Partner Institutions

Project Lead: National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Project Partners: Athlone Institute of Technology, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dublin City University

Featured Resources
Primary Contact(s)

Ann-O'Shea---webDr Ann O’Shea

National University of Ireland, Maynooth


Detailed Proposal

This project concerns the development of formative assessment techniques in order to improve the teaching and learning experience of first year undergraduate mathematics modules. The work will have two main components: we will develop formative assessment tools for use in the classroom; we will develop interactive tasks which can be used by students to monitor their own progress and support this progress with the identification of relevant existing e-learning material and the provision of new online resources.

In this project we aim to identify mathematical topics and concepts that are problematic for first year undergraduate students in Higher Education in Ireland, develop online activities and tasks to promote understanding of these concepts, and evaluate the effectiveness of these resources. We will conduct a survey of Mathematics and Engineering Departments in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland to ascertain the main topics and concepts that students find difficult in first year courses, and the types of resources that are already in use in relation to these topics and how they are disseminated. We will also conduct a survey of second-year students in the partner institutions to see with which topics the students themselves would like more help. We will review existing resources both nationally and internationally. Once the topics have been identified we will design formative assessment activities and online resources with the intention of affording students the opportunity to monitor and develop their understanding of the concepts involved. We envisage the formative assessment resources being used in modules and in Mathematics Support Centres to allow students to develop their conceptual understanding and we aim to support this development using screencasts and activities designed by the project team as well as existing resources identified as useful. We will endeavour to make all resources accessible for learners with disabilities.

We will also develop an audience response system which will allow lectures to ask questions in lectures and gather responses from students through their smart-phones or tablets. Students will be able to submit graphs, drawings and calculations and lecturers will be able to view the responses instantly.

We will conduct trials of all resources developed in this project in appropriate mathematics modules at the partner institutions. The resources will be modified as necessary based on the results of these trials and consultations with staff members and students. The final versions will be made available on the web for all institutions in Ireland to use.

Clear description of main activities
This project will have five key stages.

  1. Identify areas of interest – We will survey relevant departments in the partner institutions along with second-year undergraduates to identify mathematical concepts and topics that first-year students find difficult and to identify helpful resources. When we have collected this information, we will identify key areas of concern that are not already well resourced and create a list of concepts that will form the focus of our work. Timescale: 3 months.
  2. Develop resources –This work will have multiple components: we will develop formative e-assessment resources which focus on the conceptual understanding of the topics identified; we will develop screencasts on the topics; we will develop interactive activities using dynamic geometry software. We would also develop audience response systems that would allow lecturers to pose questions during lectures and immediately gather and view responses from students using smart-phones or tablets.   Timescale: 1 year.
  3. Roll-out of resources – The resources will be used in modules in the partner institutions. This will happen on a phased basis, with some materials being rolled out in the academic year 2015-16 and revised for the first semester of 2016-17 following the Evaluation stage; other materials will be rolled out for the first time in the first semester of 2016-17. Timescale: 1 year and 4 months.
  4. Evaluation – We plan to evaluate the effectiveness of our resources in three ways. We will conduct a survey of staff who have used the resources as part of their teaching, we will also survey students in those courses, and we will conduct a number of think-aloud interviews where students will work through the activities and formative assessments. Timescale: 3 months.
  5. Review – The results of the evaluation will be taken into account and the resources will be modified accordingly. These new resources would be collated along with existing relevant resources so all material can be accessed through one national platform. Timescale: 2 months.
 Specific outputs of the project

  1. Information on the topics that staff and students have identified as problematic. (Year 1)
  2. The development (including trialling) of an audience response app for use in lectures on ipads, iphones and android systems. (Years 1 and 2 – the development to take place in year 1 with the trialling and modifications in year 2)
  3. The development (including trialling) of formative assessment tasks and other resources for use in first year mathematics modules which address the problematic areas identified in the staff and student survey. (Years 1 and 2 – the design of tasks to take place in year 1 with the implementation and creation of online resources in year 2)
  4. The development of screencasts to aid understanding of mathematical concepts. (Years 1 and 2)
  5. Research on the effectiveness of both the audience response system and the online materials. Conference and journal papers related to this research. (Year 2)
  6. A website where the materials developed in this project will be made available. (Year 2)
Implementation plan for ensuring national impact of the project.
We will involve as many institutions as possible in the initial survey and will provide staff in these institutions access to the materials that we produce during the course of the project. These resources will be made available on the internet.We will use our contacts in national organisations such as the Irish Mathematical Society and the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network to disseminate our findings and alert colleagues to the resources that we develop.We will attend national and international conferences to speak about our work and endeavour to have the results published in respected journals.