Impact of Student Attributes and Instructional Milieu on Academic Success

The purpose of the NSF-DUE Transforming Undergraduate Education in the STEM Disciplines Type I project was to address the disturbing failure rates of college students placed in remedial mathematics. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the project, two educational psychologists collaborated with two mathematicians as the research and development team to direct the two year project.



The grant proposal #1141334 titled The Predictability of Student Attributes and Instructional Milieu on Developmental Math Courses, College Algebra, the CAAP, and Matriculation to Degree was designed to develop, implement, and evaluate impact of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) model with adult learners. Our MTSS model evaluation method demonstrated improved learner outcomes in passing Basic and Intermediate Algebra, and early longitudinal data suggest students go on to pass College Algebra and the mathematics subtest of the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) examination. Completing these general education requirements shows promise toward graduating with a college degree.

Most importantly, this project promoted use of instructional methods grounded in scientifically-based research. Our findings confirmed the effectiveness of explicit instruction with adult learners who need direct teaching methods to learn fluency with numbers and the procedural knowledge necessary to achieve conceptual understanding. Finally, changes in course structure and instructional methods to prompt student engagement in active learning established within the multi-tiered system of supports model show promise in improved retention and graduation rates for underrepresented and disadvantaged college students placed in remedial education.

During the two year NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in the STEM Disciplines Type I project:

  1. We revised and validated student attribute measures to assess math anxiety, academic motivation, math confidence, and math usefulness in college students enrolled in Basic and Intermediate Algebra to determine effects on passing developmental mathematics coursework.
  2. We established multi-tiered system of supports model with adult learners placed in developmental mathematics course(s) utilizing evidence-based practices adapted from the National Math Advisory Panel (2008), Institute for Education Sciences, and related cognitive-behavioral psychology literature.
  3. We evaluated impact of MTSS model on passing Basic and Intermediate Algebra using quantitative and qualitative research methods. Project outcomes conclude:
    • Fall semester pass rates improved.
    • The MTSS model impacted passing Basic and Intermediate Algebra.
    • Student and instructor perceptions confirmed the MTSS model influenced passing Basic and Intermediate Algebra.