Transitioning Learners to Calculus in Community Colleges (TLC3): Advancing Strategies for Success in STEM

This project has been completed and is no longer active.
However, we hope you are able to utilize its resources.

Transitioning Learners to Calculus in Community Colleges (TLC3) is a research project aimed at transforming institutional approaches to matriculating STEM majors into and through Calculus II in community colleges. This Institutional and Community Transformation Development and Implementation project focuses on the 948 public associate degree-granting institutions (hereafter referred to as community colleges) in the nation. These institutions are crucial to meeting the demand for STEM talent in the U.S. and overwhelmingly serve as the primary pathway into postsecondary education for historically underserved students, particularly racial minority (URM) students. Specifically in this study, URM refers to Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander students. Although URM students are overrepresented in community colleges, they are underrepresented among STEM majors at these institutions. Thus, given demographic shifts in the U.S., there is an acute need to transition more URM students into, through, and out of the Developmental to Pre-calculus to Calculus II (DPC2) sequence in community colleges.

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The broader goal of this study is to build and test theoretical models that predict URM student success in the DPC2 sequence based on programs, structures, and instructional strategies in successful programs. We seek to explicate the nature of student progression toward higher-level math, by identifying factors contributing to URMs success at different levels of the DPC2 sequence, understanding the various transition points within DPC2, and how students’ background characteristics and perceptions of the community college environment impact their transitions. We will develop models that are sensitive to the unique structures of institutions designated as minority serving (MSI) and non-MSI. MSI designations are: (1) predominately Black institutions (PBIs) and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), (2) Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), (3) Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and (4) Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).

This project has a strong commitment to broadening participation in STEM by understanding the experiences of diverse populations with the specific focus on URM. The greatest impact will undoubtedly involve supporting improvements to DPC2 that aim at increasing the diversity of the nation’s STEM force. The project will engineer a positive feedback loop between research and practical efforts to improve DPC2 sequences across the country. This project has an enhanced likelihood of having far-reaching impact because the research team includes scholars from different disciplinary orientations (e.g., mathematics, social science, higher education) who can leverage their expertise to heighten the transferability and rigor of this research. Finally, traditional dissemination efforts will actively draw upon the resources and reach of the researchers and advisory board members to distribute findings broadly to the entire collegiate mathematics community. This collaboration is integral to enhancing student outcomes as recommendations focused on educators are the most likely to be scalable and within the locus of control of institutional affiliates.


TLC3 gathers a team of higher education researchers, mathematicians, math educators, evaluators, and graduate students in higher education and mathematics education to understand the features that make a program in mathematics successful for STEM URMs at community colleges. These various perspectives enrich our understanding and help in focusing on several dimensions of the phenomenon that have traditionally been studied in isolation (e.g., persistence, retention) or not investigated at all (e.g., instruction).

Principal Investigators
  • Helen Burn, Highline Community College (Award Number 1625918)
  • Vilma Mesa, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (Award Number 1625387)
  • J. Luke Wood, San Diego State University (Award Number 1625946)
  • Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Award Number 1625891)​

Research Associates

  • Darielle Blevins, San Diego State University
  • Anne Cawley, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • Nexi R. Delgado, San Diego State University
  • Michelle Samet, University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamaign
  • Chauntee Thrill, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Soua Xiong, San Diego State University

Soko Starobin, Ph.D., External Evaluator

Research Questions

The TLC3 study will answer the following guiding research questions.

  1. What types of programs, structures, and instructional strategies are community colleges currently implementing in the Developmental to Pre-calculus to Calculus II sequence?
  2. What are the effects (if any) of these programs, structures, and instructional strategies on URM students’ success in the Developmental to Pre-calculus to Calculus II sequence?

TLC3 Resources

TLC3 Institutional Self-Assessment Tool for Equity Practices in the STEM Math Pathway

TLC3 acknowledges the mathematics of curriculum as a white space that contributes to inequitable educational outcomes for racially minoritized students, particularly for underrepresented racially minoritized (URM) students seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Discover the TLC3 Institutional Self-Assessment Tool, which provides a validated set of practices that can be used to identify and remove barriers for URM students in the areas of initial math placement, STEM math pathway courses, instruction, student support, and institutional responsibility.


