This Evidence-based practice complete paper describes the experiences with a holistic Mathematics Enrichment Sessions, Freshmen Mentoring and Mathematics Tutoring programs implemented for the last five years in a Midwestern University as part of our NSF STEP project.
The mathematics Enrichment Session (ES) idea, which is a combination of the best aspects of Supplemental Instruction idea and PeerLed Team Learning methods can be an effective way of supporting students in their first year of studies. Two populations of students benefit from the technique. The students taking the ES sections of the calculus courses can have a better success rate thereby can persist in their pursuit of an engineering degree. At the same time, the ES leaders sharpen their mathematics, leadership and communication skills. The study outcomes support these propositions and our institution now adopted the ES technique in all calculus I courses offered on campus that are primarily taken by STEM freshmen. The ES results may lead other institutions considering, adopting and benefiting from this method.
The implementation of the peer-mentoring program that was originally envisioned as a residence hall mentoring program has proven to be more challenging than planned. As a result, the program is modified after the first year based on our student characteristics and demographics to serve the objectives of the project better. First, the program is expanded to all engineering freshmen rather than limiting it to engineering Focused Interest Community in the residence hall to increase participation level. Second, the mentors are not required to reside in the freshmen residence hall to expand the pool of eligible candidates who can serve as mentors. Third, given the difficulty of sustaining student interest and participation in the program, various formats for the mentoring activities such as hands-on design projects and its combinations were tried to invoke a lasting student interest in the program. Also, various combination of social and academic activities such as volleyball tournament, field trips and professional society visits were organized to engage the students with each other and with the local engineering communities.
Online and face-to-face mathematics tutoring formats are implemented to assess their effectiveness levels. The face-to-face tutors provided service in the residence hall in the evenings to help engineering freshmen enrolled in Calculus I and Calculus II. The online tutoring presented challenges that were not anticipated and the service is terminated after two years. The tutors are recruited among the engineering upperclassmen who were particularly strong in the mathematics skills and were effective communicators. They were given an orientation and asked to keep a logbook of their activities.
The paper discusses the various techniques and formats that were experimented in the ES, mentoring and tutoring programs and the challenges and pitfalls faced over the last five years. There are several engineering schools with similar initiatives and we want to share our experiences with the engineering education community through this paper.
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