Teaching MAT 143 as a Group

At Catawba Valley Community College, MAT 143 Quantitative Literacy is now an officially offered course and MAT 140 Survey of Mathematics has ceased to exist.  During the Fall 2014 semester, MAT 143 met nine sections during the day, one at night, and one in an online environment.  Two sections were late starts – that is, they started four weeks into the semester.  The majority of our sections were two-hour classes that met twice each week.  We have found this to be an ideal schedule for MAT 143.  Because this course can be quite challenging to teach on your own, we formed a weekly discussion group for the six instructors who were to teach the course this semester.  Once a week, the group would meet to discuss and revise upcoming labs and to share how the class was going.  We made an interactive pacing guide in a shared Excel file so that we could each see what the other instructors were doing in their sections.  We took the labs from the MCIP’s common library of labs and adapted 16 of them for our use at CVCC.  This process was performed jointly through the use of shared Word files that allowed comments to be made by all group members.  We also made sure that each section of MAT 143 had the exact same WebAssign homework and tests.

The following are short statements from each of our MAT 143 instructors concerning the process they participated in this past semester:
Luke Walsh – This is my third semester teaching the course and first time teaching MAT 143 online.  Making sure the online course was similar to the seated course was a challenge.  Both versions of the course had all of the exact assessment. We chose to give two paper tests, one test that was over unit I and II and another the test that was over unit III and IV.  The online students came to our campus and took the tests.  A major part of MAT 143 is group work and discussion about quantitative literacy.  Creating authentic group work and discussion for a MAT 143 online course was a semester long learning experience for me.  In my seated courses, the students get together, work through the lab, and then they might collaborate outside of class.  For the online course, there was never a set time where the entire group came together.  Instead students were given a discussion board in Blackboard that only their group and me could see.  As students worked on the lab, I would look over the threads, giving comments to what the group had shared.  Some students were better than others in working in an online group.  Often I would see, “Yeah, your answers look good and similar to mine.”.  But then that student would not share any of their own answers.  I would then remind the student, “If you were working with a group in a seated class, you would not say that without sharing what you had done.”  Overall, my biggest challenge for my MAT 143 online was creating that same environment of real-time interaction that my seated course has.
Jonathan Loss – This was my third semester teaching MAT 143.  I continue to thoroughly enjoy this course and feel that it is, by far, the most useful mathematics course for the majority of our college students.  I have appreciated the new voices and opinions that have been brought to the table through the forming of our discussion groups.  The new people brought fresh ideas and vision to our already existing labs.  This enabled us to make our labs even more robust and rich with the practical application to which this class so easily lends itself.  It requires a lot of time and effort to continually update your lab exercises to keep the material relevant, but it is time well-spent and well-shared when you have other shoulders to share the burden.  I highly encourage other community college math departments to form sharing groups for all courses that they offer, but particularly for MAT 143.  I think you will find the transition to teaching and facilitating this course to be much easier if you do.
Michael Boone – This is my first time teaching MAT 143 at CVCC.  I was very appreciative of our MAT 143 group and the experiences that were shared by colleagues who have taught the course previously.  The group was an open forum where we could discuss upcoming topics and labs.  The group also discussed different approaches to the topics, and we were able to generate some new resources for our MAT 143 course.  It was nice to have a strong group to lean on when it came to prepping for and teaching a new course.

Nena Babb – I taught the night section of MAT 143.  I had taught MAT 140 in the past, but our approach to MAT 143 is very different.  Our weekly group meetings were crucial in helping me learn how to be a facilitator.  The knowledge that we gained from the instructors who had previously taught the course was invaluable.  We were able to share ideas, lesson plans, teaching tips, technology tips, and moral support!  Having a weekly sharing time was very beneficial, something that a short chat in the hallway will never compare to.
Jessica Miller – This is my first time teaching MAT 143 and I relied heavily on our weekly group meetings to figure out what I should do in class.  Transitioning to a group-centered and lab-centered course, while learning new content for MAT 143 (medical testing vocabulary, apportionment) has been challenging and sometimes quite frustrating, but having a regular group meeting improved the experience.

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