St. Lawrence University Context
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
Currently, St. Lawrence (SLU) does not have an explicit graduation requirement for QR. Instead, students are required to take one language or math course prior to graduation. Math and Computer Science courses are nevertheless highly popular at SLU; among 2008 graduates, for example, 74% of students successfully completed one or more MATH and/or Computer Science (CS) courses, and 41% successfully completed two or more MATH or CS courses. Although this is a significant percentage of our students, we would like to see all St. Lawrence students meet a Quantitative Reasoning requirement prior to graduation. We believe there is a strong possibility that SLU will include a QR requirement in the next proposed version of our general education requirements. Beginning last year, as part of an initiative to reconsider our distribution requirements, our Academic Affairs committee began having conversations about where and how quantitative literacy and reasoning should fit into our core curriculum. Simultaneous to those discussions SLU founded a Quantitative Resource Center (QRC) which employs approximately 25 student mentors to support and promote quantitative reasoning and literacy. The QRC is open to students, faculty and staff approximately 60 hours per week. Last year, nearly 1,050 students utilized the QRC, while approximately a dozen faculty utilized the QRC for assistance in a variety of ways. We teach a GAISE compliant applied statistics course (MATH 113) and some sections of that course use the CAOS tool for assessment of statistical thinking (we are lucky enough to have one of the authors of the GAISE undergraduate report teaching this course). This course is one of the five most popular courses on campus. Several other courses at SLU include QR as part of their goals such as General Biology (Biology 101 and 102) and Abnormal Psychology (Psychology 317). Furthermore, in partnership with the Biology, Psychology and Computer Science departments, the QRC recently submitted an NSF-CCLI grant proposal that would enable staff and faculty at the QRC to work proactively with these programs to develop techniques and material designed to improve and augment the use of QR throughout their course offerings.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
Presently, in our courses satisfying our Mathematics requirement, our learning goals for students are that they: 1. Apply quantitative reasoning and analytical thought effectively as a means of problem-solving. 2. Demonstrate an understanding of how mathematics makes contact with problems encountered in everyday experience, using examples and application. As we move forward, we envision a requirement for all students that would result in the following learning outcomes: 1. Students are able to recognize situations that call for quantitative methods and are confident in their ability to use these methods; 2. Students can collect applicable information to address these situations; 3. Students can analyze this data using appropriate methodology; and 4. Students can interpret and present the results of an analysis in a lucid and rational manner.
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so, please describe:
As mentioned above, we have some individual faculty and specific courses that are using nationally recognized assessment tools but we do not yet have campus-wide assessment tools for QR.
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?
While there are many worthwhile initiatives on campus that vie for limited faculty time, there are also many faculty at St. Lawrence who believe strongly in the importance of quantitative literacy to a well-rounded undergraduate education. Building a consensus among the faculty as a whole for a Quantitative Reasoning requirement will be a critical step in achieving this goal. With regard to assessment, St. Lawrence completed its process of reaccreditation through the Middle States Association of Colleges in 2007-2008. This process left the faculty as a whole with a greater sense of the need for active and continuing assessment of the University's programs, but there are still segments of the faculty that are uncertain about the proper role for assessment at SLU.
5. Considering your campus culture, what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
There are several venues at SLU that can serve as support for faculty QR work: The year-old Quantitative Resource Center will be an extremely valuable asset in any QR initiatives at SLU. The mission of the QRC is to "facilitate, encourage, and develop quantitative reasoning, skills, and applications." Showing a very strong commitment to supporting QR work, this summer a 2200 sq. ft space is being renovated for the QRC. Further, the QRC is a proactive center that is actively seeking to support and encourage faculty endeavors in this area. We are in the process of reconsidering our general education/core curriculum, and consequently we are now evaluating our current model in contrast to others. The University's Academic Affairs committee is leading this process and is currently considering a QR-type requirement. As a committee with broad participation from across the faculty, a strong endorsement from this group would further QR at SLU very significantly. At the end of each academic year, St. Lawrence faculty gather for a three-day "May College" focusing on issues of pedagogical and curricular concern to the University. In May 2008, this event focused on the question of "Critical Literacies" and the shape of SLU's core curriculum and general education requirements. As part of this event, Nathan Grawe gave a workshop on quantitative literacy which was very well-received by faculty. As the SLU faculty moves forward with its discussions of curricular reform in the coming year, we hope that May Faculty College 2009 may again provide a forum for discussion of the importance of QR within our general education program. In part as a result of the recent Middle States accreditation process, there are now well-established structures within the University governance system tasked with the role of ongoing programmatic assessment including the University's Institutional Strategy and Assessment (ISAC) committee. St. Lawrence has also recently received a major grant from the Teagle Foundation to assess our diversity requirement, which we envision helping us to learn how to assess our general education curriculum broadly. Being involved with the 2008 PKAL workshop at the same time would provide us an opportunity to develop approaches to these different requirements in a way that would allow us to learn together how best to teach and assess general education. Our Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is a forum where faculty gather to discuss a variety of issues related to pedagogy and the University's educational mission. The CTL supports a very active agenda of well-attended faculty development and teaching workshops each semester. The CTL has sponsored several workshops that targeted QR: one recent offering was co-taught by an electronic services librarian and a faculty member from our Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Department, while another focused on teaching faculty how to use the computer to further political and social science research through data mining. We are confident that the CTL will continue to provide an ideal location for discussion and dissemination of ideas about QR.