LEARNING DIVERSITY IN CONCEPTUAL CALCULUS & APPLIED CALCULUS
Matthew Stamps, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Science Division
My mathematics students come from a variety of gender, social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as subject competencies. The diversity of experience presents learning differences that are difficult to address in the classroom. This project aimed to develop more effective techniques for enhancing team-based learning in entry-level math and science courses in order to promote self-awareness, better team communication, and strengths-based teamwork.
This was done through established methods, rooted in positive psychology. For this effort I worked closely with the Dean of Students’ Office Intercultural Engagement Manager.
Building on traditional approaches to team-based learning in the mathematical sciences, we used the online assessment tool, StrengthsFinder, to assemble balanced teams with a variety of individual strengths represented in each. Our primary objective was to help our students develop team-building skills for creative problem solving in a multicultural context, recognizing that every team member brings unique strengths to the team. As a secondary goal, we hoped to learn how this strengths-based approach might lead to improved individual and team performance.
Students learned about their own strengths and how to interact with individuals of different profiles. In-class teamwork was monitored throughout the semester, student feedback was collected at the end of the term, and individual performance analytics were collected through an online homework system, WeBWorK, developed by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).
As part of the TIG effort I also attended a workshop at the Qatar Institute for Intercultural Communication. As a result of what I learned in this workshop I was able to adapt several new methods from Intergroup Dialogue at Yale-NUS to the classroom, and I designed a mid-semester course survey with an emphasis intercultural communication.
Intercultural communication impacts student learning both inside and outside the classroom. These activities provide ideas for how we can
effectively change classroom dynamics to benefit the student. Finding connections between what students learn in the classroom and residential living has been a positive outcome. This project has helped us find ways to bring activity-based learning from student life workshops and dialogue programs into the classroom to enhance student engagement with the material and also with their peers. The findings from this project were presented at the Yale-NUS STEM Innovation Symposium in April 2017. Others in mathematics and STEM fields were able to learn about our research and changes I have been able to make in my classroom to better address diversities of learning and previous knowledge.