LACOL’s Quantitative Skills Group is focused on providing students with the preparation they need to engage in quantitative reasoning across the disciplines. In addition, the group is exploring ways our network may enrich opportunities for advanced study and collaborative faculty-student research.
Activities and Interests of this group include:
Study group for ongoing dialogue about emerging pedagogies for liberal arts teaching and learning for the quantitative disciplines; comparing campus data
Collecting and sharing of online and adaptive tools and resources to support student learning
Experiment with online communities and peer networks to support students and peer tutors
Opportunities to connect faculty and students for upper level learning through online exchange
To assist our students with readiness for their quantitative work across the curriculum, LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group is launching a multi-campus initiative, nicknamed QLAB. Through this collaboration, faculty and technologists are teaming up to build a shared framework for curating, implementing and assessing instructional modules for quantitative skills (QS) and quantitative reasoning (QR). The strategy draws on a body of research in higher education and experience at our institutions showing that online modules can be a beneficial component of an overall QS/QR support program.
According to project co-lead Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College:
The QLAB project addresses a challenge that many of us are facing — we want all students to be successful regardless of their high school math preparation. Currently, each faculty member teaching a course that makes use of basic quantitative skills (QS) must find ways to support students with weak QS preparation. Rather than having faculty members develop all of their own support resources, this project will develop shared online modules – Qbits – that can be deployed for just-in-time review and skill-building in a number of disciplines.
Developing online resources that can be used in multiple contexts to help students strengthen their quantitative skills serves two purposes. First, by showing how these skills are relevant in various disciplinary contexts, students learn to view quantitative skills as fundamental and transferable skills that they can draw on in many areas of their liberal arts experience. Second, as a consortial effort, we will have more students using these modules in a variety of contexts so that we can collect meaningful data about the effectiveness of the various modules, and improve them accordingly.
Groundwork for the project was laid during the QS Framework Hack-a-thon held at Carleton College in January 2017. At that workshop, faculty and technologists created module prototypes and explored research questions based on the common needs and challenges the partner schools experience as small, residential liberal arts institutions. (more…)
On April 7, LACOL QS members are cordially invited to join a one-hour web conference with the leads of the Math Fundamentals (FIPSE) Program, Faculty PI and Professor of Physics Elizabeth McCormack and project management lead Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services, both at Bryn Mawr College.
Math Fundamentals is a multi-year, multi-campus initiative investigating the use of blended, just-in-time “sandwich” modules for math review in STEM. The research partners (including LACOL members Bryn Mawr College and Vassar College) are currently field testing several faculty-authored modules in calculus, chemistry and physics. (more…)
WELCOME to the LACOL Quantitative Skills (QS) Module Showcase. Browse the module prototypes below.
Background: The LACOL Quantitative Skills working group is collaborating to develop a shared library of online modules that can help support students in their quantitative work across the disciplines. Module design combines instructional content (curated resources such as videos or simulations) with a sequence of activities and assessments that provide students with the institutional and curricular context. A major goal of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of modules in different settings, either as stand-alone resources or embedded within coursework or a QS/QR mentoring program. Because the focus is on application of math skills in context, the team is seeking input from instructors across the disciplines.
Module Purpose: Students practice translating a word problem into mathematical relationships, learning a process of arriving at a reasonable answer, becoming proficient in estimating quantities and making assumptions and in appreciating order of magnitude knowledge. The word problem presented is often referred to as a Fermi problem, named after physicist Enrico Fermi as he was known for his ability to make good approximate calculations with little or no actual data. The ability to estimate quantities is a useful skill in many disciplines, and a student may be called on to apply it in settings ranging from estimating the required amounts of reagents to estimating the economic feasibility of setting up a bakery in Northfield, MN.
Notes on Strategy: The module breaks down the strategy of arriving at an answer to an estimation question (Fermi Problem) as follows:
Brainstorm questions that arise from the original question
Identify the central information that is needed
Set up the chain of reasoning reasoning / mathematical relationship between the quantities
Make assumptions about the quantities involved or gathering information needed to improve estimates.
Work with your smallest reasonable value, your largest, reasonable value, and then choose the most likely value for the answer.
Back of the envelope calculations
Order of magnitude
Module Prototype: Approximately how many dentists are there in Fresno, CA?
This January, LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group held a 3-day intensive workshop (also known as a hack-a-thon) to explore a shared framework for review of online modules designed to strengthen students’ quantitative skills (QS) and quantitative reasoning (QR). The face-to-face event was designed by a core team of faculty and technologists from the QS group. The workshop was hosted at Carleton College, with support from the Office of the President, Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, and Office of Academic Technology.
Goals for the LACOL QS hack-a-thon:
Identify aspects of existing QS/QR curricula, frameworks, and methods to be adapted as an online module/program by participating colleges. The goal for the collaboration is to enhance, not replace, local offerings.
