Theory to Practice: Closing the Gap in Undergraduate Math to Reduce Student Attrition


Jacquelyn Kelly, PhD
University of Phoenix

Jim Bruno
University of Phoenix

Alex Edgcomb, PhD

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Researchers have developed numerous effective methods and theoretical models for teaching undergraduate general education mathematics (UGEM); however, many universities have struggled for decades to bridge the translational gap in courses. This gap has contributed to the national lack of a skilled STEM workforce. Recently, University of Phoenix has decided to close the gap in translating theory into practice by shifting the institution’s philosophical framework about math education from traditionalist methodology to a synthesis of seminal theories and best practices.  The purpose of this paper is to disseminate the implementation of theory-based practices in UGEM toward reducing student attrition, including: Rationale for theory identification, the construction of a philosophical framework for course implementation, collection of stakeholder input, implementation, evaluation of the impact on attrition, post-implementation maintenance and communication, and institutional socialization of the new paradigmatic shift.   These efforts yielded an attrition rate reduction from 17.5% to 4.7% of students withdrawing or failing in Quantitative Reasoning 1 and from 13.9% to 4.0% in Quantitative Reasoning 2. A key outcome of this work is a blueprint for an institution to similarly close the theory to practice gap in courses. 

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