Dr. Paul Nolting's Academic Success Press Blog: A Publication Dedicated to Math Success
Dr. Paul Nolting's Academic Success Press Blog: A Publication Dedicated to Math Success
As promised, here is Part Two of our interview with Dr. Hunter R. Boylan! This segment of our conversation focuses predominately on the relationship between the government, educational think tanks, universities, and teachers. Once again, we'd like to thank Hunter for agreeing to this interview. We'd also like to thank our readers for their continued support. Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a new post.
ASP Blog: So you’ve touched on this a little already, but I want to get your thoughts on what, exactly universities and community colleges can do to improve developmental math given certain budgetary constraints…
Boylan: Universities tend to have much more money and flexibility than community colleges. So it is quite possible that universities will do whatever they want to do regardless of what the legislature or the state higher education executive body thinks. Universities probably have a little more leeway in how they implement these things, and some will just pick up the current instruction sheet and simply do what it says. Some will look at the instruction sheet and say, “We can modify this, and modify that, and still say we are doing it in spirit, and still get more of our students through.” And some will probably say, “This isn’t going to work. We’re going to keep on doing what we are doing.”
What state do you live in?
ASP Blog: I live in New York.
Boylan: Well, I don’t know what it is like in New York, but if you live in say, North Carolina or Ohio, schools like UNC or Ohio State are going to do pretty much what they want. In any event, what universities typically do is invest a lot more time and energy and money in the advising, placement, counseling, academic coaching and tutoring side. Rather than putting all of their energy into remedial courses, they put their energy into support services. They tend to have strong learning centers, they tend to have well-organized tutoring operations, they tend to do more intensive academic advising. Right now, this is typically the university model—to approach whatever academic shortcomings students might have through all the things I just mentioned.
Community colleges on the other hand don’t have those resources. While they’d like to focus more on intensive academic coaching, they can’t afford to pay for it. That is one of the reasons why community colleges are more likely to go with a course-based model. Now, many of them are revising their intake assessment processes. They are requiring less assessment, which enables more students to go on to college-level courses, but they are not putting the support directly into the courses like they probably should. Community colleges in America like the idea of embedded course services. They try to put more support services into classes, which is kind of labor intensive.
It is interesting. There are two trends in how community colleges are approaching this. On the one end, they are saying, “We need more time in class, so we are going to give you three hours in class, and if you scored lower on an assessment test, we are going to provide an hour or two of extra labs connected to the class.” So you’re putting more time in on class. On the other end, some community colleges are saying, “Ok, well you really don’t need to know everything a 16-week course will teach you, so we’re going to condense it all into 8 weeks, and you are going to work harder and longer.” So I find it interesting that some colleges are reacting by contracting the amount of time in class, while others are extending the amount of time spent in class.
Now, theoretically, a highly motivated student in either class will spend a lot of time studying and going over material. That’s probably true. So, well-motivated students will get what they need in eight weeks, because they’ll put in two hours a week in class, and spend another eight hours studying. So, for good students, both systems work. And by good students I mean those people who have study skills and motivation. For those students who don’t—it won’t work either way.
ASP Blog: There doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to turn students into these types of motivated students that you are talking about; we seem to sometimes assume that a student is just the way he or she is, and that there is no real room for growth or change. Paul has focused on this quite a bit: how do we make students better learners, how do we get them to take on the type of affective characteristics that might help them find success? Do you think that maybe some community colleges are ignoring this goal when they focus solely on trying to expedite the process itself rather than making sure the process actually works?
Boylan: Well, I think some states, like Virginia and Florida, have plans in place to measure the outcomes of what is going on (and hopefully to revise things accordingly). Florida State University got a multi-million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation to study the impact of all of these reforms—what is happening even now, is that the street bureaucrats there are releasing data that is saying that reforms are causing more students to fail college algebra, which is probably true.
With this in mind, I have hope that people on the ground will do one of a couple things. They’ll take the reforms and they’ll fit them into more efficacious patterns and, hopefully, put more energy into teaching those skills leading to achievement motivation. They’ll teach modularized math courses, but they’ll also develop videos for the students that teach them how to take a modular course on a computer. They’ll also provide a lot of personal consulting with the students to help them work their way through a modularized math course on a computer. So they’ll do what the state tells them to do, but they’ll also take what they know how to do and try to make the system that was imposed on them work. And they might be successful.
ASP Blog: So you are saying, if you are working at a school, and you are overseeing a developmental education program, and you have very little agency in the conversation about state mandates, and little choice but to follow them, then you might take a grassroots approach and implement your own support systems within what has been forced upon you?
