Teagle Foundation Assessment Grants

Influential Interventions: Improving Student Learning in Math and Science

Agnes Scott College is sharing a $200,000, two-year grant with Davidson College aimed at improving academic support for students interested in math or science. The grant was awarded by The Teagle Foundation in February 2011.

Here is a poster showing our progress and results as of June 2013.

“The goal is to improve the overall persistence and success of students interested in majoring in math and science,” said James Diedrick, associate dean of the college at Agnes Scott. “Agnes Scott is not alone in having students fall away from math and science in their second and third years, and we’re trying out interventions that we think could improve their persistence. It’s like giving students academic vitamins that will help improve health and endurance in their course work.”

First-generation college students, in particular, often face challenges in adjusting to a college-level math and science curriculum.

“Davidson is becoming a more diverse institution, and as a result, we are going to have a larger population of students who are the first in their family to go to college,” said Verna Case, associate dean of teaching, learning and research at Davidson. “These students often don’t have family experience to guide them through the first year at college. The Teagle grant will enable us to assess the needs of, and provide assistance for, our first-generation students. We’re excited to work with Agnes Scott on this grant to help ensure that these students get the early support they need to achieve their academic goals.”

The grant will be used by faculty members at both institutions to pilot modifications to their courses and assess what specific interventions improve student learning, Diedrick said. Faculty will modify their teaching of gateway courses—courses usually taken by students expressing interest in a career involving math and science disciplines.

The Teagle Foundation provides leadership for liberal education, mobilizing the intellectual and financial resources that are necessary if today's students are to have access to a challenging and transformative liberal education. The foundation's commitment to such education includes its grant making to institutions of higher education across the country, its long-established scholarship program for the children of employees of ExxonMobil and its work helping economically disadvantaged young people in New York City—where the foundation is based—gain admission to college and succeed once there.

Previous Teagle Foundation Grant:
Improving and Assessing Integrative Learning Outcomes

Agnes Scott College led a three-year collaborative project with three other southeastern institutions—Converse College, Wofford College and the University of North Carolina-Asheville—to assess the “value added” impact of integrative learning experiences on students' intellectual growth. The project was funded by a $300,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, which provides leadership and support for liberal education. Agnes Scott College administered the grant and coordinated the collaborative, which began in July 2006. The funding cycle ended in June 2009, but all four institutions are continuing their collaboration.

Teagle Team
Teagle Team members at the June 29-30 2006 Planning Conference in Atlanta

Back row, left to right: Ellen Goldey, Dennis Wiseman, Steve Zides, Dan Maultsby, Wofford College; front row, left to right: Jeff Barker, Converse College; James Diedrick, Laura Palucki Blake, Agnes Scott College; Lisa Friedenberg, University of North Carolina Asheville

Sharing of key project findings in national venues:

Achievements in key areas: 

  • All four institutions cultivated and observed an increasing receptivity to assessment among faculty and staff as a result of this project.
  • Team leaders in the consortium learned how to better navigate each institution's internal political structures.
  • Collaborative members not only became more aware of the dialogue on and national norms of assessment, but (especially in the last year and a half) began contributing to that dialogue.
  • The consortium learned to make better use of national assessment instruments, specifically NSSE and CLA. The collaborative has developed a data warehouse of all unit-level NSSE data from the collaborative-wide administration period, and we plan to continue comparing our NSSE results after all four of our campuses administer the survey again in Spring 2010. We have investigated our comparative data on NSSE “scalelets” by asking higher- level questions. At our June 2008 Collaborative meeting, for instance, we agreed to deepen the discussion of what we learned from NSSE by having each campus team report on a NSSE scalelet that is of particular importance to the campus and on which it scored well. Agnes Scott analyzed its scores on "Higher Order Learning," Converse looked at "Educational Gains," UNC Asheville investigated "Integrative & Reflective Learning," and Wofford evaluated its scores in "Advising."

During our June 2009 meeting, each institution reported on these analyses. Agnes Scott reported strong showings in the higher order learning scales within the National Survey of Student Engagement, which can be related to the college's First Year Seminar program, required of all students, and the focus on critical thinking and writing in these seminars, which both call on and seek to improve students’ analytic, synthetic and evaluative abilities. For the past three years the FYS workshops have focused both on writing rubrics and on constructing effective writing assignments, and the college analyze results of three NSSE surveys to measure increases in the higher order learning scalelet.