Plan for participating campuses to pilot one of the frameworks and agree to a process for assessment and sharing results among campuses.
Document workshop outcomes and recommendations to share with colleagues across the liberal arts.
Throughout the year, the QS working group has been exploring ideas for a collaborative framework to curate or build online tools and resources – including metadata on related pedagogical practices – to support students with QS/QR. Earlier this year, QS group members contributed to a joint exercise informally titled “What do we mean by quantitative skills?” to generate a shared list of key skills across the quantitative disciplines that students will need to have or acquire early in their academic careers. This common skills list provides input into strategies for helping students identify and close gaps. (more…)
Colleagues with wide-ranging expertise and disciplinary interests from seven LACOL schools spent three days sharing, working and learning side-by-side at the hack-a-thon. Together, the team developed an initial draft and prototypes of a collaborative framework for creating/curating and evaluating online QS/QR modules that can boost students success and improve access. With inspiration from special guest Jim Rolf from Yale ONEXYS, we delved deeply into collaborative strategies for design, implementation and measuring effectiveness. A grand time was had by all … and more to come! (Read more about the project.)
Starting in the fall of 2016, faculty at Bryn Mawr and seven partner liberal arts colleges (including LACOL member Vassar College) are field-testing faculty-authored online learning modules they have developed and refined over the past two years as part of the Blended, Just-in-Time Math Fundamentals program. Led by Bryn Mawr professor of physics, Elizabeth McCormack, the Math Fundamentals program tackles math review for students enrolled in introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses. It is designed as a scalable, affordable method for helping students who are interested in STEM fields and generally college-ready in math, but who have areas of weakness or lack experience with applied mathematics, to build skills and confidence needed to thrive in introductory STEM courses.
For example, a student taking introductory physics will need to draw on trigonometry in order to solve certain types of vector problems. While most students encounter trigonometry at some point in high school math courses, the timing, breadth and depth of that exposure can vary considerably. To help these students, physics, chemistry and calculus professors at Allegheny, Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Grinnell, Lafayette, Mills, Smith, St. Olaf, and Vassar colleges have worked with instructional designers to develop a “sandwich” approach to math review. Each module starts with a worked example of a canonical course problem — such as resolving vectors in introductory physics. This example identifies the fundamental math skills needed to solve the problem and provides links to online, interactive self-assessment and practice resources. According to the project manager Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services at Bryn Mawr:
These resources give students individualized feedback on their mastery of math fundamentals. Meanwhile, faculty, academic support staff, and peer tutors can review students’ work to provide additional assistance to those who need it. Students then solve a “do-it-yourself” version of the original problem to practice applying those skills in context.
Debrief on Carleton’s CUBE pilot (online summer bridge program for quantitative skills)
On October 19, LACOL held a webinar with special guests Melissa Eblen-Zayas and Janet Russell from Carleton College. In this one-hour session, Melissa and Janet shared their experiences running the first iteration ofthe ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE, a new online summer bridge program designed to support entering students with quantitative skills and reasoning. Carleton’s creative approach to developing CUBE riveted the audience at the June LACOL workshop as the pilot was just getting underway. Now in this “debrief” session, you can hear all about what went into running the program in the first round, how students responded, and the lessons that were learned. The meeting was held in Zoom with ample opportunity for Q&A and discussion. Contact Liz Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College
Janet Russell, Director of Academic Technology, Carleton College
A major highlight of Saturday’s plenary session at the June LACOL workshop was a presentation from Carleton College on their new online/hybrid bridge program called ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE. Associate Dean and Professor of English George Shuffelton opened the session with some background on the motivations for designing the new program to support incoming students with their quantitative skills and reasoning which pilots this summer. Director of Academic Technology Janet Russell has worked closely with the program’s director, Physicist Melissa Eblen-Zayas, and the Carleton IT team to guide the learning design for the first cohort of ~24 students. Janet described various elements of the program, including on-campus and online mentoring, videos and connections through social media. Workshop participants, especially those involved with the Quantitative Skills working group, applauded this excellent presentation and are excited to learn from Carleton’s initial experiences this summer. The QS group is exploring various ways the colleges might collaborate to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning as they arrive on campus and progress with their studies.
Carleton’s G. Shuffelton and J. Russell share a look at the CUBE for QS/QR.
On Monday, Feb 29, members of LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group met with Yale’s ONEXYS team for a discussion of online/hybrid approaches to supporting students with quantitative skills and reasoning.
Areas of common interest include:
Yale’s experience with ONEXYS
Measuring program impact and student success
Online module design/content for summer bridge
Training of peer coaches/mentors for effective tutoring (blended and online)
Envisioning a virtual community/social network for students and/or coaches
Online Bridge Programs for QS/QR Preparedness
Yale ONEXYS / LACOL QS web conference
Monday, Feb 29, 2016
Jim Rolf (Yale Math Department)
Edward O’Neill (Yale Teaching and Learning Center) (more…)