Original Research

Exploring boot camps for ‘gatekeeper’ service courses in mathematics

Anita Campbell
Pythagoras | Vol 36, No 2 | a298 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v36i2.298 | © 2015 Anita Campbell | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 April 2015 | Published: 24 November 2015


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Abstract

Pressure to increase the throughput of university students in ethical ways has been a catalyst for innovations to improve learning and student success. Student dropout occurs mostly in the first year of study and poor performance is a major contributor to dropout even if the underlying reason for the poor performance is not academic under-preparedness. This article discusses the design and implementation of a mathematics tutored reassessment programme (TRP or ‘boot camp’) to improve the pass rate of students writing supplementary examinations for first year engineering mathematics. Interviews with students and tutors suggest that the TRP cultivated positive affective changes in students. A notable result from this case study was that students who qualified for a reassessment with marks in the range 40%–44% (and who would not normally have been granted a supplementary examination) outperformed students qualifying with marks of 45%–49%, for whom attendance at the TRP was optional. Theoretical motivations for five principles guiding the design of the TRP are discussed.

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