2009 Focus Group - Mathematics
The participants in this group were primarily full-time faculty members. Some questions from the original questionnaire weren't used because the responses were integrated in earlier discussion. Below are the specific questions they answered and brief summary of the original report.
General Impressions of General-Education Requirements (GER)
What are the benefits of general-education requirements in preparing YSU students to be productive and responsible citizens?
The GER provide coordinated but broad background in disciplines that would not otherwise be covered by students' majors.
They stated that mathematics courses are to some extent undervalued, particularly by non-science majors. Math courses could help students with every aspect of their lives, including personal finances; these courses enhance critical thinking skills. They include both writing and speaking in these courses and struggle to manage students' difficulties with these skills.
What are the challenges of the GER in preparing YSU students to be productive and responsible citizens?
Students question the relevance of taking math courses, and incoming students write so poorly that it impedes what they can do.
They recommended a study-skills course for all students. Students underestimate the amount of time and effort required to succeed in math courses. Many students wait until very late in their time at YSU, and many have already failed at the course several times.
Specific Questions about Mathematics Courses
YSU students should demonstrate the ability to use mathematics for problem solving and decision making. How well do you think the courses that you teach help students to do so?
Some students, those who do well, find the course very useful. Most of them, however, are so unprepared or so fearful that they cannot succeed or find relevance.
Math has to be practiced consistently and regularly, but students are not prepared for this. They think that watching the teacher work out problems will be sufficient, but it's not.
Students are also insecure about their ability to learn math; the faculty members thought that more access to computer programs for math education might help.
The faculty members thought that the textbook for Math 2623 is weak, but this text was scheduled for change anyway.
They thought that the practical aspects of math were the strength of the course; they also cover basic statistics and graphing, both useful in most careers and daily life. They use a group project that enables students to collaborate, a useful skill. The faculty also use PowerPoint slides to support instruction.
They felt that students who have been out of school for many years should be given special attention since their skills may have declined over time. The faculty also mentioned that poor attitudes toward math developed in high school--or earlier--and it's hard to break that cycle.
What challenges are there to assessing being able to use mathematics for problem solving and decision making as a learning outcome for YSU students?
Math assessment reports have been praised by the General-Education Committee (GEC). They felt that faculty should be trusted to do what's best for students. Their distance math classes have standardized tests and instruction, but the on-campus classes have some latitude. They've been having group meetings to discuss the GER courses and outcomes.
Are there any general comments that you would like to share with the GEC about mathematics courses?
Faculty would like more guidance about how to do effective assessment, but they want to protect academic freedom. They wanted the committee to know that they are doing very well. They noted that YSU students' math skills shouldn't be the sole responsibility of the math department.
They like the idea of a study-skills class to help support incoming students.