Addressing discrepancies between assumed, expected and actual levels of mathematical competencies: A learning design model of networked partnerships

Iwona Czaplinski, Dann Mallet, Henk Huijser


Curriculum design in higher education is facing the challenge of satisfying increasing industry demands while preparing commencing students to become content specialists and autonomous learners. First-year curriculum design is the pivotal point for the entire degree and issues encountered there impact throughout the degree. A key issue at the first year level is commencing students’ perceived low levels of preparedness in mathematical knowledge. However, this raises a question of whether a gap exists between levels of knowledge formally assumed, expected by academics, and actually held by students.

This exploratory study therefore investigated academics’ perceptions of commencing students’ mathematics preparedness for studying a Science degree. Single-case study methodology was applied and focus groups were conducted with academics teaching a first year mathematics unit. The data, through inductive content analysis, revealed important discrepancies between assumed, expected and actual knowledge of commencing students. Analysis of the data through theoretical lenses of learning networks and microcultures then led us to develop a learning design model of networked partnerships between academics, industry, students and teachers.

We argue that our model, through collaboration between the above-mentioned stakeholders, and based on the principle of networked partnerships, has the potential to effectively influence the learning outcomes throughout the degree.


curriculum & learning design, teachers as partners, First Year Experience, preparedness level in mathematics, science, learning design model of networked partnerships

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