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Student Evaluation of Mathematics Learning Support
November 21, 2014
This seminar will launch a report by the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network (IMLSN) entitled “Student Evaluation of Mathematics Learning Support: insights from a large multi-institutional survey”. This evaluation is the first of its kind to be undertaken on such a scale in Ireland, involving responses from over 1,600 first-year students across nine Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) from around the island of Ireland and a subset of the findings have been published in three journal articles to date. This report contains valuable insights about the transition from second to third level mathematics for students across a range of disciplines, as well as detailing the impact that they perceive that mathematics support services have upon their ability to cope with this challenge. To put the report in a wider context of mathematics education in Ireland, Prof. (Emeritus) John O’Donoghue of the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL) will respond to the report from the perspective of mathematics education in Ireland, focusing particularly upon periods of transition between levels of education. The NCE-MSTL have been pivotal in providing funding and expertise for the publication of this report. To provide an international perspective, Prof. Duncan Lawson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Formative Education at Newman University, Birmingham, and co-founder of the sigma network for mathematics support in the U.K., will deliver a response to the report. The sigma network is the worldwide leader in mathematics support and so Prof. Lawson is well-placed to speak about student evaluation of Mathematics Learning Support (MLS). The seminar itself is of national significance, given the multi-institutional nature of the study involved, as well as the implications contained therein for issues such as retention and the first-year experience. The findings and recommendations of the survey and the additional comments provided by Prof O‚ÄôDonoghue and Prof Lawson will be of particular value not just to staff engaged in Mathematics Learning Support and Mathematics education but also to institutional managers and HE policy makers. Of the 1,600 students surveyed, 36% had engaged with mathematics support, and 22% of these had considered dropping out of their course due to mathematical difficulties. Almost two thirds of these students stated that availing of mathematics support had a positive impact on their retention on their course. This positive impact on student retention was comprehensive in that it pertains in equal measure to students across the spectrum of Leaving Certificate mathematical achievement, showing that mathematics support is a crucial service at this transitional period. In addition to responses from those who engaged with mathematics support, this seminar will focus on the feedback given from students who did not engage, which provides valuable information about how to reach the more vulnerable students who do not currently utilise the service.