Bowdoin College Context
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
Bowdoin has had a quantitative skills program for over a decade. It has been successful in terms of identifying first-year students who have weak quantitative skills as well as in training tutors and organizing study groups for courses requiring quantitative competence. After administering the program very well for a number of years, the program director has recently resigned.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
Our quantitative skills program has been just that–a quantitative skills program. The sentiment of the previous director, a number of faculty, and the Dean for Academic Affairs is that we need to revise the program so that we focus on quantitative reasoning not just skills. This means engaging a larger group of faculty, particularly faculty outside of math and science, in discussions about incorporating quantitative reasoning across the curriculum, much as we have begun to do with writing. By attending this workshop we hope to learn a great deal from other participants but also to carve out the time for a group of us to engage seriously in planning for a quantitative reasoning initiative on our campus. Planning will include the search for a new director but also development of faculty leadership in this area.
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so, please describe:
We have a Q skills test that is given to first-year students during their orientation period. It is a short-answer test that is largely focused on computation. Students' scores are sent to their advisors so that they can encourage students to take courses which might improve their competencies. Low-scoring students are also asked to meet with the Q skills program director so that individual plans for improving skills can be worked out.
4. Considering your campus culture, what challenges or barriers do you anticipate in implementing or extending practices to develop and assess QR programming on your campus?
In the past few years we have revised our general education requirements, put forth a writing initiative, and many departments have undergone extensive revisions of curriculum in their majors. The challenges to an initiative that seeks to integrate quantitative reasoning across our curriculum and assess outcomes are not resistance to the idea or even disinterest, but faculty fatigue.
5. Considering your campus culture, what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
One of our general education requirements is a course that helps develop mathematical, computational or statistical reasoning. Current courses that satisfy this requirement are in such disciplines as economics, psychology, mathematics and physics. We will begin assessing the revised general education requirements this year, including the MCSR one. This assessment plus the need to hire a new quantiative reasoning program director necessitates us opening up conversations with faculty and adminsitrators around this issue. Nancy Jennings and Rachel Connelly have been given stipends or course release to work on this project.