Student Retention Enhancement Across Mathematics and Science

Pedagogy

Good teaching helps students remain engaged and promotes a higher level of student achievement.

Behind the scenes, faculty in the College of Science and Mathematics have been working to change their teaching practices to incorporate more small group work and more inquiry-based techniques in their teaching.

In the summer of 2010, STREAMS funded six mini-grants to teams of faculty in biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, mathematics (calculus), and physics. Each team worked to redesign all or part of the major introductory course. Some changes were implemented in fall 2010 or spring 2011 (grant year 1), but nearly all departments have made significant changes to their teaching in fall 2011 (grant year 2). As a result, small-group, inquiry-based instructional methods are now a significant part of Biology 121, Chemistry 141 & 142, Computer Science 151, GEOL 100, Math 161 (calculus), and Physics 243 & 244 – either directly in the main teaching or through Structured Learning Activity sessions led by senior undergraduate peer instructors. 

In 2012, STREAMS funded an additional six course development grants to change pedagogy in a second series of diverse courses taken by math or science majors, typically in the first or second years of study. These include extensive course material creation for Physics 244 based on inquiry and small group work, creation of support structures for pre-calculus (Math 150), work to redesign the lab of Biology 122 (second semester in biology major) that introduced a research project, creation of a cognate course for biology and chemistry majors taking lower level calculus (Math 141), creation of a course to support the STEM Residential Learning Community, and redesign of a GIS based course in the geography department to increase the student research component of that course.

In summer of 2013 (grant year 4), STREAMS supported pedagogical changes in COMP 203 and further changes in COMP 151. In both cases, course homework and class-time was made more interactive through the use of technology in the form of “clickers” or interactive Moodle assignments.

STREAMS has sponsored a number of initiatives to improve teaching, including hosting Dr. Chris Bauer, Professor of Chemistry at the University of New Hampshire, who is an expert on Process-Oriented, Guided-Inquiry Learning (POGIL). Dr. Bauer led a 2.5 hour workshop, observed two classes (providing individual feedback to two science faculty), met with representatives from mathematics and chemistry to discuss increasing inquiry in those departments, and met with a group of faculty and administrators charged with faculty development at Bridgewater. In addition to this visit, STREAMS organized four one-hour professional development events led by Bridgewater faculty – “Why Inquiry?” (led by Dr. Shannon Lockard from mathematics & Dr. Jenny Shanahan who is Director of Undergraduate Research at BSU), “New Approaches to the Major,” (led by Dr. Ward Heilman from mathematics who teaches a new logical methods course for math majors and Dr. Teresa King from psychology who teaches a seminar introducing job and research related topics), “Math and our Freshmen” (led by Dr. Irina Seceleanu from mathematics and Dr. Steven Haefner from chemistry – a discussion between math and science faculty about the math skills of freshmen and what math is used in introductory science courses), and “Backwards design and In-class activities” (led by Dr. Peter Saccocia from earth sciences and Dr. Michelle Cox, WAC coordinator about using in-class active learning effectively).