Boylan: People are already doing that. The other thing that they are doing, is leaking damaging data to the press. They aren’t supposed to do this. I assume that someone at the system level will come down and ask these colleges “who released this data?” But the data was released because many people did not trust politicians to either release it at all or to release it without putting political “spin” on it.
ASP Blog: And you think that this may ultimately be these whistleblowers' only channel through which to enact any change? To make people in the general public aware of what is really going on?
Boylan: Yes. At least right now, channels of dissent are being stifled. I also think the important thing to remember about the reform movement, is that, in spite of its shortcomings, it still includes some good ideas. It is not entirely bogus. The people who aspire to lead the reform movement—Complete College America, Gates and llumina, etc— have some good ideas but few of those organizations have any actual experience or expertise in developmental education. This lack of experience and expertise makes it difficult for them to understand the context into which they want to insert reform. These organizations are coming up with some very good ideas and some very bad ones, but it’s difficult for them to know which is which. The bad ideas will probably have to be exposed by those you refer to as “whistle blowers.” They are the ones who can see what’s happening on the ground rather than looking at the situation from 30,000 feet.
Perhaps acknowledging their lack of expertise and experience, the reformers didn’t sit back in their offices and think something up based upon their own cogitation. They looked to community colleges for things that might work. They identified models that were successful in some settings and gathered data on them; then they took things they thought might work and promoted them. They have highlighted and promoted integrating reading and English, which I think, might be a pretty good idea. They’ve talked about embedded support services in developmental English courses. I think that’s a good idea. The Carnegie Foundation and the Dana Center, with their Statway and Mathway projects actually do represent something new and original—these are all good ideas. But what these organizations have done is to find existing models. With the exception of Statway and Mathway, they didn’t create anything new. They identified successful innovations that have at least worked in some places, and they are out promoting these ideas in various other places. On the other hand, given the legislation that has resulted from the reform movement, it’s hard to tell what innovations were originally proposed.
The problem is that doing these innovations right requires money, time, and training. And most institutions and/or legislators are not investing the money, time, and training into making these innovations work. Those that have should do well.
ASP Blog: It seems that many institutions have stumbled into a paradox: a lot of these changes are enacted to save money, yet, at least ostensibly, to make them work one has to invest more heavily into them and make sure they have all of the resources they need to be successful. You can see why people are waffling a bit as they are trying to do this….
Boylan: Yes. So the cheapest reforms—like “lets get rid of remedial courses”— are very popular because they don’t take time or money. Now they don’t work, either. But that seems to be beside the point. Again, I don’t want to condemn the reform movement. I’m just saying that because the people behind it have not been in the field or read about the history and research in developmental education, they were unable to create many new models. We have few really intelligent new workable models that anybody has presented. What we have are retreaded old models or individual cases where something has worked. For example, modularized math is simply mastery learning from the 1960s with computers added. The Accelerated Learning Program looks a lot like Supplemental Instruction from the 1970s only with mandatory attendance at enrichment sessions. The integration of courses and support services is something that developmental educators have been advocating since the mid-1970s.
Remember, the original definition of developmental education was the integration of courses and services guided by the principles of adult learning and development. The modern reform movement has at least emphasized the first part of that definition, the integration of courses and services. We’re still waiting for a pedagogy to catch up with the integration.
And that just about wraps it up! Pretty heady stuff, no? And we are just getting started! We have spoken to numerous national experts about the reform movement and its many implications. Check back every Monday for more posts and more conversations!
The State of Affairs: Part One of a Two-Part Interview with Dr. Hunter Boylan about Developmental Learning and the National Redesign Movement
Hello! Welcome to the official relaunch of the Academic Success Press blog! To set the stage for our upcoming posts—many of which involve conversations with experts in the field of developmental education—we thought we'd address the current state of affairs for our community, which, as we all know, is in a period of extreme (and at times tempestuous) transition. Who better to get things started, then, than the renowned Dr. Hunter R. Boylan!
Few proponents of developmental learning have been more influential the past few years than Boylan, longtime Director of the National Center for Developmental Education at Appalachian State University. His decades of experience in the field have made him a leading man for the cause, as he has seen and helped navigate the developmental learning community through numerous shifts in pedagogy and public understanding in recent years.
The following interview covers a great many subjects, including but not limited to: the efficacy of math redesigns, the general public view toward developmental learning, and the benefits and dangers of online learning. Due to length concerns, we have broken the interview into two parts. Please check back next Monday morning for Part Two.
