November 13, 2008
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 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.
One of the ways the explored and then captured evidence of the effectiveness of the approach was through student interviews. As part of the faculty case study on the Windows on Learning site, students talk about the effectiveness of the “outlinging mathematics” approach. Video capture of student interviews can be a powerful way to gather information and to make a certain kind of evidence visible to colleagues.
Adapted from Laura Graff, Dustin Culhan, and Felix Marhuenda-Donate, “Outlining Mathematics: Transforming Student Groaning into Student Learning”