Summer school versus term-time for fundamental mathematics at the tertiary level

David Easdown, George Papadopoulos and Collin Zheng


In a study from 2008 to 2009, academics at the University of Sydney initiated the gathering and preliminary analysis of qualitative and quantitative evidence, supporting the claim that students undertaking first year mathematics units of study achieve superior learning outcomes, and experience higher overall course satisfaction, by completing units at summer school rather than during term-time. This article includes a follow-up study, focusing on two fundamental mathematics units of study taken by students at the University of Sydney over the period 2007 to 2014. We consider the relative performance of students who failed one or both of these units in term-time and then attempted the unit or units again at the Sydney Summer School. The median increase in numerical grades, in the order of ten to fifteen percentage points, appears to be significant, and often translates, in individual cases, to one or more qualitative leaps upwards, from superficial towards deep learning, in terms of phases in the SOLO taxonomy, or in terms of successful navigation through liminal space, in the theory of threshold concepts.

Keywords: tertiary mathematics education, summer school, term-time, fundamental mathematics.

AMS Subject Classification: Primary 97C70; secondary 97C30, 97D40.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019