Inclusive Excellence -- The Critical First Year

Reference Presenter Authors
07-039 Janet Callahan Callahan, J.(Boise State University); Academic success is of great importance – to students, to the people and entities who support their careers (parents, lenders, etc.) and to our universities. Increasingly, there is greater accountability, with potential students, and their interested financiers comparing metrics such as “first-year, full-time retention” rates, and “six-year graduation” rates among their top picks for universities. In academic degree programs such as ceramic engineering, and materials science and engineering (or any other engineering or physical science degree program), students do not begin to take subject-specific courses typically until their second year of study, when they enroll in an “Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering” course. Because of this, it is critical that the prerequisite course sequences that students in engineering take in their first year, be excellently taught. This study focuses on the first year Calculus sequence, which was completely overhauled over a period of approximately five years. The overhauled Calculus I and II courses differ in the following ways: whenever possible, (1) students work with data sets or models selected from actual physical or other applied models; (2) Calculus concepts are introduced and motivated by application to these data or models; (3) content is presented using notation, language and conventions of the disciplines; (4) there is considerably less abstraction – the content is accessible from a practical viewpoint. The overhauled Calculus course resulted in improved FTFT retention at the university (3.4%), within science and engineering majors (3.3%), significantly improved retention of women and underrepresented students in science and engineering (9%), improved course performance in post-requisite coursework, and more.
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