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  1. Parvaneh Mohammadian
  2. http://www.lamission.edu/~mohammp
  3. Associate Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Los Angeles Mission College
  1. Karen Vega
  2. Program Coordinator
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Los Angeles Mission College

An Intervention to Improve Success of Biology Majors in Mathematics

NSF Awards: 1832348

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Undergraduate

This project aims to increase the success of biology majors in their courses at Los Angeles Mission College (LAMC) and in transfer to four-year universities. The plan to achieve these goals are through weekly academic success (ASW) workshops that help biology majors pass college algebra and trigonometry courses. This intervention is expected to stimulate student engagement in biology through mathematics, which will increase student success and retention in gateway mathematics courses and persistence in the major.

The goals of this project are to increase the persistence, success, retention rates, and transfer rates of biology majors. By making the quantitative aspects of biology more engaging and relevant via ASW, the project aims to increase student success and retention rates in Math. The ASWs facilitate student peer learning that are designed to increase a sense of community among students. Faculty from LAMC and the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed the supplemental materials that are used at ASWs. This project also holds workshops for faculty from other institutions seeking to enhance the quantitative experience of their biology majors.

The project has developed a model that targets a diverse student population in the biological sciences that increases success, retention, and degree completion rates via contextualized mathematics in the biological sciences.

Resources:

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Original Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 4, 2020 | 01:44 p.m.

    Welcome everyone!

    Thank you for taking time to watch our video and learn about our project!

    This project started in October 2019 with the goal of increasing the number of students who transfer to biology majors offered at four year universities. 

    We just recently finished preparing supplemental materials in College Algebra and Trigonometry for biology majors. The goal is to contextualize math for biology majors that may result in higher retention in the math classes. We also offer academic success workshops where students learn math in a group with support of a facilitator. 

    https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1832348

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 4, 2020 | 09:34 p.m.
  • Icon for: Stephen Alkins

    Stephen Alkins

    Facilitator
    May 5, 2020 | 02:17 p.m.

    Hi Parvaneh,

         Thank you for the wonderful addition to college math preparation.  This is especially essential for underrepresented groups in Biology and community colleges; many students see math not as just a barrier to STEM career options, but also as a barrier to finishing their education, in general.

    •  What were the results you received regarding success rates and retention rates versus students who didn't enroll in the program?
    • What were the criteria for selecting students to be a part of the program?  Were there similar efforts made to support students who required developmental math courses?
    • Certainly having facilitators and tutors that are of similar age (within a range) to the student population is helpful, but did you find any success differences based upon the age of the facilitator? (this would be encouraging for environments that could not find student-facilitators)
    • Did you experience any particular complications with students who were non-native English speakers (English Learners or Emerging Multilinguals)? What levels of support existed for them?

         Thank you again!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Michael I. Swart
  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 5, 2020 | 03:19 p.m.

    Hi Stephen,

    Thank you for watching our video!

    The project is fairly new and we still don't have enough data on the success and retention rates. However, one major challenge that we are facing is student participation. The majority of our students support their families have to work while attending classes. Asking them to participate in additional workshops presents a challenge to them.

    Everyone who is a biology major can enroll in these workshops. We also offered a winter math academy to prepare all STEM majors for their upcoming college algebra and trigonometry courses. The academy was fairly successful.

    In regard to the facilitator's age, we have selected them based on their experience in running a community based workshop. It happens that their age is also very close to the age of the students who participate. Peer tutors are also involved but they assist the facilitators. Appointing peer tutors to run the workshops did not produce effective results.

    We have not had any English learners in the Math workshops. In general, for our English learners we do offer ESL courses.

    Thanks again for the great questions!

    Par

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Stephen Alkins
  • Icon for: Stephen Alkins

    Stephen Alkins

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 02:54 p.m.

    I used to run a very similar program - Achieve In Math (AIM) program - at Mass Bay Community College.  We experienced the same complications with student participation.  We were fortunate enough to garner a stipend for students, but we also offered this program in the summer and collaborated with our academic math and science academic achievement center to provide the wrap-around supports (use of laptops, commitments to weekly check-ins, etc.) during the academic year.  

    Does Los Angeles Mission College have a center like this to collaborate with because this might help identify students and support students who cannot attend the workshops? 

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 06:44 p.m.

    Stephen,

    Thank you for your feedback and sharing your activities!

    We pay $200 gift card to the students who complete 80% of the workshops. What was your incentive?

    We offered a winter math academy and are planning to offer a virtual summer math academy. We are hoping to increase participation that way as well.

    We do have a STEM center; however, it does not offer any laptops. We do have a math center as well as a science tutoring center.

    Any feedback you can provide is much appreciated.

    Thanks,

  • Icon for: Hong Liu

    Hong Liu

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 6, 2020 | 08:54 a.m.

    It is a good idea to have a TA walking in large class to answer questions of students. The question that I have is how  can the TA and Student conversation not interfere the ongoing instruction? Or the TA only helps  when the instructors stops teaching. 

     

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 10:00 a.m.

    Dear Hong,

    Thank you for your comment!

    The workshops are supplements to the classes. At this workshops, the facilitator works with the students on the specific problems and the students will try to answer them in a group. The TA will assist in making sure that the group os moving forward in their problem solving process.

