iCubed study participants were randomly assigned to receive one of the project’s five benefits (interventions), which were:
Community-based Study Groups – “Study with other students in your dorm or who also commute to UMBC”
Study groups represent a proven learning strategy that promotes a deeper understanding of concepts, increased academic achievement, and improved analytical and collaborative skills. Students assigned to this intervention received special support and encouragement to form, join, and sustain study groups during their freshman year. Dr. Tashauna Felix, the study group coordinator, sponsored various events throughout the academic year to assist students in establishing study groups, identifying study group members, finding study spaces, and addressing any study group challenges. These events helped participants meet other UMBC students majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields. Weekly office hours were held to provide time for students to meet one-on-one with the study group coordinator. Dr. Felix encouraged students to “Get Smarties™“ and form study groups. She could often be found with a basket of the wrapped candy treats and special bookmarks with her contact information.
Proactive Faculty Mentoring – “Direct mentoring from professors in your major”
The connection between highly accomplished faculty members in STEM disciplines and the students they mentor is a proven academic and career success strategy that was explored in the iCubed project. Students assigned to the Faculty Proactive Mentoring academic support initiative received mentoring by a UMBC faculty mentor with expertise in their declared majors. Faculty mentors held several group mentoring sessions over the academic year to provide students with a variety of strategies for success in the major. The academic progress of these students was monitored and students were encouraged to schedule one-on-one sessions with their mentors, as appropriate. Faculty members received administrative support from Dr. Tashauna Felix.
Staff Proactive Mentoring – “One-on-one guidance from professional staff specific to career goals”
The relationship between an experienced professional staff mentor and the STEM students she mentors was another academic success strategy that was explored in the iCubed project. Students assigned to the Staff Proactive Mentoring academic support initiative received support from Michelle Bulger, a professional life sciences advisor in the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. Like the faculty mentor initiative, Ms. Bulger held several group mentoring sessions over the academic year to provide students with a variety of strategies for academic success. The academic progress of these students was monitored and students were encouraged to schedule one-on-one sessions with their staff mentor, as appropriate.
Active Learning – “Enrollment in a special active learning math course”
Active learning instruction in foundational mathematics courses is an established academic success strategy that was explored through the iCubed project. Students assigned to the Active Learning initiative were to have one discussion section in the CNMS Active Science Teaching and Learning Environment (CASTLE) as part of a MATH 150, 151, 152, or 155 course. These discussion sessions were intended to challenge students to take an active role in practicing and mastering course content to improve their overall success in other STEM coursework.
Treatment as Usual – “$50 UMBC Bookstore Certificate”
Students selected for the iCubed “treatment as usual” group had the opportunity to receive a $50 gift card to the UMBC bookstore and had the opportunity to access existing UMBC programs that were available to all university freshmen.
All iCubed participants were asked to take an end-of-the-year survey about their first year activities at UMBC as part of the study.
Participants could opt out of the iCubed study at any time but they could not join the study after the fall semester began.
Advisors helped iCubed participants register for appropriate course sections in MATH 150, 151, 152, or 155 to protect the study’s integrity.
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