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
Hello Readers! To celebrate the success of the 2016 National Math Summit, Dr. Nolting wanted to briefly discuss the history of the conference and how this year's conference was possibly the best yet! Before we get to that, however, he wants to thank the following people:
Dr. Nolting would like to thank the co-chairs: Taunya Paul, Julie Phelps, and Rebecca Goosen; the committee: Nancy Sattler, Beverly Vance, Wanda Garner, Linda Zientek Barbara Illowsky, and Jane Tanner; the panelists: Hunter Boylan, Rebecca Goosen, Paula White, Jane Tanner, Cinnamon Hillyard, April Ström, Amy Getz, Julie Phelps & Barbara Illowsky; and the panel’s moderators Julie Phelps and Rebecca Goosen.
And now, without further ado, our chat!
ASP Blog: I’m curious as to how the National Math Summit originated. Can you talk a little bit about the event’s beginnings?
Nolting: The whole idea of developing a math summit came about probably in 2011. Many states were beginning to mandate different redesigns and instructors were coming to different professional organizations—mainly NADE, MAA, and AMATYC—and saying that they didn’t know how to do the redesigns that they’d been told to implement (accelerated, emporium model, modular, or contextualized courses). At some point, I talked to Hunter Boylan, who is head of the National Center of Developmental Education, and I said, “We really need a math summit to talk about ways to help students become more successful in math classes.”
The idea was that a lot of these organizations have what I call the “puzzle pieces of math success.” But we had never had a chance to put all of these pieces together. I talked to Hunter and we tried to get some support for a potential summit. It took us about a year, and eventually I talked to Jim Roznowski at a NADE conference. He was president of AMATYC at that time. He pretty much agreed in 2012, that we needed to get everyone together. At the same conference, I talked to Rebecca Goosen. At the time she was president of NADE. I asked her if NADE would be willing to join us, and she said yes. Then we asked Julie Phelps to help us because we needed extra help and she was a member of AMATYC, NADE and MAA and was considered a leader in these organizations.
As I started talking to different organizations such as the Carnegie Foundation and the Dana Center, the question became “How are we going to make this summit different from regular conferences?” Together we came up with the idea of not just doing the workshop itself, but also having time for faculty to meet with mentors and develop a math success plan. After getting help from an expert, faculty could go back to their college and use what they learned to help to develop curriculum. In November 2013, at the AMATYC conference, we had the first national math summit.
ASP Blog: Did it meet your initial expectations?
Nolting: At first we thought we’d only have 50 people. That’s what we agreed upon. Later on, we thought maybe 100 would show up. Then we had people calling us from all around the country trying to get in. We had the opportunity to bring attendance up to 150, but we still wound up turning away about 300 people who kept calling and wanting to get in. We couldn’t host any more than 150 because of the lack of space.
It wound up going very well. We field-tested the ideas of workshops and having mentors helping faculty develop their college Math Success Plan for College Innovation. The main comment after that summit was: “When can we have another one?”
After that we had a series of math summits at various conferences that were mainly panel discussions. The panel discussions went pretty well, but then people kept asking for another workshop format. This last March, NADE and AMATYC sponsored one as a NADE pre-conference. We had the panel, and this time we divided it up with different members from different organizations. We decided to have two strands. One strand was on redesign; the other was on assessment. Now we were able to address concerns from our colleagues who were saying, “We did what we were supposed to do, but we don’t know how to assess it”; or, “We did assess it, and it didn’t work too well. What now?” So this time we offered the redesign track and the assessment track, so people could have their specific needs met. Again, we thought we’d have about 200 people. We wound up with about 300.
ASP Blog: So the most recent summit went well?
Nolting: Yes. The workshops were really well attended. People had positive comments. Again we had time where mentors worked individually with instructors. In fact, the instructors actually signed up for different mentors based upon what they liked, based on their own issues and needs. It was very successful.
The reason I’m talking about this is that it has become clear through the math summits that working together is important. Between all of the organizations involved— NADE, AMATYC, the National Center for Developmental Education, the Dana Center, Carnegie Foundations, Mathematics Association of America, and myself— we have the answers to a lot of the questions faculty are dealing with. If we all get together and put the puzzle pieces together we can find a blueprint for math success.
