Deborah Howard, professor of mathematics

D HowardAnother in our series of endowed chairs.

Deborah Howard, professor of mathematics, is using her Lockheed Martin Chair in Mathematics to remove “barriers to success using mindset interventions.”

She says “Student success in gateway mathematics courses depends as much on attitudes and beliefs as it does on content knowledge. Many students believe that they are either inherently good or bad at math. Many claim they have had negative experiences with math by expressing two statements: ‘Math is useless in my life,’ and ‘I can’t do math.’”

She believes that implementing social-psychological interventions can empower students to overcome these barriers.

Professor Howard’s goal with the award is to build connections with external researchers with expertise in psychological interventions (i.e. mindset and utility value), so she can learn how to best train gateway math faculty to apply these interventions with Valencia’s gateway math students.

“Mindset research by Carol Dweck has found that by teaching people that the brain’s ability to grow and adapt—like a muscle—means that you can actually train it to improve intelligence and skill. This research has resulted in increased performance among students and closing of achievement gaps between race and ethnicity. Additionally, Chris Hulleman and his colleagues (Utility Value Study) have found that when students are asked to reflect on the usefulness of their class material, it actually increases their performance and interest in the course.”

She plans to bring in external researchers to work with her and other front door mathematics educators to learn together about how to make use of these strategies at Valencia. The researcher will work with Valencia’s team by collecting data, creating a continuous implement cycle on how and when they should deliver these interventions.

The opportunity to influence student outcomes (i.e. decreasing course drop rates, increasing math interest, and increasing gateway mathematics course success rates) through the researcher-practitioner collaboration will be the highlight of this project. “The mindset and utility value interventions will provide us with the opportunity to facilitate potentially life-changing psychological interventions for our Valencia front-door mathematics students. For me, the potential to help Valencia College mathematics students with the opportunity to overcome past academic / psychological barriers is the first step forward in their academic and life pursuits.”

Ms. Howard was born in Sanford, Florida, and received her MS in Mathematical Sciences from UCF. Married to Vince Howard, she has two daughters. She has been with Valencia’s math faculty since 1994. She teaches at the east campus.

 

For more information on the group grant, see also http://bit.ly/1T1W63z (Valencia college’s blog post on the grant itself.)

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