearly, there is not a consensus with regards to a textbook. Using the above, we see that there are a minimum of 16 author combinations being used (it may be more). This indicates that there is a tremendous amount of disagreement over what a developmental mathematics text should look like and no individual style has necessarily cornered the market.

 

Since there are so many different texts (and authors), one should ask why this has occurred. What features exist in these texts that make them so appealing to some, but not others. Does tradition play a role. Is there any text that has all of the features we are looking for?

 

Technology

 

The role of technology in a developmental math course is an important conversation that has been ongoing. The debate has not been settled, made clearer by the responses to this survey. We will deal with the variety of different technologies separately (summarized in table on final page).

 

First, we look at the graphing calculator. Only 1 school (2.8%) requires its use. Another 4 schools (11.1%) report rare use of the graphing calculator in their developmental course while another 3 schools (8.3%) report that the use of the graphing calculator is left to the discretion of the instructor. A further 2 schools (5.6%) report that the graphing calculator is allowed on the final exam. 20 schools (55.6%) report that the graphing calculator is not used.

 

Next, we look at scientific calculators. 9 schools (25%) report the scientific calculator is required while another 2 schools (5.6%) report that they recommend the use of the scientific calculator. 2 other schools (5.6%) report that they rarely use the scientific calculator.  6 more schools (16.7%) report that the use of the scientific calculator is left to the discretion of the instructor. 2 more schools (5.6%) report that the scientific calculator is allowed on the final exam. 11 schools (30.6%) report that the scientific calculator is not allowed.

 

Next, we turn to four function calculators. 2 schools (5.6%) report that a four function calculator is required. Another 3 schools (8.3%) report that a four function calculator is recommended. 2 schools (5.6%) report that the four function calculator is rarely used. 7 schools (19.4%) report that the use of a four function calculator is left to the discretion of the instructor. 13 schools (36.1%) report that a four function calculator is not used. One additional school reports that the four function calculator is allowed only for ADA students.

 

Finally, we turn to computer lab technology. 5 schools (13.9%) report that computer lab technology is required. Another 4 schools (11.1%) report that computer lab technology is recommended. 1 school (2.8%) reports that computer lab technology is rarely used; 5 schools (13.9%) leave this technology to the discretion of the instructor. 16 schools (44.4%) report that this technology is not used.

 

As the number of technological options continue to increase (including publisher programs), we need to address the question - what should the role of technology be. As always, we will need to be cognizant of the major fear with technology: that our students will become too reliant on it (as reported as a specific concern by one campus).

 

Online Courses

 

Online learning has exploded over the past several years with the majority of all NYSMATYC member campuses offering at least some math courses online. However, developmental math course do not seem to be one of the more popular math offerings online (by comparison, 20 campuses reported an online version of their statistics course in the 2004 - 2005 NYSMATYC survey).

 

As of this writing, 11 campuses (30.6%) report offering a current online version of statistics. Of these offerings, 4 are through the SUNY Learning Network (SLN). Only 1 campus reports offering an online developmental math course through WebCT, 2 campuses report offering an online course through BlackBoard, 3 through ANGEL and one through another avenue.

 

Of the campuses not offering an online developmental course, 1 reports they will offer such a course within a year, while another 3 are considering offering such a course. 19 campuses report that they do not offer an online developmental course and are not considering it.

 

Those campuses not considering an online developmental course were asked why an online class was not under consideration.  A number of reasons were given. 6 responses indicate that the developmental courses need personal contact or interaction that is not available in the online format. One response indicated that cost was a factor. Other responses include: a lack of faculty, retention concerns, enrollment concerns, and security issues. One school asked whether online developmental courses are appropriate (an issue worthy of a general debate). One school reported that they had an online developmental course but dropped it due to poor results.

 

The success of these online sections is mixed. 3 campuses report that the online students did better than the on-campus students, while 5 report the online students did worse. 6 schools report that the success rate of the online students is similar to the on-campus students. Other schools were unsure whether the online students did better (or worse) than the on-campus students.

 

In general, the online courses are small. 2 campuses report online classes of 15 students or less, while 2 campuses report online classes between 16 and 20 students. 6 campuses report having between 21 and 25 students while 2 campuses report having between 26 and 30 students in their online classes.

 

By comparison, all of these schools report that the on-campus sections of the same course are at least as large, if not larger, than the online sections. Considering all responses (including those who do not have online sections), only 1 campus reported a class size of 15 or less. Another 6 campuses report a class size between 16 and 20 students. 14 schools report a class size between 21 and 25 students; 11 campuses report a class size between 26 and 30 students and 1 campus reports a class size above 30 students.

 

The good news appears to be that the member schools recognize that developmental courses should be smaller than standard courses. 6 schools report a class size between 21 and 25 for the non-developmental courses; all 6 report smaller sizes for the developmental courses. 14 schools report a class size between 26 and 30 for the non-developmental courses; 10 of these schools report a smaller class size for their developmental courses. 12 schools report a class size of at least 31 for the non-developmental courses; of these, 11 report a smaller class size for their developmental courses.