When we start looking at what the Summit actually does, it develops a community of experts to help our math faculty and administrators find more success with their students. Our goal is to have students take math until they don’t need to take it. We want them to be successful in college, then in their careers. The whole point of the National Math Summit was to get instructors together with the best experts in the country to get trained on how to either assess or how to develop a redesign.
Once students are placed into accelerated courses, modular courses, emporium courses, where they get less instruction, we have to teach students to become better learners. The research now shows that affective characteristics of students’ learning is now responsible for 41% of the variance for their grades. We can’t ignore this anymore. We have to make students better learners. That transcends all curriculum. This makes it more important to add academic support through math labs and learning resource centers to compensate for the imbalance between math skills and the prerequisite requirements of math courses.
ASP Blog: What does the future hold for potential National Math Summits?
Nolting: What we want to do in the future is to use the National Math Summit to figure out the needs of instructors and administrators that we maybe haven’t thought of yet. We did ask participants this at the end of the discussion. Also, when we asked whether or not we should have another National Math Summit, over 100 people raised their hands. It looks like we might do it again at AMATYC in 2017. That is not for sure, but there is interest in doing it.
ASP Blog: Is there anything else you want to add?
Nolting: Another point I brought up is that we need to really focus on repeating students. We need to meet with students, and we need to use assessment to figure out what is blocking their ability to learn math. We need to determine their study skills, their motivation, their locus of control, their anxiety levels. Then we need to form specific math success plans. If we can have repeaters obtain the same or greater amount of success as their first time peers and then move on to their next courses, we will see a marked improvement in our overall success rates and graduation.
Today, we are proud to present part two of our conversation with Dr. Fitzroy Farquharson about online learning and his new website, eMathReady.com. Once again, the interview was primarily conducted over email. Enjoy!
ASP Blog: I know a lot of what you do involves debunking myths about online math courses. Would you mind listing a few of these myths?
Farquharson: A myth that exist among students is that online math courses are for students with busy schedules. Unfortunately it usually takes more time generally to complete an online math class than a traditional one. Students will more than likely need more time to learn the material before they attempt to complete homework, quizzes, or exams.
Another myth that seems to be common among online math students is that due dates are not important. If an instructor teaches online, then chances are he or she will receive an email from a student requesting an extension for an assignment. What students do not realize is that although online math courses offer more flexibility for them to work on their courses any time of the day or night, there will usually be strict due dates for homework, quizzes, and exams.
One of the most popular myths about online math courses is that an online math course is easier than a traditional course. In truth, online math courses cover the same material as traditional ones. However, unlike traditional classes, some online classes do not offer the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with the instructor, which can make taking an online class challenging. The good news, however, is that there are usually many resources available for students online. They can customize these resources to their specific needs, like watching videos as many times as they like.
ASP Blog: You also quite often focus on the necessity of an online math readiness survey for students who are thinking about taking an online course. You have said that you think math departments should require students to take such a survey before enrolling. Why is this?
Farquharson: For the student, an online readiness survey is not only needed to assess his or her likelihood for succeeding in an online math course, but also to give the student an indication of the degree to which he or she possesses the attributes, skills and knowledge that contribute to success as an online learner. Even when students are given online math surveys, in many cases, the faculty do not have access to the students' readiness assessment results. They need to have access to this information so that they are able to assist their students in the most effective and efficient way, which will allow them to restructure learning within the online environment to meet student needs.
In addition, teachers also need some type of readiness tools and/or tools and questionnaires that help them to assess and determine what skills they will need to make the transition from teaching face-to-face to teaching in an online learning environment. I concur with Cecilia Mercado who once said that faculty/instructors must also “possess personal attributes to perform online teaching and administration of the online environment successfully“. A successful online learning program must include a systematic process of planning, designing and creating environments where learning is actively fostered and supported (Mercado, 2008, pg. 18.2).
ASP Blog: What has your experience been with conducting these surveys?
Farquharson: Initially, when I began the work of trying to help improve the success of online math students, I discovered that little research supports the thesis that readiness questionnaires lead to better learning outcomes for students, without providing students with the necessary remediation/support in areas of deficiencies to promote effective online learning. However, there is consensus that student readiness surveys, at the very least, emphasize for students and instructors the expectations and demands of learning and teaching in an online space, encouraging the survey-taker to take the necessary steps and actions to prepare in an effort to reduce the learning curves associated with technology and teaching approaches. (See: Gascoigne C. & Parnell, J (2014). "Distance education readiness assessments: An overview and application. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration", Vol. XVII, IV).
