California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) is a mid-sized public comprehensive university located in a region with low education achievement according to U.S. Census data. As a result, students entering STEM programs have low levels in mathematical preparation, and have low awareness in the relationship between mathematics and their respective science disciplines. The four-course sequence of precalculus and single variable calculus are a serious hurdle for students to pursue their respective STEM majors. Many students place at the precalculus level and many have to repeat one or more courses in the sequence to pass the courses, which delays their progress into their STEM majors.
Co-teaching in STEM has been studied in the literature to bring benefits to both students and teachers [1, 2]. As part of the activities for its NSF IUSE grant, CSUB has devised a pilot co-teaching program between Mathematics and Science Faculty in precalculus and calculus classes. Students in these classes were taught jointly by a Mathematics faculty member and a faculty member in Chemistry, Engineering, or Physics. The program pairs up the faculty members in precalculus 1, 2 (college algebra and trigonometry) and calculus 1, 2 (single variable calculus - differential calculus and integral calculus) with each of the disciplines, resulting in 12 co-teaching classes. Each class is required to produce a set of self-contained classroom activities involving concepts from the respective disciplines that can be used by the mathematics faculty members. Then, another set of mathematics faculty members used the products in their standalone classes without co-teaching to test the activities.
The execution of the program faced multiple challenges, both due to the nature of the program and to unrelated issues at CSUB during the grant period. Issues include variability in staffing, less availability of faculty members as the student body expands, faculty buy-in, and scheduling conflicts. Eventually, all classes were offered within the grant period.
Qualitative data were collected in co-teaching classes through surveys and interviews with students and faculty members separately. The authors are analyzing the interview transcripts and survey data to summarize findings in this co-teaching strategy. Initial analysis of interview data show that faculty members from mathematics gained understanding from the sciences on the skills needed for success, while the science faculty members gained understanding of what exact skills students learn in the respective mathematics courses. It has created a co-operative culture between faculty members that has led to other opportunities for collaboration. Faculty members interviewed also noted that the model is adaptable to other combinations of disciplines. Initial analysis of student survey data shows that the students appreciated seeing mathematics applied to science and engineering.
This paper will discuss the lessons learned during the execution of the co-teaching program, including the challenges faced during the program, and the findings from assessment.
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