Smith College Context
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
Over the past five years, the Smith community has undergone an extensive number of internal and external reviews. Beginning in 2003, we conducted an internal review of the entire undergraduate curriculum; in 2006, we developed a long-range strategic plan; and in 2007, we concluded, with great success, a full reaccreditation review. One of the findings that emerged from this good work is that about 9 percent of our graduating seniors avoided mathematics courses and those courses that require quantitative analysis. Since Smith has an open curriculum, we were pleased to learn that about 91 percent of our graduating seniors took courses that required quantitative analysis. However, we realize that we need to implement programs that ensure that all of our students acquire and hone quantitative skills. In 2006, we began to offer regular workshops for faculty in the humanities and social sciences to learn how to integrate quantitative modules into their courses. The workshops were well attended, but we did not have the means to determine the effectiveness of the modules. In addition, we wanted to coordinate these activities so that they would better inform our efforts to enhance quantitative programming. In 2007, we opened the Quantitative Learning Center (QLC). The immediate goals of the QLC are to coordinate tutoring services for students in courses with quantitative content and to work with faculty in all divisions on integrating more quantitative content in their courses. Our long-term goal is for the QLC to be the hub of quantitative reasoning assessment. We hope that the QLC, in collaboration with the writing center and office of institutional research, will prepare, run and oversee assessment of quantitative reasoning. We also plan for the director of the QLC to work with faculty to review assessment data and design new programming. The QLC has been very successful during its inaugural year. We are now in the process of creating a quantitative skills requirement, and the QLC director and her advisory committee will present their recommendations to the full faculty some time this fall.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
As we prepare to establish a quantitative skills requirement this fall, we are in the process of identifying existing courses that are quantitatively intense. By quantitatively intense, we mean courses that devote significant amounts of class time to some of the following areas: (a) elementary statistical reasoning; (b) working with, manipulating, and judging the reliability of quantitative data; (c) generating and understanding graphical relationships; (d) representing theoretical ideas and empirical phenomena numerically; and (e) determining numerical predictions of natural or social systems. We acknowledge that these course characteristics are not learning outcomes. We are in the process of shaping the right learning outcomes for our students.
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so, please describe:
We do not have QR assessment instruments in place. Several of our science and engineering programs have crafted their own assessment instruments that are discipline specific. Our Quantitative Learning Center staff are in the process of coordinating those discipline-specific assessment efforts. If possible, we would like to create a more universal tool that could be used by all programs and departments to evaluate basic quantitative skills. In addition, we would like to tie our writing assessment efforts with our quantitative work and create an assessment tool for QR in student writing.
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?
Smith faculty are extremely involved in our efforts to implement aspects of our strategic plan, and consequently faculty are often overbooked. Faculty acknowledge the need to assess and improve QR programming, but they may not have the time to participate fully in the training and workshop activities.
5. Considering your campus culture, what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
This fall, we will pilot a writing assessment program and a teaching and learning center. Our plans to assess QR are consistent with these two pilots and will add to the momentum of improving student learning and enhancing teaching overall.