Dear Colleagues and Students,
You are cordially invited to the following seminar organized by the Department of Educational Sciences.
Title: Improving Undergraduate Mathematics Education Through Mixed Methods Research, Inquiry, and Differentiation
Speaker: Dr. Anita Nicole Alexander (Kent State University)
Date: March 11, 2020
Through the implementation of mixed methods research in high school and undergraduate mathematics courses, the objective is to improve instruction and metrics by promoting inquiry-based learning and differentiation to increase conceptual understanding of essential concepts. This can be achieved through vertical alignment, collaboration between educators at the high school and college level, and education courses for graduate assistants pursuing advanced degrees in mathematics, as many of them not only teach undergraduate courses, they will become the next generation of mathematics professors.
Less than 40% of U.S. students who enter college pursuing a degree in a STEM field finish with that degree (Sonnert & Sadler, 2015). Calculus is considered to be a gateway course for many of these students. The findings from the comparative analysis research study I conducted of Advanced Placement calculus AB and college calculus I show that students in Advanced Placement calculus scored statistically significantly better on assessments related to the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus than the students in college calculus I. They also exhibited a more conceptual understanding of the relationships between a function and its first and second derivatives. Additionally, instructors at the high school level were observed to be more engaging and provided more opportunities for exploration and collaborative group work, while the college professors showed little to no evidence of engaging their students and used lecture as their primary form of instruction.
At the undergraduate level, lecture remains the accepted norm among professors, and the expectation among students. Creating an effective education course for graduate students in mathematics can change this culture. Additionally, high school teachers and college instructors can collaborate to improve both the metrics and the vertical alignment of mathematics courses to increase retainment in STEM fields.
Dr. Anita Alexander is a mathematics teacher educator and educational researcher with over 15 years of teaching experience. Her primary research objective is to improve mathematics education at the undergraduate level by implementing inquiry-based learning to promote a conceptual understanding of essential concepts. In one recent mixed methods research study, Dr. Alexander found that students demonstrated higher levels of conceptual understanding of calculus when inquiry is present in the classroom, when educators engage their students, and when educators encourage collaboration. Her research includes examining teaching norms at the high school and undergraduate level. She also collaborates with early childhood mathematics education researchers with the overarching objective of vertical alignment.
Dr. Alexander teaches mathematics and mathematics education courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Previously, she taught mathematics at the high school level and presented at conferences on differentiated instruction and effective practice. She has also worked as a mathematics consultant with area schools, and assisted with grant-funded professional development for in-service teachers.