I was a member of a Developmental Education task Force for the Virginia
Community College System last year and our research supports Bob's
conclusions.  As a result, we have a new program (funded by FIPSE) where
students are using an online math course that begins with a diagnostic
so that students can work on only the areas of individual need.  They
attend "classes" which operate like a lab with a tutor there to help
them (with everything from how to turn on a computer to how to figure
out concepts such as order of operations).  The tutors also function as
academic coaches, meeting with the students individually to address
Metacognition and non-academic issues ala Skip Downing's On Course. The
goal is to move the students through their developmental courses more
quickly and less expensively while building learning skills that will
serve them for the rest of their educational careers. This is the first
semester, I'll let you know how it turns out.

The other innovation I've heard of in more traditional classes is having
the lectures recorded so they can be watched as homework so that class
time can be used entirely for practice. I know one teacher here has
talked about doing this but hasn't yet taken the plunge. I'd love to
hear if there are others who have done this and what the results have

Now for an opinion: This situation borders on criminal: we advertise
hope and deliver despair.  The developmental courses are a cash cow for
the community colleges and with students usually having to take the
courses two or three times we pay a heavy price on many levels for our
incompetence. The good news is that we are finally looking at the
problem and we're on our way to stopping blaming the victims.  

It's time for the Learning Assistance Community to get into this
conversation on local, state, and national levels to integrate
collaborative learning and Metacognition into the revolution that must
take place.  Our statics are great for improving retention with 3 or
more visits to tutors or academic coaches and it's time to have tutoring
and coaching as components of developmental education programs and not
in the same category as "recommended reading" on a syllabus.

Laura Symons
Coordinator of the Learning Center
Piedmont Virginia Community College
501 College Drive
Charlottesville, VA 22902
434 961 5320

My view is that there is theory/research for teaching dev ed math
successfully, but it runs counter to the opinions (experiences) of the
majority of math teachers so it is ignored.

Specifically, research (and common sense) indicates that group
(usually lecture) is ineffective with dev ed students.  The two major
guidelines to improving dev ed math instruction are:

(1)  Accept the fact that any group of dev ed math students has a
of prior knowledge and readiness that is extreme.  There can be no place
start instruction for such groups; group presentations can meet the
needs of
only a small portion of the group.  The information delivery system for
dev ed course must provide each student what is needed at the time it is
needed.  That delivery system can not be the teacher.

(2)  Recognize that information is not equivalent to learning. Learning
occurs only when information is processed.  Traditionally, the student
received information from the teacher and processed it by doing
when the teacher was not present.  In other words, the learning occurred
the absence of the teacher.  In dev ed math courses, teachers need to be
present and active helping each dev ed math student process information.


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