Educational Master Plan (First Draft)

Throughout the course of the Fall Semester the Educational Master Plan will continue to evolve. The first draft was presented to the Yuba College Council in June.


Yuba College has very talented faculty, staff, and administrators.  Our employees update their professional skills and further their education every year.  Associate Professor Roger Davidson and Director Jan Ponticelli have provided information related to research projects that they have completed during the past two years.  This research is provided to set the stage for the Educational Master Plan, whose ultimate goal is to improve educational services and programs for students.

Motivating Students to Complete Homework
--Roger Davidson, Ph.D.
Yuba College Mathematics Department

Research shows that homework proficiency improves not only student success, but also decreases “math anxiety” in mathematics courses. So why do so few students regularly complete their homework? As part of Project ACCCESS with the American Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges (AMATYC), the author applied techniques to motivate students toward regular completion of homework in his mathematics classes and studied the results.

Students in mathematics courses, (particularly developmental courses such as college arithmetic, prealgebra, beginning algebra and intermediate algebra) do not typically engage in any or enough homework practice to gain proficiency in the subject matter of these courses. The goal of the author’s ongoing project is to improve student participation in regard to homework exercises or practice of academic material. While the techniques were developed for mathematics courses, they would be applicable or modifiable for use across a wide portion of the curriculum. Therefore educators seeking ideas for increasing student success in their courses are the intended audience for the presentation of the author’s results.

In the Spring semester of 2009, the author introduced a number of changes to his mathematics classes.  The goals of these changes were to:

  1. Strengthen the student perception that homework practice improves their odds of success in mathematics courses,
  2. Increase the portion of students in each class that regularly do their homework, and
  3. Increase student success rates.

Specifically, the author introduced a 2-page (now 3-page) handout in the Spring Semester 2009 that summarized research on brain/learning (Hestwood) and math anxiety (Peskoff), that he hoped would help inform students on how doing homework helps them succeed. The author quizzed his classes over this material early in the course to encourage them to digest the information. Throughout the course, he followed each exam by posting course averages of quartile groupings of students (based on the amount of homework successfully completed) – the purpose was to show students immediately how doing more homework was helping students in THEIR class succeed. He hoped each of these changes would increase the motivation of students to regularly complete their homework assignments.

To assess whether the “experiment” was successful, the author relied on both detailed data (linking student homework scores to student success) and on student feedback given at the end of the semester.  The author made changes to the initial handout just before the start of the Fall 2009 semester to incorporate student comments and summary data from the prior semester. In any experiment like this, where there are a great many variables and insufficient control groups, it is difficult to say with certainty if this project is a success. Certainly all the goals were met: 1) based on feedback from students, they do seem more aware about the need to do homework to learn mathematical concepts and processes, 2) the class average for homework completed improved, and 3) student success rates (for students who completed the course) rose by 20% from the levels in prior semesters. The  experiment” is promising enough that it continues.

Author Biography:
Dr. Roger Davidson received his doctorate in aerospace engineering and also holds degrees in electrical engineering, computer science and systems engineering. Before joining the mathematics faculty at Yuba College in 2007, he worked for diverse organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Walt Disney Company, and small startup companies where his career spanned activities from oceanographic research to executive management. In 2008, he was selected as a Fellow for Project ACCCESS: the national, two-year program of the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) which seeks to train new faculty in mathematics. Dr. Davidson serves on the Academic Senate of Yuba College, is a reviewer for The MathAMATYC Educator, and he is a member of both AMATYC and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

Community Colleges and Transformational Learning
-- Jan Ponticelli, Ph.D.
Yuba College DSPS/CalWORKS

“Education is not gulping down books here, but is transformational of the relationships between students, teacher, school, and society” (Freire, 1987).

In 2004, I returned to school to pursue a doctoral degree in Adult Learning and Leadership. What follows is directly related to my research and eventual degree completion.

Community colleges are institutions of learning that serve individuals over a lifetime. The history of community college recognizes the democratic core of serving students within an open access institution. As such, community colleges welcome first generation students, low income, under-represented populations of students such as ethnic/racial minorities and students with disabilities. They provide a beacon for equality and democracy where teaching and learning embody transformation of individual lives. 

Student Services in collaboration with Instruction assists students to apply their education in changing their own world as well as to use their knowledge in socially responsible ways. Student development practices assist students through various programs and supports to help them succeed while they are in college and after they leave. There is concerted effort by student service practitioners to assist students to begin to develop autonomy, self regulation, and competence intellectually and socially. Through an expanding knowledge base provided in the classroom, student services compliment the transformation of student lives. This metamorphosis is accomplished as professionals work with students to establish identity, purpose, worth and integrity as workers, family members and citizens.

It is within the framework that education is transformational and that student services plays an equal role in the business of teaching adult learners that I pursued doctoral research. The purpose of my study was to describe the characteristics of self-identified students with disabilities (SWD) attending community colleges in California and to examine selected variables that may be affecting their academic achievement.  The variables examined in my study were enrollment patterns and student service features of matriculation and financial aid where I used extant data from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

What I learned from my research was not earth shattering but highly consistent with current postsecondary practices; (a) Students’ who attended orientations, (b) received financial aid at higher rates, (c) took placement tests, and (d) met with support providers all had a positive relationship with SWD who transferred.  Major findings of my study reinforce the relationship of student class completion with passing grades in core courses. Secondly, students who were enrolled in at least nine units or more of degree applicable courses, and the proportion of units completed out of total number enrolled were all independent variables that had a relatively strong relationship with transfer. Perhaps most satisfying was the finding that SWD evidenced averages for transfer (5.8 years) with their non-disabled peers, and they completed associate degrees at the same rate as non-disabled students. This latter result is in contrast with national statistics indicating that students without disabilities were more likely to earn an associate’s degree (18 percent versus 7percent) than SWD.

What I have learned from my research and coursework in Adult Learning and Leadership:

  • At the core of their mission, community colleges provide for equal opportunity and access to postsecondary education and adult development intellectually, personally, and psychosocially
  • Research plays an integral role for informing educational leaders with respect to decision-making, adding to existing knowledge bases, and assessing the effectiveness of professional practice
  • Student Services is unequivocally an integral component of Instruction for student learning and character development
  • Adult learners have learning needs closely related to changing social roles and they learn best when able to build upon existing knowledge and experience
  • The consummate community college professional must continue to learn and maintain responsive, cooperative relationships that nurture the diversity of the students we serve

Education matters. It is at the center of transforming lives.

Author Biography
Dr. Jan Ponticelli has published her research in the peer-reviewed Journal of “Exceptionality.”  She has recently been invited to be the editor of the California Association of Postsecondary Education and Disability professional publication “The Communique.” Dr. Ponticelli began her career in the K-12 system where she taught students who are deaf and young adults with learning disabilities. She has also held teaching positions at the California State University, Sacramento, Oregon State University, and within the California Community College system. During her tenure at Yuba College she has presented guest lectures to several northern California community colleges on topics of Social Justice and Disability, Motivating the Unconventional Learner, Student Learning Outcomes, and Transitioning Students with Disabilities into Postsecondary Education.