ASP Blog: Two years ago, you did an interview with USA Today, where you spoke with a journalist about a national shift away from (or reform of) remedial and developmental mathematics. In it, you implied that many of these new approaches were failing to meet their goals. Do you still feel this way?
Boylan: Yes. We are still addressing the problems with a rather substantial variety of alleged solutions, ranging from the potentially good, to the potentially ugly.
ASP Blog: Many of the “solutions” promoted in math redesigns over the past year haven’t addressed the true roots of the problem in that many of these students have been underserved since elementary school. They’re coming into college drastically unprepared. Do you still believe this is the case?
Boylan: I wrote an Op-Ed for an academic journal last year. My contention in that was that we have made a lot of structural changes: we have changed the placement process for remedial courses, we are putting more people directly into college level courses, we are using more computers, and we’re accelerating developmental courses, we are providing embedded support services. When you look at all of these things, what they are actually doing is changing the structure of our delivery system. They are not changing the quality of the teaching that goes on. Nor are they addressing any of the characteristics of students that cause them to be underprepared in the first place and cause them to become attrition statistics.
For instance, ethnic minorities still have lower pass rates and completion rates than anybody else. First generation college students have lower pass rates and completion rates. The poor have lower pass rates and completion rates. But in all of our reform of developmental education, we are not addressing any of those issues. We are not asking ourselves “why is it that minorities have lower pass rates than majority students and what can we do about that?” We are not asking “so why do first generation students have high casualty rates?” We are basically just saying, “If we put them into this delivery system then they’ll do better.” Well they are going to maintain the same characteristics in the new delivery system that caused them to drop out in the old delivery system. That’s my view of the situation.
ASP Blog: That is what is interesting about this. The argument against developmental education is kind of myopic to me. Those who do not believe in developmental education are blaming the whole system writ large almost as if developmental courses merely add extra hurdles for students to clear. In reality, this is only true of poorly designed developmental courses. Paul likes to point out that one of the main keys to fixing a college’s developmental math platform is to improve classroom and supplemental learning through better teacher and tutor training. Do you agree?
Boylan: That is part of the answer. One of the things that needs to be taken into account is that we are doing a much better job integrating courses and services, but we still aren’t integrating those based upon adult development and learning theory. If you are going to teach a class, most people agree that it would be a good idea if you had some knowledge of how people learn—if you maybe understood learning theory and could organize and deliver your class according to the principles of at least some theories about learning. People don’t do that in remedial courses. And that’s the reason why we much prefer developmental education to remediation—because there is a body of theory called developmental psychology or adult development—however you want to refer to it—that discusses how we should teach the students. That is what is lacking. We are not using what we know about adult learning and development to deliver our courses. We are simply changing the structure of how courses are delivered without changing the pedagogy.
ASP Blog: What are the states that are mandating changes to developmental education actually putting into effect right now?
Boylan: The most popular change seems to be to allow more students to bypass remedial courses, usually by modifying the assessment process in some way. That is probably the number one change. I can see why legislators like this, because it doesn’t cost anything and it creates the illusion that they are actually addressing the problem. The second biggest one is to change the delivery system. This involves various types of modularized courses that are frequently computer based. What they are often doing is a discount version of the Emporium Model.
The Emporium Model can actually be labor intensive. One of the reasons it worked in the first place was that students got instant feedback right when they were having a problem. Now, the tendency is for colleges to put one faculty member in a room with 25 students at computers and let the students go to work. The one faculty member can’t get around to give personalized service to all of the students. So basically they have taken the Emporium Model and understaffed it, and said, “We have the Emporium Model.”
ASP Blog: I assume people have been collecting statistics on whether these classes are working, right? The same with online courses?
Boylan: All of the data we have on this matter shows that online developmental education does not work. Early results show that the major consequence of allowing students to bypass remediation is that more students are failing college level courses. In fact, I just got an email today from somebody who teaches at a community college. It basically said, “Our weakest students are being funneled into these short, technology based modules, or into a short eight week section. Consequently our standards are being lowered even further, so that we can prove that the techniques are successful.” What she was implying is that there is pressure on teachers not to fail too many students, because then the innovation looks bad.
ASP Blog: Right, the innovation that just happens to be cheaper.
