Development of Mathematical Pathways for VET Students to Articulate to Related Higher Education Courses: a Focus on Engineering
AbstractAustralia needs more qualified professionals in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas. The national focus on widening participation in higher education (HE) includes strengthening pathways from vocational education and training (VET). VET students often lack the mathematics skills necessary to articulate successfully to their chosen university degrees. Current approaches such as bridging and foundation mathematics programs are not tailored or sufficiently contextualised for VET articulants. This project is developing a mathematics pathway designed to improve the readiness of VET engineering diploma graduates for higher education study in engineering degree programs. Arrangements are flexible so that students can complete these pathways either as part of their engineering diploma as a VET student or as part of preparatory study at the diploma level at university. Many VET students are granted credit when entering a HE course in engineering and can transfer directly to second year units which may assume a level of mathematical knowledge by the university. However, in the VET Diploma of Engineering Technical (MEM50212), there is only one core unit in mathematics (MEM30012A) equivalent to year 9 level and there are two mathematics electives, MEM23004A and MEM23007A, which are part of the advanced diploma and often not taught by many TAFE providers due to student demand and staff capabilities. The lack of required mathematics often leaves the student with a large gap in the required knowledge for success in HE. The project has been underway for over a year and significant progress has been made in developing the pathway for engineering. To date, the mathematical knowledge outcomes from the VET courses have been mapped to the requirements of the HE courses at the University of Tasmania, Flinders University and James Cook University. Gaps in mathematical knowledge have been identified. A formal articulation agreement has been established through TasTAFE and the University of Tasmania where current VET students will be able to enroll in the university foundation mathematics units and receive credit towards their VET diploma in engineering. In addition to the foundation units, the students need to do an online component. This consists of a few compulsory topics which are not covered in the foundation units with supporting examples, practice problems, practical application and self-assessed quizzes for each mathematics topic covered in the foundation units, contextualised to engineering. VET students are applied learners and therefore often struggle with the transition to HE. The online component of the pathway is designed to support the student by providing the context to the mathematics they are learning. Another advantage of the pathway is that it exposes the VET students to HE units and the university environment while satisfying the university mathematics entry requirements.