Transforming Student Groaning into Student Learning
Using Textbook Outlining to Empower Students to Become More Active Learners
Laura Graff: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dustin Culhan: email@example.com
Felix Marhuenda-Donate: firstname.lastname@example.org
When they enroll in a History, Government, or Psychology class, students expect to attend lectures and take notes, read the textbook, and study questions the instructor provides to help them prepare for exams. They do not expect the exam questions to be identical to the study questions. Rather, they expect the exam to ask new questions that allow them to show how they have incorporated the information from the lecture and the textbook along with their own ideas to make their own connections.
Yet, for some reason, these same attitudes and expectations do not seem to apply to math class. Students approach the math textbook as little more than an (extremely expensive) problem set, expecting to get all of the information they need to prepare for tests simply by attending lecture. A typical college math course requires a great deal of homework, and students are expected to spend many hours outside of class studying. When students lack the ability to use their textbook as a learning tool, the results -- low test scores and poor retention and success rates -- can be frustrating for students and teachers alike.
In addition to the above difficulties are these depressing facts:
At College of the Desert, 92 percent of all incoming students place into a remedial level mathematics course (Intermediate Algebra or below).
Also shocking is the fact that a full 67 percent of students start their college mathematics careers seated in a basic arithmetic course.
Retention rates are dismal enough to reduce even the most hardened classroom veteran to tears.
In an effort to turn back this wave of despair, a trio of math professors at College of the Desert has incorporated the idea of outlining math textbooks into their courses. By getting students in the habit of really using their textbooks, outlining helps them gain a deeper knowledge of the material that, in turn, enables them to make their own connections between ideas. From passive listeners, students become independent and active learners.
Students learn to recognize key features of their textbook.