Boylan: Right. Now, I don’t know how widespread this is, but there is no doubt that some teachers are feeling pressure to make sure these systems work. On the other hand, even with whatever pressure exists, the major result is that more people are failing college level courses. I talked to a reporter the other day, and she said something like this: “Well what about the stigma of being put in a remedial course?” And I said, “Well it is choice of which stigma do you want? Do you want the stigma of being placed in a remedial course, or do you want the stigma of failing college English?”
Update: Here is a direct link to Part Two.
Welcome back readers! As promised, here is part two of our interview with the founder of the Academic Success Press Blog, Dr. Paul Nolting! Scroll down for Part One; or, if you'd prefer, click here!
ASP Blog: Now that we have discussed the challenges of redesigning math courses, let’s discuss the benefits of these programs. How do these redesigned courses help students?
Dr. Nolting: In the past we had students who only needed calculus or only needed statistics because they were either social science majors or business majors. Some of these students really got caught up in intermediate algebra, and they couldn’t go any further. Because they were stuck taking intermediate algebra four, five, six times, they just stopped and dropped out of school. Now what happens, with these different pathways, students may be able to go right from pre-algebra into quantitative analysis or statistics, which are not algebra-based. This eliminates the major barriers for community college students. My joke is: how do you create a course with a 100 percent pass rate? You don’t have students take it. If they don’t have to take intermediate algebra, they can go on to statistics. Also, research in statistics and finite math shows that those courses have higher pass rates than intermediate algebra and college algebra.
Another positive thing about redesigns is that students with disabilities also used to get caught up in these courses. I’ve had students in these courses with poor abstract reasoning abilities who were not capable of passing intermediate algebra; however, their verbal reasoning skills were excellent. We put those students in statistics and they passed just as well as anyone else.
The negative aspect to this, I mentioned a little bit earlier, is that some states decide what courses students can take based on cutoff scores. One state decided that if you didn’t score a 30 in the bottom of the test, you had to take a remedial course. Another state, I won’t mention its name, eliminated developmental education. So what I’m seeing is that some of the lower-level students may not get to take the math courses they need to be successful. That’s been a concern across the country: whom are we leaving out? In Texas, they are called bubble students. There are several colleges who are helping bubble students rise above the cutoff scores. Otherwise they might not earn their degree.
ASP Blog: Where can students in redesigned math courses find support and help outside of the classroom?
Dr. Nolting: The focus now is on trying to do the best you can inside the classroom, which involves several types of models. But what we are seeing is that some models have limitations that instructors can’t overcome, largely due to state mandates. This means we need to focus more on how to get students outside help.
First, we need to think about learning support centers and math tutorial centers. These centers are now being called on to take on more responsibility to help students who are barely getting into math courses or who decide to take intermediate algebra so that they don’t have to take a placement test. So when we look at these learning support centers, we need to train these tutors to become academic coaches, train the tutors to learn how to assess how to make students better learners, and train the tutors to learn about learning styles and use these styles to fit the needs of individual students. They can also show students various online math programs, math apps, that kind of thing, to help students learn how to solve problems on their own. I’m really getting into training students how to use their cellphones to record the information they learn from their tutors.
The other area involves working together with disabilities services and veteran’s services to help these students become more successful. When students with disabilities get involved in accelerated courses, the system doesn’t always work for them. They need outside resources to succeed. This means that universities and colleges should train their tutors specifically how to work with these students.
ASP Blog: Moving on, can you discuss the current state of online math courses? Are they as popular as they used to be? And how do students typically fare in these courses?
Dr. Nolting: Online math courses, about five years ago, were about the hottest topic around. I did research with several colleges, and every college we went to, their online math courses always had lower pass rates than traditional classroom courses. The exceptions were at colleges like Valencia College, where Fitzroy Farqhueson created courses with built-in Web-support. In these courses, students actually passed at higher rates than did students in traditional classrooms.
After a while, online courses kind of faded out. Now that the redesign movement is in full cycle, they are starting to come back. In fact, what’s happening at some institutions is that if students can’t get through the modular or accelerated courses, their only options are online. I see these students heading in this direction without proper preparation. Our research indicates that students do have the computer skills to be successful, but what they don’t have is the organizational skills. They procrastinate, and they don’t have proper study skills. To take a course online is to become an independent learner. What we have to do is teach students better study skills and strategies. So I see a focus going back online in the next several years.
Fitzroy and I actually just developed an online program, eMathready.com, which helps student prepare for online courses. It’s not a math program, per say. It is a program to help students with study skills, organization, anxiety, and other topics. It helps them understand different learning modalities as well.
ASP Blog: Finally, I wanted to ask you a bit about working with students with disabilities. You have worked with these students for decades now. I’m curious how things have changed over the years.
