Supporting Engagement or Engaging Support?

Leanne Rylands, Don Shearman


The need for learning support in first year mathematics subjects in universities in Australia is increasing as student diversity increases. In this paper we study the use of learning support in a first year mathematics subject for which there is no assumed mathematics knowledge. Many students in this subject have a poor mathematics background, noticeably worse than five years previously. The interplay between learning support and engagement is found to be significant and the use of support can be used as a measure of engagement. The success of support is tied up with the success of engagement, making it difficult to measure the success of learning support. However student outcomes appear to be substantially improved through both mechanisms. We also highlight some concerns and consequences of the declining level of mathematics preparation of incoming students.

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