Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Developmental Mathematics Students' Performance: Impact of Faculty and Student Characteristics

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Developmental Mathematics Students' Performance: Impact of Faculty and Student Characteristics

Article excerpt

What kinds of faculty are most effective in teaching developmental mathematics? What kinds of students are most successful in developmental mathematics and in college algebra? With more than one quarter of the nation's freshmen in need of remedial mathematics instruction ("This Year's Freshmen," 1998), these questions are perhaps more important than ever. They were addressed in a study recently conducted at three 4-year institutions.

Characteristics of developmental faculty have been of interest to program administrators and to researchers and authorities in the field of developmental education since its emergence as a discipline. Academic preparation, professional experience, method of assignment, full- or parttime employment status, tenure status, and other characteristics have been surveyed, reported, and discussed for more than two decades (Boylan, Bonham, & Bliss,1994; Boylan, Bonham, Jackson, & Saxon, 1994; Coda-Messerle, 1980; Cross,1971,1976; Dickens,1980; Gabriel,1987; Peterson, 1989; Rouche, 1968; Roueche & Snow, 1977; Schmidt, 1986; Stahl, 1979). Program administrators have been admonished that students can best be served by well-trained, experienced, full-time faculty who teach in developmental programs voluntarily as opposed to being arbitrarily or even punitively-assigned to do so. Little empirical evidence has been offered, however, to substantiate the effect that faculty characteristics really have on developmental student achievement.

Using the Exxon-funded National Study of Developmental Education database which contained information on 1072 developmental educators, Boylan, Bonham, and Bliss (1994) reported that 66% of all faculty teaching developmental courses in 4-year institutions did so on a part-time basis, more than twice the rate (31%) of part-time faculty as a whole (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998). More than two thirds (69%) of developmental mathematics faculty in 4-year institutions were part time, and 70% of them had 5 or fewer years of teaching experience (Boylan, Bonham, & Bliss, 1994; Boylan, Bonham, Jackson, et al.,1994). In terms of educational preparation, the highest degree held by the majority (56%) of developmental mathematics educators in 4-year institutions was the master's. compared to 57% of all developmental instructors. Developmental mathematics instructors, however, were more likely than others to have only a bachelor's degree.

Researchers have had a good deal to say about the relationship between student characteristics and their achievement and persistence. Although many have reported contradictory findings as to the exact role and effect of student attribute variables on achievement, there appears to be ample evidence that demographic factors have been shown to be the strongest predictors of student success in mathematics (Short, 1996).

For example, in a study of community college remedial mathematics students at San Jose City College, Kagan and Budros (1992) found that younger students were more likely to complete the first semester with a passing grade, with 62% of those under 20 persisting to the following semester compared to only 27% of those over 35. Burgess' (1992) study of nearly 18,000 developmental mathematics students in an urban community college district in the Southwest resulted in similar findings. He reported that the younger the student, the better he or she performed in developmental mathematics. Kagan and Budros reported that Asian, Caucasion, and African-American males had the highest persistence rates of 60%, 59%, and 57% respectively, whereas the rates for Asian females, Hispanic males, and African-American females were the lowest at 33%, 33%, and 18% respectively. The interaction of student and faculty characteristics on developmental student achievement in 4-year institutions has not, however, been seriously explored.

One important characteristic of developmental students has changed during the past 20 years. …

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