The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
There is much research regarding students who struggle mathematically early (school, Y1 UG) but not for good students who `hit a wall’ at level 3. Some persevere while others drop-out. Research suggests that students with fixed mindsets are less resilient and more likely to drop-out, and that changing to growth mindset increases resilience.
A fixed mindset: `you either can or can’t do mathematics’ is common and can be reinforced at L1 and L2 when students primarily learn techniques and know `the answer’, gaining marks of 90+). At L3 this changes (abstract concepts replace techniques). Less resilient, fixed mindset students may interpret struggling as an indication that they can’t do mathematics anymore and defer/drop out.
OU students, often isolated, only see pre-prepared perfect solutions in text or typical tutorials. This hides the fast/slow thought types and algebraic experimentation necessary. Proofs, often derived in reverse, appear, written from start to finish. Students at traditional universities working together realise everyone struggles, so may move to a growth mindset. Our students just see themselves struggling.
We are pre-recording sessions, using a special screen to handwrite maths `live’, in its naturally derived manner (not in the finished-product-order) with commentary describing thought processes.
The sessions are received very positively: forum posts include “reassuring as well as helpful” and “There's hope for me yet”.
We also want to add a social dimension to learning so students see the MT (mathematicians) as (fallible) people who make mistakes. This will encourage development of a growth mindset and increase retention/progression.
Our current evidence is anecdotal. We want to examine, in depth, the experience of students watching the sessions. We intend to use two questionnaires at the start and end of the module, along with semi structured interviews with a smaller group of students, to look quantitively and qualitatively at this.