Assessing Learning in Math

Assessing student learning in math

JCCC’s Mathematics division has a long history of collecting data from final exams in math courses.

Before the fall 1998 semester, the full-time math faculty decided on core questions that would be embedded in common final exams. Every math course would have its own set of approximately 10 core questions that are periodically updated. At least every three years, data is collected on each math course. The core questions are scored using a rubric, and the data is published to math faculty (although no instructor names are recorded).

Faculty analyze the data and make informed decisions regarding curriculum, instruction, strategies and interventions. Libby Corriston, professor/director, Math Resource Center and current chair of the Math Placement and Assessment Committee, explained that faculty are interest in looking for success and growth on the final exam, especially on the core questions.

Corriston explained how their embedded assessment process ties into the larger picture of collecting data for outcomes assessment purposes. The division faculty chose to concentrate on Student Learning Outcome No. 5 (process numeric, symbolic and graphic information) and may look at others in the future.

 By studying the data over a period of time with various strategies and interventions and using scores as indicators, faculty look for increased student performance and evidence of student learning and understanding. Corriston said, “With any assessment process there are advantages and challenges, but our biggest advantages are that we have an established method of collection, and we have historical data.”

Considerable effort has been put forth to examine the data and to make informed decisions for changes in course instruction. For example, time is allocated in division meetings to analyze and discuss assessment data. Recently, math professors Bill Robinson and Caroline Goodman of the Math Placement and Assessment Committee received outcomes assessment mini-grants to continue the assessment initiative in the Mathematics division by involving faculty in retreats.

The Math Placement and Assessment Committee responsibilities include ensuring proper placement of students in their beginning math class and providing leadership with the assessment of course objectives and college-wide student learning outcomes. The committee continues to make efforts to encourage the division to “close the assessment loop” in order to increase student success in all math coursework.

Corriston sums up the math assessment process this way: “It is important we as faculty collect meaningful data, and it is vital that time be set aside for us to process the data and to make meaningful decisions as a result of the data.”