Q: I don’t see how a specific learning resource directly applies to my lessons. How can I go about incorporating this resource into my class and instructional activities?
A: You can use the learning resources as a review activity. For example, the learning resource on factoring will likely be review for many developmental algebra students. However, it is an important skill that students will need when they learn how to factor polynomials. The factoring learning resource offers instructional review plus the opportunity to practice factoring numbers with immediate feedback.
Q: I have a very structured approach to instruction. Won’t incorporating some of these learning strategies into my approach confuse or overwhelm my students?
A: The learning strategies that are presented in the UD Algebra training materials are meant to provide students with alternative ways of learning algebra, which may make the subject easier for them to understand. Many students benefit greatly from visual and graphic displays of information, because they can see how different concepts relate to one another. Other students have memory deficits that will be supported by using acronyms like PEMDAS and FOIL to remember the order of operations. One of the principles of Universal Design is to provide students with diverse learning styles with multiple and flexible methods of presenting information.
Q: I like some of the graphic organizers, but I want to display them in my own way (e.g. using circles instead of boxes, using textures instead of colors). Is it okay if I change how they look?
A: The graphic organizers used in the learning resources and in the training materials are examples of how to display algebra concepts graphically. Using different colors, shapes and textures is fine as long as you follow the guidelines for creating your own graphic organizers:
- The content of the organizer should be symbols, expressions, or equations, not words.
- The graphic display – the spatial arrangement of the mathematical elements – must support the information to be learned.
- Graphic organizers are not a substitute for instruction. The relationships shown in the graphic organizer should taught explicitly and connected to the graphic organizer.
Q: Why are there different pieces of information in these resources? Why are you using certain features (color, videos, activities, vocabulary definitions, pictures) in certain places?
A: The UD Algebra learning resources were designed with the principles of universal design and accessibility in mind. The three principles of Universal Design are:
- Provide multiple and flexible methods of presentation to students with diverse learning styles various ways of acquiring information and knowledge.
- Provide multiple and flexible means of expression to provide diverse students with alternatives for demonstrating what they have learned.
- Provide multiple and flexible means of engagement to tap into diverse learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.
By using colors, pictures, videos, and activities, we provide students with a variety of presentation modes through which they can learn algebra concepts. In addition, our learning resources are designed to make them easy to use by diverse groups of students. The learning resources are uncluttered, which cuts down on distractions for students. Some examples of the algebra concepts are hidden unless students choose to open them. Vocabulary definitions are hyperlinked to the vocabulary term, which allows students to access the definition without leaving the page to find it.
Q: If my students are already using an online system to learn about math concepts, will they be confused by using your resources?
A: Probably not. There are many online learning resources devoted to teaching algebra. If they are using an online system to complete homework and submit it, there shouldn’t be any confusion between that system and our learning resources. Our learning resources are designed and tested to be accessible to students of diverse learning styles and profiles. They are meant to be a resource for students to access when they are out of class and need some support and review when they are doing homework or want extra help and practice.
Q: When teaching students about different math rules and strategies, should we also teach them how these rules and strategies should not be used?
A: Teaching students what not to do is an excellent practice. Students benefit from seeing examples of frequent errors so that they can learn to avoid them.
Q: How can I encourage my students to engage with the resources?
A: In our experience, students will need to be directed to the online resources by their instructors in order to feel comfortable using them. We suggest that instructors introduce the learning resources to students in class. We have found that if the instructor assigns the students to visit the resources and evaluate them, then the students are more likely to revisit them in the future. This assignment serves two purposes. First, the students become familiar with the learning resources and their features. Second, students have an opportunity to reflect on what they find helpful in learning algebra. Research tells us that when students have some self-understanding about how they learn, they tend to become more engaged with their own learning.
Q: Are there students with LD in all courses? Do they self-disclose to the instructor?
A: Students with LD are entering college at rates higher than ever before. As a result, most college classes are likely to have students with LD enrolled in them. Students with LD are not required to disclose their diagnosis to their instructors. Some students may have been diagnosed with an LD prior to entering college, but they choose not to disclose that to their instructors. Other students may not have ever been diagnosed with an LD, so they aren’t aware that they have anything to disclose. Many of these students know that they have trouble learning, but they don’t know why this trouble persists. Many students with LD provide documentation of their LD diagnosis to the college’s office for students with disabilities and request accommodations. In this case, the student will provide you with a formal notice that requests certain accommodations.
Q: How can I help my students get important information into their long term memory?
A: In order to store information in long term memory, students need to process that information in various ways. When you present new information to your students, they won’t store it in long term memory at first. After you present them with new information, they need to practice using that information. You can provide them with in-class practice and give them lots of feedback on their performance. You can assign them homework, so that they have an opportunity to get independent practice. To learn a concept well enough to be stored in long term memory and retrieved automatically generally requires an additional step. Students need to demonstrate a deep understanding of the concept by explaining to others, applying the concept to problems, and solving problems quickly and accurately. In other words, instructors must provide opportunities for students to process new concepts at progressively deeper levels of understanding in order for students to retain the knowledge.
Q: How do I get my students to invest in their education? How can I promote their engagement and ownership of it?
A: Students tend to invest in their education when they see a connection between their personal goals and their education. Instructors can foster students’ ability to set goals and regulate their behavior through implementing some procedures and practices in their classes. Here are some beneficial practices that promote student independence and self-understanding.
- Communicate regularly with students. Set the expectation that they will communicate with you. Regular communication between students and their instructor helps them to monitor their progress and seek help when they need it.
- Build reflection activities into course assignments. Through regular self-assessments, students can evaluate what learning strategies work best for them.
- Make course expectations and requirements very clear. When students have a good understanding of what is expected of them, they are more likely to manage their coursework and seek help when they are in difficulty.