Dr. Nolting: Sure! The truth is, we have more and more students with disabilities come on campus every year. There are two groups coming on most rapidly. First, we have students with traumatic brain injuries or other students with short-term memory problems. Second, we have students with ADHD. What’s happening with them is that they are pretty smart, but they don’t have the ability to actually sit in a modular course. The hyperactivity part of ADHD makes these students want to move around, or it causes their minds wander. Some of these students really struggle in modular courses where they are sitting in a classroom by themselves. So what we’re trying to do is help them understand study skills, and specifically how their disabilities affect their ability to learn.
I recently wrote a book, My Math Success Plan, which is for students with disabilities and for Wounded Warriors. That text talks about study skills, but also focuses on how disabilities affect math. That is what we are missing. A lot of tutors and math instructors have a hard time explaining how various disabilities affect learning. For instance, if a student has a visual processing disorder, they read more slowly than other students. Or if you have an abstract reasoning issue, and you find that you work best with manipulatives, tutors aren’t able to explain this to students. So what we did in that workbook is teach students study skills, teach students how their disabilities affect math, then we taught them how to create a plan. This is like an IEP plan or a mission plan for veterans. It walks them through a math study skills evaluation then addresses specific learning strategies that might compensate for any weak points in their learning.
That’s our challenge: how to help these students become more successful!
Welcome to the Academic Success Press Blog! Part One of a Two-Part Interview with Learning Specialist Dr. Paul Nolting
Hello! Welcome to the brand new Academic Success Press blog! Academic Success Press, Inc., is dedicated to making the classroom, modular, and emporium model learning experiences less difficult, while improving student learning. We want to transform the classroom into a more successful environment where educators and students can use inventive learning techniques based on sound academic research.
Created by Dr. Paul Nolting, a national-expert on math study skills and learning disabilities, the Academic Success Press blog will focus on myriad issues, including: improving math success, learning disabilities, study skills, affective characteristics, helping Wounded Warriors, and many more. In the immediate future, we plan to pay particular attention to the developmental math course redesign movement.
With this in mind, we thought we’d begin with a two-part interview with the man himself.
Dr. Nolting was kind enough to get the ball rolling by answering a series of questions about what he plans to accomplish with this blog. He also answered questions regarding current trends in the world of collegiate mathematics. Feel free to return next Monday, when we’ll run the second section of the interview, which focuses predominately on disabilities, online math courses and outside-of-the-classroom support services.
Check back Wednesday (April 15) for the rest of this interview! In the meantime, check out our other posts, which will be updated at least twice a week.
ASP Blog: Good morning Dr. Nolting! I’ll start with the most obvious question: Why did you create this blog, and what are your plans for it in the near and distant future?
Dr. Nolting: Mainly, I wanted to give instructors resources that might help their students become more successful. [On this blog] we’re going to talk about different issues such as math redesign, disability issues, and how to help students become more successful through tutoring. It’s going to be an informational process. We’re going to have certain experts come on and talk about different topics: tutor training, improving math success, working with students with test anxiety, disabilities, etc. Hopefully readers can take this knowledge and apply it to their own classrooms.
ASP Blog: With all of that in mind, are there any trends within the world of mathematics and developmental learning you want to focus on specifically?
Dr. Nolting: The biggest thing right now is that many states have mandated redesigns for developmental math courses. Universities and colleges are already in the middle of these redesigns, even in states that have not mandated changes. They are looking at different ways to improve course success. When we look at the redesigns themselves—there are many different types—we have a lot of students that are having a hard time keeping up. Many universities and colleges have reached out to me to help with the redesigns because some students are doing better than others in these courses. That’s another major part of this blog: how to make redesigns more effective. We’ll specifically look at ways to supplement redesign efforts to make students more successful.
ASP Blog: Great! For the uninitiated, do you mind explaining exactly what these “redesign movements” entail? If I’ve done my homework correctly, they seem to focus on developmental math, no?
Dr. Nolting: Exactly. Redesigns involve having students get through developmental math courses faster, or they are designed to eliminate developmental courses all together. [Before the redesign movement] some students were required to pass two or three math courses before they could take credited math courses. This sometimes caused problems for students and colleges alike.
