The effects of different versions of a gateway STEM course on student attitudes and beliefs


Substantial research has been conducted focusing on student outcomes in mathematics courses in order to better understand the ways in which these outcomes depend on the underlying instructional methodologies found in the courses. From 2009 to 2014, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) studied Calculus I instruction in United States (US) colleges and universities in the Characteristics of Successful Programs of College Calculus (CSPCC). One aspect of this study attempted to understand the impact of these courses on student experience.


In this paper, we describe results from an examination of the effect of course structure on students’ attitudes and beliefs across different versions of Calculus I at a large research university in the USA. To do this, we implemented a follow-up study of the national MAA study of calculus programs in part to identify potential relationships between various course structures and changes in attitudes and beliefs during the course. We compare our results both internally across these course structures and to the national data set.


We find that the statistically significant changes measured in confidence and enjoyment exhibit differences across the different calculus implementations and that these changes are statistically independent of the underlying student academic backgrounds as shown by standardized test scores and high school GPA. This suggests that these observed changes in attitudes and beliefs relate to the experience in our varied course structures and not to the academic characteristics of students as they enter the course. In addition to our findings, we show how this national study can be used locally to study effects of courses on student affective traits.

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