What to do ... you need to do a 'redesign' of your developmental math program, perhaps after faculty discussions -- or you have been 'directed' (or suggested) to undertake such a change. What do our professional standards say about what you do?

The easy route is to use a process-based redesign (emporium or buffet models, for example). The attractiveness of these models is easy to grasp; they provide a known process with results in the near future (1 to 2 years).

Why would a college not want to follow these models?

First of all, be aware of the goals identified by these redesign models (emporium, buffet, etc). The primary goals relate to course completion rates and program costs. The assumption entering the process is that our courses provide appropriate content. Although all of us seek higher pass rates, such a redesign does not answer a basic question: Are our developmental courses designed to benefit our students? More about this later.

Secondly, these models (emporium, buffet, etc) shift the instructional design towards individual student work. In many ways, this is a strength (after all, learning needs are unique to each person). However, our professional standards (Beyond Crossroads, for example) call for us to use a variety of instructional methodologies ... including collaborative learning. Some implementations of these models have managed to keep face-to-face class time ... this is the exception.

Thirdly, these models (emporium, buffet, etc) tend to focus on assessment of discrete procedural skills. Deeper learning and problem solving are not generally emphasized. Given the priority given to technology-based instruction and cost-reduction, we would expect this type of approach. Frequently, these models are predicated on a modular design ... stand-alone chunks, sequenced and packaged to form 'courses'; connections and "seeing the big picture" are very difficult to achieve in this type of delivery. Again, is this what our students need from their developmental math course?

What does "New Life" have to offer that is better?

The New Life model begins with the question of what our students need. In the history of our profession, we have not actually addressed this question ... it's been more a matter of "what does the student not know -- what gaps from school mathematics are there"?

The New Life model then suggests that we can build effective instruction by connecting sound theory (and research) with classroom practices. Certainly, computer-based instruction is effective at achieving certain types of outcomes. However, "learning experts" also know how other instructional methods can be effective at other types of outcomes ... problem solving, communicating, attitudes, motivation, and others.

The New Life model is based on academic professionals building a curriculum to meet their students needs. We suggest that our students need to see bodies of mathematics as connected in various ways ... and we believe that our students are capable of developing this deeper body of knowledge. Inspiration has a place in our classrooms, for both our students and ourselves. The student learning outcomes are based on the input of faculty in other disciplines as well as the needs of "STEM" mathematics.


Quick Comparison Chart:
Redesign Models (emporium, buffet, etc)
New Life Model
Emphasis on delivery system
Curricular model
Problem Focus: Completion rates; costs
Problem Focus: Student needs; completion rates
Procedural skill focus (traditional)
Diverse levels of outcomes
Current content usually maintained
New content developed, based on student needs


Do our professional standards suggest which approach we should take?

The AMATYC Beyond Crossroads standards focus on the "Implementation Cycle" (http://beyondcrossroads.amatyc.org/doc/CH3.html). The beginning step in this cycle is "Define/Refine Goals and Objectives". With the redesign models (emporium, buffet, etc) these goals & objectives are the existing course content; with New Life, these goals & objectives are "student mathematical needs". The redesign models focus on the micro level of content within a course, while New Life addresses the macro level of what benefits the student should get from the course.

The AMATYC Beyond Crossroads standards call us to address quantitative literacy (http://beyondcrossroads.amatyc.org/doc/CH6.html). Although the existing developmental mathematics curriculum addresses some components of quantitative literacy, the focus is heavily skewed towards a few components. The New Life model provides student learning outcomes for a broader range of literacy, including multiple representations, proportional reasoning, and problem solving.

For developmental mathematics in particular, our standards (Beyond Crossroads, pg 42) provide an implementation recommendation that can guide our work:
"Mathematics departments will design and offer developmental mathematics courses that prepare students for the workplace and build mathematical
skills needed for informed citizenship and success in a variety of academic and career paths."
The New Life student learning outcomes provide this preparation.

The Beyond Crossroads standards include (page 49) the statement that faculty should "lead the periodic review and revision of an up-to-date curriculum"
When using one of the redesign models (emporium, buffet, etc), we are mostly packaging the existing curriculum in a different way. The existing curriculum has been in place for decades, with minimal changes of substance. The New Life model is an opportunity to revise our curriculum so that it is 'up-to-date'.

These redesign models do not update the basic curriculum; the New Life model begins with the basic curriculum. For those who use these redesign models, there will still be a need to update the curriculum in the future. Our professional judgment is that we should first design a curriculum that serves our students ... and then develop the appropriate pedagogy (including technology) to ensure high pass rates as well as student attainment of their credentials.


Use the links in the left column to explore the New Life ideas -- and we welcome you to our community!!