A good online readiness survey needs to assist students with determining whether they possess the attributes, skills and knowledge that contribute to success as an online learner. Ultimately, an online readiness survey should be designed to empower institutions with the ability to make sure that their students who are planning to take an online course are actually online ready.
ASP Blog: What skills do students need to become online ready?
Farquharson: Students who are planning on taking an online math course need to understand the dynamics of an online setting, how online learning works; interaction, relations, perception, role of students and instructors, etc. Online math students need to also be independent learners, have good computer skills, and have sufficient prerequisite skills. They also have to be able to learn how to structure learning math online to match their own learning style and master competencies in a set period of time. They must have
excellent organization skills, not procrastinate, and have better than average math study skills. They must also have low math anxiety and not be fearful of taking math tests.
ASP Blog: Did you create eMathReady.com to help students achieve these skills?
Farquharson: This program has been a significant help to myself and my students. With the eMathReady Online Readiness and Support Program, I am able to, in advance, more accurately determine what students are at risk. This allows me to initiate earlier interventions to prevent some students from dropping out or not succeeding in their course. For example, being able to review all of my online students' “Online Readiness Summary Reports," along with their individualized “Online Readiness Surveys” enables me to devise an individualized engagement and support plan for at-risk students. With this program, I am also able to pinpoint reasons for student success (or lack thereof) in my online math courses.
The program is divided into three parts: a student online learning readiness survey, learning support modules, and general online learning information. The program measures a student’s readiness to take an online course and provides learning support to promote effective online learning. The program helps students to make the transition from traditional to online learning. It also provides my students with an indication of the degree to which they possesses the attributes, skills and knowledge that contribute to success as an online learner.
ASP Blog: Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Farquharson: There is growing evidence to support the fact that innovative technology-based solutions can lead to more effective teaching and learning models. Technology has great power to influence teaching by restructuring the current learning environment landscape, without fundamentally changing the instructor. Technology also holds the promise of delivering virtual learning solutions in a cost-effective manner, which is crucial in a time of nationwide economic challenges and state budget crises.
Although promising solutions are emerging, most educational institutions lack the strategic vision for the innovative use of technology. Educational institutions are in the business of educating, not addressing barriers to educational technology innovations in teaching and learning. This is why collaborative partnerships are necessary to assist institutions with creating a culture of innovation that focuses on the next-generation of the virtual learning space and/or course management systems.
I am enthusiastic about the potential of technology, in combination with new and emerging evidence-based models of innovative teaching and learning, to significantly improve students’ academic achievements and completion rates in the United States. The future of America depends on us supporting our instructors in the most innovative ways and providing the opportunity for our students to develop their intellectual talents effectively and efficiently. The support we provide for public education is necessary for paving the way for tomorrow’s students with the knowledge and skills they need to find meaningful employment and contribute to their communities.
National Math Summit 2016 Closing Panelists listed from left to right:
Jane Tanner (AMATYC), Hunter Boylan (NCDE), Barbara Illowsky (NCDE), Cinnamon Hillyard (Carnegie Foundation), Rebecca Goosen (NADE/moderator), Amy Getz (Dana Center), April Strom (MAA), Julie Phelps (AMATYC/MAA) and Paul Nolting
Contributed by Julie Phelps
The National Mathematics Summit 2016 was the 2nd summit designed to respond to national crises in developmental education, especially in mathematics. The professional communities (i.e. National Association for Developmental Education (NADE), American Mathematical Association of Two-Year College (AMATYC), Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, National Center for Developmental Education (NCDE), Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and the Charles A. Dana Center) banded together to create a forum that allowed experts who have conducted scholarly research and institutionalized programs to provide training to math faculty and administrators in the promising strategies and assessment practices developed to improve math success at the post-secondary level.
The participants were provided with a unique opportunity to dialogue, discuss, engage, learn and ask questions of national leaders in the field of mathematics and developmental education. They were matched with their mentors by interest level in curriculum redesign and data collection using the following categories: modes of instruction, contextualized learning, acceleration models, learning support systems, study skills, writing measurable outcomes, data collection, and assessment. Those who attended left with a better understanding of empirically proven redesign models that can be used to educate administrators and state legislators on promising curriculum design and academic support that will help students improve their mathematics skills and ultimately persist to graduation.
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