Orchestrating effective practices in developmental math : redesign in developmental education within an academic success center

Levine-Brown, Patricia Anne
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Developmental mathematics courses are intended to help underprepared students but often are a barrier for hundreds of students who fail these courses. High failure rates prevent students from achieving their academic goals, therefore; educational institutions are looking for methods to increase success in these courses. Such was the case at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), where high failure rates in developmental mathematics presented problems to the institution and its students. To increase pass rates in developmental education courses, a college-wide redesign initiative introduced in 2009 led to the implementation of a research-based model for developmental education. This model would be implemented in the form of Academic Success Centers (ASC) incorporating practices tailored to increase student success and persistence. To examine success rates of students taking developmental education courses in the ASCs, the College conducted a longitudinal predictive analytics study known as the Chi-squared Automatic Interaction Detection (CHAID). The CHAID analyzed student success and retention of 10,051 developmental mathematics students over two academic terms. Additionally, the CHAID identified highly successful developmental mathematics teachers. These teachers, and the environment in which they taught (ASCs), became the basis of this qualitative study. The purpose of the study was two-fold. First, it focused on identifying pedagogical practices of highly successful developmental mathematics faculty who taught in the Academic Success Centers at FSCJ. Second, it focused on the areas of impact of the ASC as an environmental factor in student success. Data collected through observations, interviews, and documented analysis, along with the use of text mining, revealed that patterns emerged among participants in which they shared common beliefs about the importance of communicating with students, forming relationships with students, lecture and lab practices, the availability of physical resources, and the availability of academic support services within the environment where they interacted with their students. The intent of using the evidence from the key findings is to provide community college leaders with insight into pedagogical practices shared by highly successful developmental mathematics teachers and the role the learning environment serves in meeting students’ educational needs.