Hampshire College

1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?

Most of our work on quantitative reasoning has been in the context of first-year courses. All students must take a science course, and for the last 7 years understanding quantitative methods of analysis has been a designated learning goal for these courses. To that end we have engaged in a variety of initiatives, including both internal and external assessment and two semester-long programs for faculty focusing on the use of rubrics, pre/post tests, and other assessment given by our Center for Teaching and Learning, led by team leader Professor Charlene D'Avanzo.

2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?

Last spring, the faculty passed a new first-year curriculum, beginning Fall 2011. The plan affirms the value of quantitative reasoning by making it one of the four cumulative learning goals for first-year students, with the understanding that these learning goals will continue to be pursued beyond the first year. To address how to implement the quantitative goal, a group of faculty from the Educational Policy Committee, led by team member Professor Cynthia Gill, has been working on strategies to more clearly define what we mean by quantitative reasoning and how to assess it. We also wish to help faculty understand that quantitative reasoning (e.g. the importance of evidence) is central to student work in the social sciences, the arts and other disciplines.

3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so; please describe:

A common QR assessment is very controversial for us. One issue is that our first-year courses are project-based and what an engineer, an economist or biologist focuses on in regard to quantitative reasoning and skills is very different. We would like to hear more about how other colleges are dealing with this issue. We should stress that QR is taught across the curriculum and our philosophy is to embed QR in substantive and engaging topical courses.

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?

Key barriers include lack of funding. We recently closed the Quantitative Resource Center (a place to send students) because it was not adequately serving students. In addition, there is not a consensus among students and faculty about what it means to be quantitatively literate and those who dislike anything quantitative show hostility towards the requirement for quantitative literacy.

5. Considering your campus culture; what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?

Writing is emphasized by nearly all faculty in first-year courses and faculty strive to help students advance quickly to accomplish independent work. Therefore many faculty emphasize aspects of quantitative reasoning in writing, such as support of arguments, use of data and logical development of ideas. We have an opportunity here to work with these faculty more widely across the college. In addition, the Natural Science and Cognitive Science faculty have long seen engaging students in the process of science as a mission for first-year students, including specific aspects of quantitative thinking they wish to focus on. Finally there are a number of new faculty in the social sciences who also include aspects of quantitative work in their courses. Another result of this workshop could be developing a new model to support faculty and students.