The other issue is that in non-algebra courses like finite math, students really didn’t need intermediate algebra to be successful. So if we could streamline the process and have students go directly from pre-algebra courses into these non-algebra courses, this eliminates developmental courses. The same thing was true with statistics courses. A lot of people were requiring college algebra for statistics courses. Florida, for instance required intermediate algebra courses for statistics. We found out that these statistics courses mostly involved learning concepts unique to the subject. So states such as California are now going straight from pre-algebra to statistics. So the big picture is fewer students taking developmental courses and more students getting into the math sequence for graduation.
ASP Blog: Right. A lot of these issues came up at the National Math Summit you co-chaired, correct? Can you tell me a little bit about this summit, maybe how it came about and what it ultimately accomplished?
Dr. Nolting: The National Math Summit came about in 2013, because instructors associated with NADE and AMAYTC and MAA felt that universities needed help finding success with redesigns. Many states were requiring these redesigns, and presidents of universities were coming down and telling math departments to change the system to make it more successful; however, they weren’t telling them how to change the system. Instructors did not have the input to give to the administration on how to become more successful with the redesign. So the math instructors who were a part of these organizations came to their officers and said that they wanted to have some sort of training. About five years ago, I worked with Hunter Boylan, who is the head of the National Center for Developmental Education. We talked about how to do a math summit. At that time, we had somebody ready to help us out, but that didn’t work out. Then I approached AMAYTC, and they were kind enough to host the first summit.
That first National Math Summit, we gathered all the national math experts in the area—from the Carnegie Foundation, the Dana Center, from NADE from AMAYTC, myself—and hosted a panel. We brought in 150 people to have experts explain to instructors the best way to go about redesigns. We developed plans of action. So now the instructors could go back to their presidents and say, “I’ve listened to the national experts on the subject, and we want to change the system to make it more successful.” Over the next couple years, we had another summit at AMAYTC, and two more at NADE. The idea again was to support instructors.
We’re having another one in 2016 at NADE. This one is going to be more about evaluating the results of the math redesigns. Currently, we are into these redesigns and there is not much research on how it is going. I’m particularly interested in figuring out what type of redesign works best with what type of math student.
ASP Blog: And what about these students themselves? What, exactly, do students need to do to become more successful in these redesigned, streamlined courses?
Dr. Nolting: We discussed this at length at the National Math Summits. We soon isolated a common theme: a lot of the redesigns made students learn math faster, more independently, and more on computer based systems. What this added up to was that students must become better independent learners. In fact, four of the six national panelists indicated that making students become better independent learners was the main focus of these redesigns. You may not be able to change the curriculum, but you can change the student’s ability to learn.
This involves teaching math study skills, not only in the math classroom, but also in the emporium model, in modular systems, and also in accelerated courses. Accelerated classes move twice as fast as regular math courses. They cover the same amount of material in eights weeks that most courses cover in 16, which is saying something because college courses move three or four times faster than high school courses. That’s one of the major themes. How do you make a student a better learner? And how do you construct redesigns to meet the needs of different types of students.
ASP Blog: What is the best redesign program? And which of them concerns you the most?
Dr. Nolting: What we’re finding out is that there isn’t one particular program that works best for everybody. In fact, the research says that colleges and universities should have at least two or three different designs for students because we have different types of student populations. Often what happens is that when students are going into say an intermediate algebra class in Texas, using different types of designs will better the chances that different types of students can find the courses that best match their learning profiles. Now, saying all that, in doing my consulting, I found that strict modular systems—where students work on their own in front of a computer with paper and pencil, usually with one instructor or tutor—got the least amount of results. This model is the one I’ve been ask to consult about the most. With those, you can still be successful, but you really need to do what we call “pull outs” where you pull students out for mini-lectures. This allows you to integrate math study skills and group work. Because what we know is that students learn in radically different ways. They have multiple learning styles.
One of the better designs I’ve seen is the co-requisite design in that you actually have a course attached to a course. In other words, if you have an accelerated eight-week math course and you attach a study skills course, which probably lasts about five weeks, they can use these skills immediately. A lot of colleges are going to this model because it is much more successful. The Dana Center, out of the University of Texas, recommends that your first math course should involve a co-requisite course on studying and learning. This makes it easier for students. We understand now that a lot of the variance with students and their grades depends on their motivation.
Dr. Nolting is a national expert in assessing math learning problems, developing effective student learning strategies, assessing institutional variables that affect math success and math study skills. He is also an expert in helping students with disabilities and Wounded Warriors become successful in math. He now assists colleges and universities in redesigning their math courses to meet new curriculum requirements. He is the author of two math study skills texts: Winning at Math and My Math Success Plan.
American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges presenter, Senior Lecturer-Modular