University Centre Peterborough: Moving Forward with Maths
Creating an online course that offers essential transitional knowledge of Foundation maths, to support students progressing into higher education and increase retention and success rates.
University Centre Peterborough is based in a geographical area which has some of the lowest levels of Higher Education equivalent qualifications in the country, a recognised HE “cold spot”. It counts a significant number of students with disabilities (around 25%) amongst its cohort and also has above national average rates of participation in HE from students in Low Participation Neighbourhoods.
Many of the degrees the Centre offers require an understanding of Foundation maths in areas like statistical or data analysis. In order to support progression into HE, the project team recognised that student “maths anxiety” needed to be combatted as it was impacting upon application, retention and success rates. The project team aimed to create an online course that offered essential transitional knowledge, supplemented bespoke degree teaching and empowering students to identify knowledge gaps and address them in a range of ways.
Opting to use group discussions and follow-up interviews, the project team worked with lecturers and students as partners, identifying areas of maths that cause concern and analysing the pre-degree and on-degree maths knowledge that is required for success.
From this assured knowledge base, the project team created a multi-modal online maths course that gave learners the opportunity to Prepare Activate Navigate Demonstrate and Articulate their knowledge in a supported, independent study setting.
Once created, the resource was piloted by a learner from the Business Management and Accounting course who helped identify any blind spots and issues in need of refinement.
In order to support progression into HE, the project team recognised that student “maths anxiety” needed to be combatted.
Despite financial incentives, many students were still unwilling to trial new materials or lead contributions on what is needed in a maths course. “Not a maths person” and “fear of looking stupid” were frequent and strongly felt responses, even amongst learners who have achieved GCSE and A-Level standard maths qualifications. Even the learners who agreed to trial materials said that they were happy “testing but not inventing” or leading on the design and content.
This points to a wider issue of confidence and an overwhelming fear of failure. Consequently, whilst recognising the value of this online tool, future research and course designs will work to unpack and confront this fear – helping learners better realise that feeling challenged and overwhelmed is often a key part of learning something new.
Future research and course designs will work to unpack and confront this fear—helping learners better realise that feeling challenged and overwhelmed is often a key part of learning something new.
The online resource will continue to be developed, with additional voiceovers recorded, links to useful materials embedded, and additional examples for learners to trial invented.
Further course content will be devised (particularly around regression analysis and correlations) and conversations will continue with other subject leads about how the platform might be tailored to their courses.
The Project Lead will use the remaining funding to create a mini-conference for learners to test resources in a group that feels more like a professional environment and less like a maths lesson. This is currently being scheduled and will take place with a finished product and a new cohort of learners.
This Maths content outline for Business and Accountancy Access Courses was written in response to real-time learner gaps and experiences. It is delivered through commentary, practice examples and links to wider resources.
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