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Activities as Co-coordinator of the Center for Instructional Mentoring.

The Center for Instructional Mentoring in the Department of Mathematics was founded in 2015. We provide teaching mentoring and instructional support for ULAs, GTAs, postdocs, and new instructors in the department. We have developed successful beginning-of-semester orientation programs and have worked in close collaboration with AAN and the Graduate school to align policy training (including accessibility, FERPA, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence (SARV) prevention, teaching for inclusion, etc.) with university requirements. We have developed year-long mentoring programs for ULAs and GTAs in their first two years of teaching, which provide mentees with in-depth non-evaluative teaching observations and feedback and collaborative lesson-planning opportunities.

Our regular day-to-day duties include coordinating and performing classroom observations and providing support and intervention, when necessary; doing teaching assignments for GTAs; coordinating beginning of semester course meetings; responding to student teaching complaints. We have worked closely with the department’s graduate and undergraduate offices to coordinate the timing of these activities and meet all CNS and University deadlines.

In addition to these ongoing activities, during the 2017-2018 academic year we piloted a special mentoring program targeted at first-year postdocs and graduating PhD students. Teaching focused discussions on active learning techniques are complemented by several professional development workshops on writing an effective teaching statement, leading undergraduate research, etc. We plan on enriching these offerings to include panel discussions with invited faculty members from neighboring 2-year colleges, 4-year universities, and alumni with careers in industry.

Activities as Director of the Math Learning Center.

The MLC has been a valuable resource for all MSU students enrolled in mathematics courses to receive free homework help and tutoring for close to 20 years. The MLC is a large operation, where in addition to all ULAs and GTAs for mathematics courses, we also employ hourly tutors, totaling nearly 200 employees. Despite the fact that in order to meet budget reductions, starting in Sept. 2017, we reduced the hours of operation in Wells Hall and the number of neighborhood centers from 5 to 4, we had over 25,000 student visits in the fall of 2017.

Going forward, we would like to introduce group study sessions for all gateway courses. This semester we are piloting special problem sessions, lead by ULAs, for the reformed version of MTH 103, and we would like to extend this effort to most other classes. Starting in the fall of 2018, in addition to the usual drop-in tutoring hours, we plan on introducing sessions which support adaptive learning, especially in the stretched College Algebra course. This effort will require close coordination with the curriculum development teams of these courses and training of the TAs leading the proposed adaptive learning sessions. If space allows for this, we would like to experiment with having special rooms dedicated to a single class, where we might have a lower student to tutor ration, but students are encouraged to work in groups by a few experienced TAs.

Activities as Advisor for the Advanced Track Program.

As an advisor for the Advanced Track Program, I meet with students on a regular basis to advise them regarding their schedule, appropriate mathematics courses and electives to take, undergraduate research opportunities, graduate school applications, etc. In addition to organizing regular Advanced Track get-togethers, which focus on various topics, including REUs, career paths, etc., I help with recruitment and with organizing various departmental events, including Alumni Distinguished Scholarship (ADS) competition weekend, MSU Student Mathematics Conference , Topical Seminar for Undergraduate Mathematicians (Top-SUM).

Teaching and Curriculum Development.

In the spring of 2017 I joined Dr. Gabriel Nagy in an effort to reform the curriculum of MTH 235 (Ordinary Differential Equations), which is a class serving engineering, physics, and other non-math STEM majors. The main objective of the curriculum revision was to incorporate more conceptual problems, take a “modeling-first” approach, and develop active-learning group-based labs. The labs, which take place during recitations, give students a chance for hands-on experimentation with the graphical solutions of ODEs and ask students to construct models for given physical, ecological, or engineering situations. The objective is to help students make connections between analytical, graphical and physical representations of a given phenomenon.

Based on consultation with the stakeholder departments (including ECE, ME, Physics, etc.) we arrived at a set of objectives and set of topics required for further engineering and physics courses (including first order scalar equations, second order linear equations, systems of linear equations, Laplace transform methods, etc.). In addition to the standard analytical techniques for solving basic types of ODEs covered in the course, we also added the study of qualitative techniques for understanding the behavior of solutions.

New assessment tools, which support the revised curriculum, with emphasis on conceptual understanding and applications are being developed. In addition to the aforementioned labs, these include new WebWork homework problems and recitation worksheets.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, we plan to refine HW problems and labs to be more user friendly and produce TA guides for each lab.

Our current experience indicates that the amount of material which needs to be covered in a 50 minute lecture is too much, especially if we would like to incorporate some active learning strategies in the large lectures. For this reason we are considering partially flipping the class and preparing short (up to 20 minute) videos for students to watch before each lecture. This would allow us to export the delivery of definitions and theorem statements to the videos, providing more time for in-class group discussion and problem-solving activities.

Finally, we plan on evaluating the curriculum reform based on learning outcomes, student satisfaction, surveys of students who have taken subsequent courses in engineering and physics.