    Thanks again for your question!

     

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 01:14 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting project! It seems a number of learning theories such as group learning, and peer tutoring embedded in this project. With the difficulty of mathematics for many students, I am hopeful this project or intervention (i.e., weekly math workshop) can realize its goals that are to “increase the persistence, success, retention rates, and transfer rates of biology majors”.

    I assume there is an evaluation component built in this project. Could you share more information in that regard? Is it a within-group design with the intervention group only or there is going be a control group in the evaluation? If you are considering a control group, how is it identified? How are you going to operationalize and measure the outcomes such as persistence and success? Thanks!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Michael I. Swart
  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 01:24 p.m.

    Hi Feng,

    Thank you for your comments! 

    The control group will be students who are in the same math classes but not attending the workshops. We will try to match by age, ethnic background, GPA, and some other factors that our researchers have chosen. We are still in process of gathering data and hopefully as soon as we have more students participating in the workshops we will conduct an analysis. We also have to consider the online workshops now due to COVID-19 pandemic. We have been offering the workshops synchronously online every Friday. We have to review the data before doing the analysis.

    Thanks again for the interesting question!

    Par

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 03:41 p.m.

    Thanks for the quick response, Par. Using the matching can definitely increase the rigor of your study considered as quasi-experimental given the absence of randomization. I also agree that more factors need to be taken into consideration given this COVID-19 pandemic. I would be interested to hear the analyses results after the review of your data.

    Feng

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Parvaneh Mohammadian
  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 06:39 p.m.

    Thank you! We are hoping to have some preliminary data next year. 

  • Icon for: Hong Liu

    Hong Liu

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 6, 2020 | 02:59 p.m.

    Hi, Parvaneh, thanks for your response. This makes sense. Hong 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Parvaneh Mohammadian
  • Icon for: Wendy Smith

    Wendy Smith

    Facilitator
    May 6, 2020 | 08:12 p.m.

    Thanks for your video--this looks like a great program. One of the barriers we've found with having students transfer to 4-year colleges is that not all such colleges supports for transfer students. Are you working with nearby 4-year colleges to ease your students' transitions?

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 6, 2020 | 08:25 p.m.

    Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for your question!

    Excellent point! We have increased our communication with 4-year universities. We need to organize more events for students to get to know the representatives from the 4-year universities. 

    Thanks again,

    Par

  • Icon for: Sarah Krejci

    Sarah Krejci

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 7, 2020 | 11:28 a.m.

    Great concept! This is something that we regularly discuss at our University. We have tutors available, but they are not mandatory and likely not as effective as they could be. I think developing a collaboration between the bio and math faculty to create these supplemental lessons is a great idea!

    How did you support your faculty to develop the supplemental material?

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 11:34 a.m.

    Thanks Sarah! The project is supported by NSF HSI. We were able to support the faculty through the grant.

  • Small default profile

    Sheila MacDowell

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 7, 2020 | 03:27 p.m.

    Wonderful showcase of your work with students! Thank you.

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 03:30 p.m.

    Thanks Sheila for visiting the site!

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Research Program Coordinator
    May 7, 2020 | 09:59 p.m.

    That community formation can make all the difference. Keep up the amazing work!

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 7, 2020 | 11:47 p.m.

    Indeed, it does. Thanks for the encouraging words!

  • Icon for: Sharon Gusky

    Sharon Gusky

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 8, 2020 | 10:47 a.m.

    This is a great project! Thank you for sharing your video and resources. Community College students in my project are tutoring middle and high school students in math to help better prepare them for STEM careers. Your project gave me some ideas on ways to make that tutoring more engaging.

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 8, 2020 | 11:14 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing Sharon! Having our tutors help the middle and high school students in math sounds like a great project.

  • May 8, 2020 | 03:04 p.m.

    This is a great project and you are doing important work! How has on-boarding mathematics faculty to the program gone? I'm curious about the structures that are in place to really integrate these practices across their calculus and calculus courses. 

    Can you share a little about the broader impacts in institutional change that are part of this project? 

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 8, 2020 | 03:09 p.m.

    The Math faculty have been on board from the beginning. In fact, my Co-PI is a math faculty. The focus of this project is college algebra and trigonometry. We are planning to keep track of the students in the next semesters and see how the students perform in the calculus classes. 

    We did a winter math academy and are planning to do a summer academy as well. This will have a huge impact on our STEM students who are academically not very well prepared in Math. 

    I hope to report great outcomes next year.

    Thanks again!

  • May 12, 2020 | 01:28 p.m.

    Great work that impacts on multiple levels.  Can you expound more on the supplemental workshop materials.  How they are developed?  If there is a common pedagogical approach to them? Their delivery? How they complement learning? Improve proficiency (be design)? How they contribute to collaboration?

  • Icon for: Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Parvaneh Mohammadian

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 12, 2020 | 02:15 p.m.

    Thanks Michael for your interest!

    The supplemental materials were prepared by UCLA and our Math faculty using the the college algebra and trigonometry curricula and the application of these two subject matters in biology. The manuals are used during the academic success workshops to better connect math and biology. The workshops are group based and the facilitator makes sure that the students solve the problems as a group. 

     

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