By Sharla Hooper
Whitepaper co-authored by Dr. Jacquelyn Kelly and James Bruno explores practical methods for reducing student attrition in online undergraduate math
University of Phoenix is pleased to share that College of General Studies leadership Jacquelyn Kelly, Ph.D., associate dean, and James Bruno, MBA, curriculum manager, co-authored a whitepaper, “Theory to Practice: Reducing Student Attrition in Online Undergraduate Math,” published in the International Journal of Research in Education and Science (IJRES), a peer-reviewed scholarly online journal published quarterly.
The whitepaper presents the findings of a pilot led by Kelly to improve student outcomes in high volume undergraduate math courses at University of Phoenix by applying an approach to math education that emphasized application to everyday life and offered students low-stakes opportunities to practice and gain math confidence. The success of the pilot informed the adoption of a similar design methodology for all of the university's undergraduate math pathway courses.
”Often, mathematics courses act as inadvertent gatekeepers for incoming college students,” states Briana Houlihan, MBA, dean, College of General Studies at University of Phoenix. “As an institution that is highly committed to student success and retention, taking an innovative approach to math course design was a big focus for us and one that has paid off in student results.”
The whitepaper discusses how to successfully close the gap between theory to practice in teaching undergraduate general education mathematics (UGEM), which many universities have struggled for decades to do, by shifting a philosophical framework for UGEM from traditionalist methodology to a synthesis of seminal theories and practices. The whitepaper disseminates the implementation of theory-based practices in UGEM toward reducing student attrition (withdraw or fail), and discusses how efforts yielded significant attrition reductions.
“Many students come into higher education with math education experiences that previously failed them,” states Kelly. “We must meet them where they are and create intentional opportunities for them to attain their academic and career goals. This requires creating safe math learning environments for our students. To do this, we must use everything we know from math education research and translate it into classroom practice – even when it requires systemic and institutional paradigm shifts.”
Kelly, associate dean at University of Phoenix in the College of General Studies, has more than 15 years of experience in science and math education. Her expertise is in translating science and math education research into practice at institutions of higher education. Kelly earned her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Science Education from Arizona State University. Her master's degree is in Materials Science and Engineering from Arizona State University and her undergraduate degree is in physics and chemistry from California State University, San Marcos. Kelly’s previous positions included secondary and postsecondary science teaching, teacher evaluator for the county education service agency, and program director for professional development programs for science and math educators.
“We are fortunate to be in an environment where we can work with our internal partners to implement changes to our math coursework relatively quickly,” states Bruno. “Not all institutions can be that nimble. That said, the best part of this effort is the volume of students who will successfully complete these courses. It is humbling to think that we can impact the lives of over 20,000 students every year.”
Bruno, curriculum manager in the College of General Studies at University of Phoenix, has over 26 years of experience working in higher education. He has spent the last two decades working in the curriculum space at the University of Phoenix winning awards for innovations in curriculum delivery. He is particularly interested in developing effective learning experiences for first year students and has almost 20 years of teaching experience in both the online and face-to-face modalities. Bruno earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
The IJRES edition is available online.
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