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Student perceptions of pedagogy and associated persistence in calculus


There is a clear need to increase student persistence in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM). Prior analyses have shown that students who change their Calculus II intention (a proxy for STEM intention) report being less engaged during class than students who persist onto Calculus II. This led us to ask: Are these students in different classes, or are they in the same classes but experiencing them differently? We present descriptive and univariate analyses of the relationship of calculus persistence to student demographics, background characteristics, and reported instruction for 1,684 STEM intending students and 330 non-STEM intending students enrolled in introductory calculus in Fall 2010 in the United States. We then develop regression models that control for the group effect of course enrollment to understand how perceiving low levels of various pedagogical activities within a class is associated with calculus persistence. These analyses show that different student perceptions of the frequency of a number of pedagogical activities, and thus different ways of experiencing the same class, are related to students’ decision to continue studying calculus. Specifically, among initially STEM intending students, there was a relationship between persistence and the perceived frequency of the instructor showing students how to work specific problems, preparing extra material to help students understand calculus concepts or procedures, holding a whole-class discussion, and requiring students to explain their thinking on exams. Among initially non-STEM intending students, there was a relationship between persistence and the perceived frequency of being required to explain thinking during class.

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Correspondence to Jessica Ellis.

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Ellis, J., Kelton, M.L. & Rasmussen, C. Student perceptions of pedagogy and associated persistence in calculus. ZDM Mathematics Education 46, 661–673 (2014).

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  • Post-secondary education
  • Instructional activities and practices
  • Data analysis and statistics
  • Calculus instruction
  • Student persistence