 

Exit Criteria

 

The member schools report a variety of different ways for the students to exit the developmental courses.  The results are in the following table. One note about the table: a school could utilize more than one of the following criteria, and would be included in the count of each of them.

 

Criteria

Number of Member Schools Utilizing the Criteria

Departmental Final Exam

18

Institutional Final Exam

3

Overall Grade

29

Compass Test

4

Accuplacer Test

5

Other Assessment Test

6

Retakes of Final Exam

4

Portfolio

1

Homework

2

Attendance

5

Time in Tutorial Centers

1

Workshops

1

 

Overall, 10 of the schools report using only one the above criteria. The other schools report using at least two of the possibilities above.

 

Enrollment and Placement

 

One of the motivations behind this choice in topic in the first place was the general perception that there has been an increase in the number of students needing developmental coursework. The campuses were asked whether there has been growth in enrollment in their developmental classes within the last few years. 21 campuses (60%) report that there has been an increase in the number of sections of developmental mathematics. Only 4 schools report a decrease in the number of sections - 10 more report that the number of sections has remained relatively constant.

 

Perhaps more frighteningly, 7 campuses report that over 50% of their course offerings are developmental courses. Another 11 campuses report between 35 and 50% of their courses offering are developmental level. 8 campuses report the percentage is between 20 and 35% and 7 campuses report the percentage is under 20%.

 

The fact that there are so many sections has had an impact on the mathematics departments statewide. 6 campuses report that the number of "upper level" courses has decreased as the number of developmental courses has increased. Many of the other schools report that the amount of growth in the developmental courses is greater than the amount of growth in the other courses.

 

The reason for the huge number of sections is the fact that so many students need developmental coursework today. 4 campuses report that over 75% of their students need developmental coursework. Another 9 campuses report between 50 and 75% of their students need these courses. 6 schools report between 35 and 50% of their students are developmental level; 5 report having between 25 and 35% of their students at this level; 6 report having between 15 and 25% of their students at this level. Only one campus reports that less than 15% of their students need a developmental course.

 

Students are placed into these courses in a variety of ways. 18 campuses report that they use high school transcripts to place students into courses. 14 schools report that they use the Accuplacer test to place students into courses. 11 campuses report using the Compass test as a placement tool. 8 campuses tell us that they use a departmental test to determine whether a student should take a developmental course. 8 campuses report using another testing program not already listed, and 6 campuses report their counselors determine where a student should be placed. Again, a school would be included in all relevant categories above.

 

It is not clear how severe placement issues are. One school reports a large number of problems with students being inappropriately placed into a "regular" course instead of a developmental course. 19 schools report there are some problems, and 12 schools report there are few problems with students being inappropriately placed into a non-developmental course. Only 2 schools report no problems, and 1 campus reports that they have no way to measure such problems as they are not given access to the information that would answer this question. A couple of schools reported that recent changes in placement scores has had a dramatic impact on enrollment (upward). It is clear there is a problem with student placement, but it is not clear how bad the problem is.

 

Concerns

 

Near the end of the survey, the responders were given an opportunity to express their concerns about the developmental courses, as we move forward. The answers were given via free response, so it is very possible that many campuses (once hearing about the expressed concern) would agree even if they did not write down the particular concern themselves.

 

Among the more popular concerns were: retention/attrition and student motivation. Others are concerned about having enough qualified instructors for these courses. Another concern was that the students are now completely dependent on the calculator. Other issues raised:

 

-          dealing with learning disabled students

-          placement testing concerns

-          financial aid issues

-          students not wanting to be in remedial courses

-          a lack of focus on the college level courses

-          insufficient tutoring services

-          why the continual increase in students?

-          the impact of the state curriculum on these courses

-          issues with the administration

 

Odds and Ends

 

Despite the fact that there is an increase of students taking developmental courses at many of our campuses, only 7 of the campuses report that they have had problems staffing the developmental courses properly. Another 5 campuses believe that they may have trouble in the future. As the number of students taking developmental math continues to increase, the campuses must at least consider the potential staffing problem that could arise. The issue may not be completely finding someone to teach the class - the issue seems to be more a matter of finding someone competent to teach the class.

 

Finally, the responders were given an opportunity to tell us what NYSMATYC can do to help. The list of responses has been forwarded to the Professional Development Chair. As a result, some of these ideas will be incorporated into the Summer Institute this year.

 

Technology Table

 

 

Require

Recommend

Rarely Used

Discretion of Instructor

Final Exam Only

Not Used

Graphing Calculator

1

 

4

3

2

20

Scientific Calculator

9

2

2

6

2

11

4 Function Calculator

2

3

2

7

 

14*

Computer Technology

5

4

1

5

 

16

 

*includes one school which allows the four function calculator for ADA students only