Math Placement and Preparation with ALEKS PPL

Accurate mathematics placement, effective preparation and instruction, and supportive communication are crucial for students' academic success and self-efficacy. Better understanding of the impact of avoidance, persistence, and informed commitment to academic goals (e.g., reluctance to reassess or enroll in a math course stemming from uncertainty about the placement process or courses) can inform interventions, particularly for historically underserved students.

In 2015, the UC Santa Cruz campus adopted the math placement and preparation system ALEKS PPL (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces, Placement, Preparation and Learning)The technical aspects of the transition to ALEKS were straightforward—the system is impressively plug-n-play—but the evolution of institutional perspectives and structures, and development of effective communication tools and techniques that encourage full student engagement with ALEKS, is an ongoing and challenging process.

Two years of experience with ALEKS PPL, supplemented by student surveys and interviews, guided the development of the UC Santa Cruz Math Coach, a "placement concierge" that provides clear, concise explanations of processes, requirements, and jargon; as-needed in-depth information about placement and first year math courses; advice and encouragement about placement and test-taking; and answers to common questions and points of confusion or uncertainty.

Student success funds were used to expand placement resources for students, improve the interface between incoming astudents and the UC Santa Cruz units involved in math instruction.

Earlier analyses of math placement focused on ALEKS PPL scores (0-100%) and placement tiers (100-500). ALEKS PPL reports eleven topic-level subscores (e.g. trig). Correlations between subscores, overall scores, prior academic experience, and future success can guide advising and instruction, and supplemental learning support. Statistical explorations of temporal data, including timing and duration of (re)assessment and ALEKS Learning Module work, time since last math course, and quarter of first UC Santa Cruz math course, and correlations between that data and placement, demographic, and course performance data, yield insights into student behaviors and opportunities to influence those behaviors so as to increase student success.

Self-reported information collected via student surveys can provide critical insights into student preparation, expectations, and concerns; combining this information with ALEKS and course data has revealed both points of concern and valuable opportunities to improve instruction and outreach.

Lead Contact Name: Debra Lewis
Lead Contact Email: lewis@ucsc.edu
Theme: Easing the Transition to College