Transitioning Learners to Calculus in Community Colleges (TLC3): Advancing Strategies for Success in STEM

Transitioning Learners to Calculus in Community Colleges (TLC3) is a research project aimed at transforming institutional approaches to matriculating STEM majors into and through Calculus II in community colleges. This Institutional and Community Transformation Development and Implementation project focuses on the 948 public associate degree-granting institutions (hereafter referred to as community colleges) in the nation. These institutions are crucial to meeting the demand for STEM talent in the U.S. and overwhelmingly serve as the primary pathway into postsecondary education for historically underserved students, particularly racial minority (URM) students. Specifically in this study, URM refers to Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander students. Although URM students are overrepresented in community colleges, they are underrepresented among STEM majors at these institutions. Thus, given demographic shifts in the U.S., there is an acute need to transition more URM students into, though, and out of the Developmental to Pre-calculus to Calculus II (DPC2) sequence in community colleges.

Goals

The broader goal of this study is to build and test theoretical models that predict URM student success in the DPC2 sequence based on programs, structures, and instructional strategies in successful programs. We seek to explicate the nature of student progression toward higher-level math, by identifying factors contributing to URMs success at different levels of the DPC2 sequence, understanding the various transition points within DPC2, and how students’ background characteristics and perceptions of the community college environment impact their transitions. We will develop models that are sensitive to the unique structures of institutions designated as minority serving (MSI) and non-MSI. MSI designations are: (1) predominately Black institutions (PBIs) and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), (2) Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), (3) Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and (4) Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).

This project has a strong commitment to broadening participation in STEM by understanding the experiences of diverse populations with the specific focus on URM. The greatest impact will undoubtedly involve supporting improvements to DPC2 that aim at increasing the diversity of the nation’s STEM force. The project will engineer a positive feedback loop between research and practical efforts to improve DPC2 sequences across the country. This project has an enhanced likelihood of having far-reaching impact because the research team includes scholars from different disciplinary orientations (e.g., mathematics, social science, higher education) who can leverage their expertise to heighten the transferability and rigor of this research. Finally, traditional dissemination efforts will actively draw upon the resources and reach of the researchers and advisory board members to distribute findings broadly to the entire collegiate mathematics community. This collaboration is integral to enhancing student outcomes as recommendations focused on educators are the most likely to be scalable and within the locus of control of institutional affiliates.

Collaborators

TLC3 gathers a team of higher education researchers, mathematicians, math educators, evaluators, and graduate students in higher education and mathematics education to understand the features that make a program in mathematics successful for STEM URMs at community colleges. These various perspectives enrich our understanding and help in focusing on several dimensions of the phenomenon that have traditionally been studied in isolation (e.g., persistence, retention) or not investigated at all (e.g., instruction).

Principal Investigators

Research Associates

Soko Starobin, Ph.D., External Evaluator

Research Questions

The TLC3 study will answer the following guiding research questions.

  1. What types of programs, structures, and instructional strategies are community colleges currently implementing in the Developmental to Pre-calculus to Calculus II sequence?
  2. What are the effects (if any) of these programs, structures, and instructional strategies on URM students’ success in the Developmental to Pre-calculus to Calculus II sequence?

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