Bryn Mawr College

STEM Commitments [White House Summit on College Opportunity, Dec. 2014]

GOAL: Bryn Mawr College is committing to increase by 5 percent the number of undergraduates with poor mathematics preparation completing STEM degrees through implementation of a specialized mathematics preparation. This short-term goal is in line with the long-term trajectory to have students with poor math preparation completing STEM degrees on par with students who enter with strong math preparation.

ACTION PLAN:  Bryn Mawr College will address a primary reason students drop out of STEM fields: difficulty with the required mathematics. Bryn Mawr is developing a new strategy for mathematics remediation by providing students who enter gateway STEM courses with weak mathematics preparation the skill- and confidence-building to thrive in those courses, thereby increasing the likelihood they graduate with STEM degrees.

The College will achieve this improvement in remediation by using blended (hybrid) learning to provide students with personalized, selfpaced instruction; adopting a “scaffolding” approach so that students receive this supplemental instruction while they are taking STEM gateway courses; and differentially aligning the skills and concepts covered to the content of multiple gateway courses, so that each student studies material explicitly relevant to her.  This blended mathematics fundamentals program will have multiple components: (1) online, interactive modules designed to help students master fundamental concepts, (2) “playlists” that link these modules to the curricula of the targeted courses, and (3) faculty coaches who are trained to use learning data generated through the online modules to deliver effective, individualized coaching and support to students.

Bryn Mawr will prepare these modules in the 2014-2015 academic year and pilot them in 2015-2016; the learning data and survey feedback from students and instructors will be used to evaluate the modules, playlists, and overall blended approach and make adjustments for the following year.

This work also will be shared with Bryn Mawr’s 12 institutional partners through a First in the World grant, which collectively impacts 2,900 students. Over the four-year pilot, approximately 125 students will participate and the goal is to significantly increase (from 17.1 percent to 21.4 percent) the percentage of the target students completing a STEM degree, ultimately striving to match the 37 percent of students who entered Bryn Mawr with strong math preparation completing STEM degrees. 

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