Alignment in Students, Teaching Assistants, and Instructors on the Purpose and Practice of Calculus I Labs
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While national attention has been focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates, calculus remains a roadblock into the STEM pipeline. With only half of the students succeeding in a Calculus I course, research is needed to investigate how to improve the success rate and the educational experience of students. Some research suggests that using a lab component could enhance the students’ experience and aid with retaining STEM majors. The purpose of this mixed methods case study was to determine what the purpose of the lab component is according to students, teaching assistants (TAs), and instructors taking part in a Calculus I course. Furthermore, the study investigated how the views of the purpose were aligned or misaligned among the participants and if these views were aligned with the observed practice of the lab. The results indicate that the purpose of lab varied among students, TAs, and instructors especially among the different sections. Only two out of ten sections had a strong alignment in views among the three groups. When comparing the views with the practice, all three of the observed labs had evidence of misalignment. Based on interviews with the TAs, poor communication with the instructor and lack of preparation could affect the alignment of views and the alignment of views with practice. This study provides insight into how students, TAs, and instructors affect the structure of a lab classroom and discusses implications for departmental decisions regarding policy and preparation of instructors and TAs.