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Our teaching model emphasizes active learning using evidence-based teaching strategies. Some key elements of the MSLL approach are:
1. A "one-stop shop" experience: MSLL consists of a large Problem-based Learning (PBL) classroom, a Testing Lab, and faculty offices, all located in one center. In addition to class times, MSLL is open for "Open Lab" 6 days a week, for about 30-35 hours per week. Open Lab is a time when students can drop in to work on their math homework, study for math exams, and/or receive free math tutoring from undergraduate math/math education majors on staff.
The core MSLL faculty have collaboratively developed instructional activities for each class session of each course. These activities define exactly what mathematical problems will be worked on during each class and are designed to support students' conceptual understanding, problem solving skills, and ability to communicate about mathematics. Using a shared curriculum allows for a level of coherence and consistency across sections that is atypical of most multi-section courses. Moreover, implementing a shared curriculum in every section of the course enables us to study the effects of the course (rather than the individual instructors) over time.
Class time is spent providing students with opportunities to be active learners where they can grapple with key mathematical ideas, communicate mathematically, and develop conceptual understanding of the topics they are learning. Students work in groups of 2 to 6, solving and discussing math problems while the instructor and classroom assistant circulate around the room, probing student thinking and providing guidance. Lecture is kept to a minimum.
4. Leveraging technology: Since limited class time is spent on procedural skills, students need a chance to practice and hone these skills outside of the classroom. We use an adaptive learning technology (ALEKS) to provide individualized support to students.
5. More flexible approaches to assessment: Testing at MSLL is different than in a traditional math course. Students take their exams in our 28-seat Testing Lab, which is located in MSLL right next to the classroom. Exams are administered during "exam weeks" instead of on a single day or night. This provides students with the flexibility to choose their exam day and time based on what works best for their schedule and their individual preferences. Exams consist of a computer-based portion (through ALEKS) and a written portion. To promote mastery and success, students are allowed a second attempt on the computer-based portion of each exam.
6. An empirically based, continuous improvement approach: We engage in continuous design cycles to systematically improve the courses over time. Each semester, we revisit and adjust the learning goals, revise the classroom activities, and assessments, and rethink MSLL policies and procedures. This work is enabled by our use of a shared curriculum. Having shared experiences of enacting the same instructional activities in each section of our courses enables us to test multiple implementations of the activities in a single semester and to have more productive conversations about what worked, what didn't work, and why.