Slipping between the cracks? Maximising the effectiveness of prerequisite paths in UTS Maths degrees

Stephen Woodcock, Stephen Bush


As with almost all degree programs at major Australian universities, the courses offered by the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney consist of a number of individual subjects which together form several prerequisite paths. That is, certain subjects must be successfully completed by students before they may enrol in more advanced subjects in the same broad academic area. This attempts to ensure that those entering later subjects have the sufficient prior knowledge to succeed in their enrolled subjects. While this model is largely successful, it does have one potential 'loophole'. The minimum mark to pass a subject is 50%, meaning that students can potentially complete a prerequisite subject and advance through their course while demonstrating understanding of only half of the prior material. The implications of applying this pass criterion are generally poorly understood and little quantitative work has been undertaken to assess its efficiency and effectiveness. Here, we present quantitative analyses of recent (2008--2013) subject results and discuss a number of possible concerns and issues that these highlight. Furthermore, we draw conclusions and propose several future initiatives which are being used to inform future practice within the school, both in terms of subject development and assessment and also in providing targeted additional support to students whose prior subject performances suggest they may be at risk of future failure.



Mathematics Education

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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.