FYiMaths Network: Supporting Learning and Teaching in First Year University Mathematics

Deborah KING
The University of Melbourne, Australia
dmking@unimelb.edu.au

Joann CATTLIN
The University of Melbourne, Australia
joann.cattlin@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

The role of an academic teaching in first year university mathematics is extremely varied, frequently including responsibilities like subject coordination, curriculum design, student administration and staff management. It is often a role with no position description or official authority, yet those in the role are responsible for making key decisions that impact on hundreds of students in their first year of science, business, engineering and health sciences degrees. The challenges of teaching mathematics in first year are many, due in large part to the diversity of student preparation, background and career aspirations.

We report on the early findings of a project to build the leadership capacity of these academics. Based on interviews conducted with 36 academics from 22 universities across Australia, involved in teaching and coordinating first year university mathematics, we found that while leadership and management are a significant part of their role, incumbents are underprepared professionally, have heavy administrative/ managerial workloads and lack the ability to explore and implement change due to absence of positional authority. Data collection involved a desktop search and mapping of Australian undergraduate mathematics programs and thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews. We found that academics feel coordination roles are often detrimental to their academic careers and are undervalued by their institution, despite their pivotal role in influencing student retention and teaching quality.

Our project is developing a supportive network of practice based on mentoring opportunities, professional development workshops and resources aimed at building the leadership skills of first year mathematics coordinators and facilitating reflection on shared practices.

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