, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 589-601
Date: 16 May 2014

Teaching methods comparison in a large calculus class

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We report findings from a classroom experiment in which each of two sections of the same Calculus 1 course at a North American research-focused university were subject to an “intervention” week, each for a different topic, during which a less-experienced instructor encouraged a much higher level of student engagement, promoted active learning (answering “clicker” questions, small-group discussions, worksheets) during a significant portion of class time and built on assigned pre-class tasks. The lesson content and analysis of the assessments were informed by existing research on student learning of mathematics and student interviews, though the interventions and assessments were also intended to be compatible with typical course practices in an attempt to appeal to practitioners less familiar with the literature. Our study provides an example of active learning pedagogy (including materials and assessment used) for students at this level of mathematics in a classroom of over one hundred students, and we report improved student performance—on conceptual items in particular—with a switching replication in that each section outperformed the other on the topic for which it received the intervention.