Lehman College, The City University of New York (CUNY)
1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?
The Lehman Initiative for Quantitative Understanding and Reasoning (LIQUR); in 2009, faculty from Lehman College were awarded a $67,000 grant from the Office of Undergraduate Education of the City University of New York (CUNY) to design and pilot quantitative reasoning sections in general education courses. Funds from this project have been used to bring together an interdisciplinary team of faculty from a wide variety of departments (the steering committee) to develop strategies for teaching Lehman students QR skills. To date, the faculty have: (1) identified QR learning objectives, (2) developed an assessment instrument, (3) recruited a small number of enthusiastic faculty who teach a required freshman course in general education entitled, The Liberal Arts: Freshman Seminar (LEH 100), to pilot quantitative reasoning units in their classes, and (4) organized a 2010-2011 faculty development program for faculty to develop and teach QR-designated courses (and to assess their efforts). Members of the steering committee are in the process of developing teaching tools and planning seminars to facilitate the implementation of these QR units in LEH 100 and the QR-designated courses. Although LIQUR represents a concerted effort to address the need to improve quantitative literacy among Lehman students, the QR steering committee recognizes that broader and more fundamental instruction in QR may be needed to effectively equip our students with basic QR skills. Toward that end, we are working towards a establishing a model that teaches students QR by first providing instructional materials that ensure that students have fundamental mathematics/quantitative skills and then supports the infusion of applied quantitative inquiry and analysis throughout the general education curriculum. Our model will draw heavily on previously established best practices for teaching quantitative literacy and support faculty development to create instructional and assessment materials that effectively develop strong QR skills for students at Lehman and other minority-serving institutions. Minority-serving institutions often face unique challenges both in terms of students and faculty, and any curricular innovation and/or change must overcome a variety of barriers. For example, many students enter these colleges/universities with weak mathematical/quantitative skills, high levels of math phobia, and heavy demands placed on their time outside the classroom (e.g., employment, parenting, etc.). Moreover, faculty at such institutions generally have very heavy teaching loads (at Lehman, full-time faculty teach 7 courses per year) and numerous other obligations (scholarship, service). As a result, a successful QR initiative must lead to the development of teaching and assessment resources that can be easily adopted to meet the special needs of both students and faculty. We are currently in the process of preparing a grant application to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that seeks to expand our QR efforts at Lehman as described above.
2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?
Our learning goals for QR drawing very heavily on the Quantitative Literacy VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) Rubric developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC & U). Specifically, we aim to provide students with the following sets of skills as they relate to quantitative reasoning:
Interpretation - ability to explain information presented in a mathematical form (e.g., equations, graphs, diagrams, tables, words).
Representation - ability to convert relevant information into various mathematical forms (e.g., equations, graphs, diagrams, tables, words) and to interpret them.
Calculation - ability to calculate and interpret fundamental quantitative/mathematical measures.
Application/Analysis - ability to make judgments and draw appropriate conclusions based on the quantitative analysis of data, while recognizing the limits of this analysis.
Assumptions - ability to make and evaluate important assumptions in estimation, modeling, and data analysis.
Communication - expressing quantitative evidence in support of the argument or purpose of the work (in terms of what evidence is used and how it is formatted, presented, and contextualized).
Identify/Generate Data - ability to identify or generate appropriate information to answer questions or identify problems.
Computer Literacy - ability to track down and analyze data using a variety of Internet and software tools.
Research Design - understanding of the fundamental elements of the research process (generate hypotheses, collect data, operationalize variables, specify models, analyze data, interpret results, and draw conclusions).
3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so; please describe:
Drawing on existing QR skills tests, including those completed as part of a previous QR initiative specific to the Sociology Program at Lehman as well as the Mathematics Attitude Survey developed as a part of the NSF Mathematics Across the Curriculum initiative, 1995-2000, a preliminary assessment instrument has already been developed by the QR team at Lehman. This assessment instrument includes 19 background questions (e.g., age, major, GPA, etc.), 20 attitudinal questions, and 14 skills questions (calculating measures of central tendency and percentages, interpreting statements relating to QR, interpreting graphs and tables, etc.). As part of the 2010-2011 QR workshop series that we are planning, faculty will be developing assessment tools for their QR course assignments. (We will have two workshop sessions focusing on assessment.) We are familiar with the assessment strategies developed by QuIRK, and would like to develop more assessment instruments that combine both writing and QR since we see the two as inextricably linked.
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?
We have a campus culture that supports assessment and the faculty who are involved in our QR initiative have contributed much time and effort to this process at Lehman. The major barriers we face are funding and time. Full-time faculty at Lehman teach 21 credit hours per year – this translates into a 4/3 teaching load. At the same time, faculty evaluations for purpose of tenure and promotion are focused largely on scholarship. This means that significant new resources will be needed for developing assessment instruments as well as administering them (and evaluating them). Moreover, the assessment instruments that are developed will be designed to be transferable and/or easily adopted by others. If we are successful in our efforts to obtain external funding to expand our project, some of these barriers will be overcome.
5. Considering your campus culture; what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?
There is very strong administrative support for a QR initiative at Lehman and there is also a group of energetic faculty who are wholly committed to this initiative. We also recently received a $67,000 grant from the Office of Undergraduate Education of the City University of New York (CUNY) to design and pilot quantitative reasoning sections in general education courses. We have assembled a team of committed faculty to aid in this initiative (the steering committee) and have planned a QR faculty development workshop series for the 2010-2011 academic year (about half a dozen faculty have already signed up to participate). As previously described, we are seeking external funding to further develop our QR initiative at Lehman.