How a redesigned class redesigned my teaching
While you’re teaching, are you sometimes met with blank stares? Do you ever feel that you are not getting through to your students? I’ve been there, many times. Trust me. But things changed in 2014 when we redesigned our Mathematical Literacy course (Math Lit for short) at Lehigh Carbon Community College. We wanted students to take more responsibility for their learning, so we redesigned the course from a traditional lecture format to a modified emporium model. We also implemented online learning technology with MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus. During the past two years, I have seen changes not only in how my students learn, but also in how I teach developmental mathematics. Here are a few of the biggest changes I have seen.
This class allows me to have a one-on-one interaction with every student in the classroom. I no longer lecture to the entire class, but instead, connect with my students individually. I can now personalize the material so that it works for the exact student I am helping. I am able to know what teaching method I should employ for each student. In a lecture class, not every student will understand the material you are going over that day. The nature of how the class is designed, as a modified emporium, gives me the freedom to make sure each student understands before moving on. I create a culture of inclusion and community in these classes.
This enables the students to feel comfortable expressing their feelings—whether it’s a question on a problem,frustration, or elation about their progress in the class. And if they are too shy to ask questions, then I ask them questions instead, to try to get them to open up. Regardless of the students’ emotions, I am there at the time the student needs me to help ease their frustrations or celebrate their successes. I want them to know that I can help them in any capacity that they need me to in the classroom.
Increased student engagement
I have noticed that since the inception of the Math Lit class, students have been more engaged and have better attitudes towards mathematics. The students are more confident in their ability because they are mastering the material before they are able to move on in the class. The students realize that they are responsible for their education and many rise to that challenge. I have gotten countless comments from students stating how great the class was and how my interaction with them really helped. And dare I say it? Students appear to be enjoying mathematics! Well, more than they might have otherwise!
Each student learns differently
I no longer view my classes, whether the Math Lit class or any other, as a whole entity. But rather, each is made up of individual students that have their own unique needs. I try to employ the techniques I use in the Math Lit class to all my classes. And so, I now give every student, regardless of what class they are in, even online classes, individual attention. Students get tailored emails, text messages, or face-to-face feedback regarding either their progress in my classes or a congratulations on a job well done. I invest my time in each student and make sure they understand why they need the particular class they are taking. Not that I didn’t answer students’ questions before on how the class relates to their educational goals, but now, I’m the one initiating these conversations.
I participated in an educator study, which shows the statistical data of how much student achievement increased after using the online technology and new class format. We will continue to make changes with the Math Lit class in the future. But one thing is for certain, I will never go back to just using the traditional lecture model, and seeing those blank stares. I can thank the Math Lit class for reaffirming for me that every student’s learning capability is distinctive and should be treated so.
About the Author
Christy Hediger is an assistant professor of mathematics at Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) in Schnecksville, PA. She earned her B.S. in Mathematics from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA in 2007 and her M.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Delaware in Newark, DE in 2009. She has been teaching at LCCC for the past eight years. In addition to the Math Lit class, which was formed under a Title III grant, she has developed a Learning Community class that merges Intermediate and College Algebra. If students are successful in the Learning Community, they receive credit and a grade for both Intermediate and College Algebra in one semester.
Christy was accepted to Cohort 8 of Project ACCCESS in 2011, which is an initiative for new full-time faculty members in their first, second, or third year of teaching at a two-year college or institution. While the official involvement was only for two years, she is still very active in helping with the new cohorts.