gemGEMS - Gateways to Excellence in Math and Science

Key Points

#1 Course Design and Redesign

The existing calculus (MATH 2417 and 2419) and general chemistry sequences (CHEM 1311 and 1312) will be examined as part of the curriculum alignment component of GEMS with subsequent redesign as needed. A newly established Math and Science Education Council will be apprised of existing student performance data and the conclusions of math focus groups to oversee discussions on course redesign while keeping in mind the needs of all constituent groups served by the mathematics department. A new precalculus-calculus sequence will be developed to facilitate the success of non-entering freshmen and transfer students. New honors calculus and general chemistry (with associated laboratory) courses will be designed to engage students more fully while preparing for their participation in research as early as the end of freshman year.

Advising/placement software will be used (for example, ALEKS, a web based artificially intelligent assessment and learning system) to better identify student proficiency in specific algebra skills, thereby allowing more appropriate course placement of incoming or transfer students. If the assessment indicates a lack of proficiency in a predetermined set of skills, the computer-based advising and tutorial component will be used to improve skills. ALEKS will take advantage of the GEMS Success Center’s resources while running concurrently with the course.

# 2 Curriculum Alignment
  Curriculum alignment provides for an efficient sequencing of courses and learning objectives to allow students and faculty to connect content in relevant and coherent ways, which is particularly important for gateway courses. UT Dallas plans to implement a “concept-mapping” model, developed by Matt Goeckner (associate professor of electrical engineering), that has been successfully used to align the curriculum in engineering with the gateway courses in math and chemistry and integrate those courses with the dependent courses both inside and outside the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM). Goeckner’s model is linked to an understanding of how people learn and how creative individuals develop new ideas. Further, it gives greater control over the learning environment to both faculty and students.
# 3 Math and Science Education Council
  A standing Math and Science Education Council that includes representation from faculty, students, and area community colleges will be created to evaluate and to act on student performance data in math and science courses while facilitating dialogue among stakeholders of common needs in mathematics and science education. The Council will promote innovative ideas for mathematics and science instruction, including those based on effective use of technology and on implications from emerging research on science/mathematics learning (e.g., computer-aided learning, inquiry-based learning, experimental learning, and peer instruction). The Council will also organize a seminar series focused on math and science education at the university level where participants will be able to share insights with distinguished speakers such as Robert Hilborn, Carl Wieman, Russell Hulse, and Kris Rogers. Additionally, the Council will disseminate teaching innovation grants to existing faculty to provide resources and rewards for incorporating innovative math and science instruction. Finally, the Council will identify and promote excellence in mathematics and science instruction by serving as an advisory board to the GEMS Success Center.
# 4 GEMS Success Center
  UT Dallas will create a GEMS Success Center. The Center will be located in a highly visible, centralized, inviting space and will be used for all aspects of learning, from remediation to current class content and to self-paced advanced topics. The Center will function as an extension of the classroom and laboratory. The Director will be a faculty member whose research interests and funding sources are in math education at the undergraduate level. The director will play a key role in initiating opportunities and providing information for faculty in instructional strategies, resources, and use of the Success Center. The Center will be staffed with an SI program, TAs, and students in the UTEACH program while housing a recitation space configured with shared space for group work and unassigned office space for instructors and faculty to use. MathExcel and ChemExcel recitation groups will be formed through the Success Center to provide help with current content and to develop problem solving skills. The Center will house computer facilities for course-relevant software, online content and tutorials, "dry" labs, and emporium-style teaching opportunities. It will be open on Saturdays for high school tutoring. View floor plans
# 5 Instructor Development
  Faculty, TA and SI development initiatives will be introduced with input from the individual departments and the Office of Educational Enhancement (OEE). Two luncheons will be held in the fall and three in the spring, at which previously identified excellent teachers will introduce and comment on an instructional topic to stimulate open, informal discussion.
# 6 Student Engagement
  Student engagement is at the core of retention and academic success. Introductory lecture and laboratory courses will be redesigned to provide more relevant and problem-solving based experiences. GEMS will facilitate an early start for participation in research and creative activity through the introduction of honors courses and experiences in NSM. For example, lower division honors labs will be designed to prepare students for research as early as the end of their freshman year while developing the next generation of SIs.

Expect great things from UT Dallas Students!