The aim of the grant is Improving Undergraduate STEM Education.
Our project will build a model of Precalculus course coordination and adjunct support to improve the teaching and learning of Precalculus, leading to student academic success and retention in STEM majors. To date, ample research has been conducted on the reasons students drop out of STEM fields after having taken introductory mathematics courses such as Precalculus. This “leaky pipeline” phenomenon has been connected to students’ persistence, which is impacted by their experience in their first year mathematics courses. Additionally, the quality of the teaching and learning of mathematics influences student retention. Therefore, improved instruction can motivate students to take more mathematics and possibly pursue a STEM degree. This claim has been supported by research that stresses the effects of proper
training and professional development on teachers’ instructional quality. However, since much of this work has been done with full-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants as instructors, there is a need to focus on developing instructional skills for part-time adjunct instructors. One important reason to focus on the adjunct instructor population is the trend in higher education away from full-time, tenure faculty towards part-time instructors, especially for introductory courses.
While some work has been done to understand the benefits of supports for part-time instructors at the undergraduate level, this work has focused mostly on graduate teaching assistants rather than adjunct instructors. The proposed project will extend this work to adjunct instructors and will contribute to the less robust research base regarding the adjunct instructor population. By building a model of adjunct instructor resources and support, we will contribute to deeper understanding of how such efforts impact (1) adjunct instructor knowledge and instructional practices, (2) adjunct instructors’ job satisfaction, and (3) student academic success and retention in STEM majors. This understanding may help other departments and institutions with similar instructor populations to better support their adjunct faculty, thus improving student achievement and increased retention in STEM majors.