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great.’” He saw students grasping material where previously
he would not have known whether they got it or not. “They
may do well on a quiz or on a test, but I don’t knowwhether
they really have mastered it,” Henson explained. “Once I see
them interacting with the modules, I see whether they are
comfortable with the material. I saw their ‘aha’ moment more
often than I saw it in the traditional setting.”
Likewise, KarenWyrick said that she “just wanted to
lecture. I thought that if I was not standing up there in front
of them, teaching them, they weren’t going to get it.” So John
Squires, the department chair at the time and lead person on
the Cleveland State math redesign, asked her if she wanted
tomake the videos that accompany the course. Students
can watch those CDs and use the modularizedmaterial on
computers. Last year, Wyrick said, one of her colleagues had
a student who completed elementary algebra, intermediate
algebra, college algebra and statistics in one year. “That student
would have been bored out of his brain if he’d had to sit there
in a lecture class.”
After revising its three developmental courses, Cleveland
State’s math faculty found that the number of students in
college-level classes increased. “Prior to redesign, we had
about 400 students per semester in college-level math courses,”
Wyrick said. “We now have 500 to 600 in these courses per
semester.” As a result, the faculty redesigned eight college-level
courses. “We had seven full-time faculty, and otherwise it
would have been hard to field the load.”
Betty Frost, associate professor of math at Jackson State
Community College in west Tennessee, was initially a naysayer
as well. Now she has been named as one of six NCAT scholars
who will help teams from 50 schools prepare redesigns
under the organization’s new program called “Changing the
Equation.” Some of those schools will receive $40,000 grants
for math redesigns, with funds from the Bill &Melinda Gates
Foundation.
“This is my 35th year of teaching at Jackson State,” Frost
said. “I’m kind of old-school. I thought the students needed
some classroom instruction. Some others were that way, too,
but I was probably the
worst one.”The faculty
decided to have focus
groups where they could
go over some of the
material, then students
could talk about it and
ask questions. One day
Frost took her students
across the hall from
the lab to a classroom
and was talking about
something—equations
perhaps—and asked if
there were any questions.
“A young man put up his
hand and asked, ‘Can we
go back across the hall?’
And I’ve never had a
focus group since.”
The Jackson State
program is called
SMARTMath, an
acronym for Survive,
Master, Achieve, Review
and Transfer. When the college began its redesign, Frost said,
they surveyed the math faculty to see what competencies, or
skills, were involved in their courses. That helped them decide
howmany modules to include in the redesigned course. Then
they took the list of the competencies to be developed to all
the departments and asked themwhich of those skills students
absolutely needed to complete their classes.
“Previously, students whose goals were to be a registered
nurse, an elementary school teacher or a rocket scientist
had to pass, or test out of, the same developmental math
courses before enrolling in the courses
and programs they came to college
to take in the first place,” according
to the college’s description of its math
program. “Traditionally, developmental
math courses required students to
learn competencies not necessary to be
successful in their chosen career.”That is
no longer the case at Jackson State.
Overall, redesign students increased
their average post-test scores in all courses
by 15 points, according to the math
department. The percentage of students
passing developmental math courses has
increased by 45 percent. The SMART
Math program reduced the cost per student by 20 percent, by
increasing the maximum class size from 24 to 30, providing
the chance for students to complete the developmental work
more quickly, reducing the number of sections taught by full-
time faculty from 78 percent to 58 percent, and by using tutors
at lower cost per hour than faculty.
The Community College Futures Assembly, based at the
University of Florida, gave its Bellwether Award to both the
Cleveland State and Jackson State redesigned math programs,
After revising its three
developmental courses,
Cleveland State’s math
faculty found that the
number of students in
college-level classes
increased.
“I didn’t think technology could be as effective as me,”
says Jimmy Henson, an instructor at Northeast State
Community College, who was skeptical of the new
reading program, but has become a convert.
“Reading is needed for virtually all college courses,” says Xiaoping
Wang, who was the lead staff member on the redesign of Northeast
State Community College’s developmental reading course.
Wade Payne, Black Star, for CrossTalk
Wade Payne, Black Star, for CrossTalk