Transparency in Dimensions of Success in Minority Serving Community Colleges

Presentation Slides

Presented at the 2019 American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges 

November 2019


The Utilities of Local Data in STEM Pathways: Exploring African American Student Placement, Course Taking, and Engagement at a PBI

Presentation Slides

Presented at the 2019 Richland College MSI Convening 

October 18-19, 2019


Mathematics as Whiteness: Deconstructing Interest Convergence and Institutional Culture in Community Colleges

Presentation Slides

Presented at the 2019 Council for the Study of Community Colleges Conference 

March 28-30, 2019


Programs, Structures, and Instructional Strategies that Facilitate Diverse Learners Transitioning to and through Calculus in Two-Year Colleges

Presentation Slides

Presented at the 2018 Joint Mathematics Meetings San Diego, California 

January 13, 2018


Observing Teaching in a Field of Whiteness: An Instrument that Assesses Community College Mathematics Instruction at Minority Serving Institutions

Presentation Slides

Presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education 

November 16, 2018

TLC3 Podcasts

Curricular Readiness in Math and Curricular Alignment

In this episode, OCCRL Director Eboni Zamani-Gallaher talks with Dr. Ann Edwards about college readiness in math and about curricular alignment. They also discuss issues related to placement and developmental mathematics courses, guided pathways, math pathways, and student participation in STEM.

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.




Asset Based Approaches to Developmental Education

Asif WilsonIn this episode, Chauntee Thrill at OCCRL talks with Dr. Asif Wilson, associate dean of instruction at Harold Washington College, about asset-based approaches to developmental education.

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.




Equity-Minded Approaches to Mathematics Education

Dr. Tatiana MelguizoIn this episode, Dr. Vilma Mesa, associate professor of education at the University of Michigan, talks with Dr. Tatiana Melguizo, associate professor at the University of Southern California, about equity-minded approaches to mathematics education.

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.




Responsive Mathematics Pedagogy

Dr. Jennifer BanksIn this episode, Chauntee Thrill talks with Dr. Jennifer Banks, coordinator of mathematics and science at Washtenaw Intermediate School District, about responsive mathematics pedagogy.

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.

Additional Resource:



Equity in Mathematics Education

Dr. George ReeseIn this episode, Dr. Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher from OCCRL talks with Dr. George Reese the director of Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign about equity in mathematics education. 

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.




Additional Resources:

Equity-Minded Approaches to Mathematics Education

Dr. Helen BurnIn this episode, Dr. Heather Fox from OCCRL talks with Dr. Helen Burn, a mathematics professor and Director of the Curriculum Research Group at Highland College, about equity-minded approaches to mathematics education.

Listen to the podcast.

Read the transcript.




TLC3 Webinar

Relational Strategies and Promising Practices in Math Instruction

Relational Strategies and Promising Practices in Math Instruction

Presented March 4, 2019

Webinar Recording

Relational strategies and promising practices such as validation, reception, appropriate disclosure, cultural relevance, and performance monitoring can improve the success of historically underserved or underrepresented students in your classroom (Wood, Harris III, and White, 2015). This webinar explains these practices and provides examples of how faculty of four Minority-Serving Community Colleges incorporated them in classrooms observed in the Transitioning Learners to Calculus in Community Colleges project (NSF IUSE 1625918). The webinar will be of most interest to mathematics instructors, but the content is also relevant to anyone who mentors mathematics faculty or offers faculty professional development.

Additional Resource:


math faculty at table with card with the word change

Professional Development Needs of Community College MathFaculty

Presented September 13, 2017

Webinar Recording

This webinar presents findings from a recent analysis of professional development needs among community college math faculty. Data in this presentation was derived from the Community College Instructional Development Inventory (CCIDI). This inventory is designed to identify areas in need for professional development for college faculty. A special sampling of the CCIDI was conducted as part of the Transitioning Learners to Calculus (TLC3) grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This webinar focused on a subset of data that addresses the unique disciplinary needs for professional development in mathematics that can improve educational outcomes for underserved students of color.

Voices and Viewpoints

Third Webinar in Series Discusses Three Cases for Fostering Challenging Conversations

by Lauren Provencher / Aug 14, 2020

Toward the end of July, Dr. Shandy Hauk, an associate professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University, presented her team’s recent project in the final webinar of OCCRL’s Pathways Collaborative series, “Carnegie Mathematics Pathways Video Cases: Making the Path by Walking It.”

The project centered around three cases developed by Hauk and her colleagues at Carnegie Math Pathways (housed at WestEd), which serve as instructional tools for instructors and administrators. The goal was to enable challenging conversations about equity.

After outlining the objectives of the project, Hauk emphasized the importance of having these difficult conversations that encourage participants to think critically about equitable policies and practices.

“One of the challenges about equity is that it’s a lot easier to identify inequity than it is to identify equity,” she said.

The video case activities contained a preview prompt for participants to think about real-life video clips of college classrooms across the country, followed by discussion questions, a reflection activity, and extension exercises.

Along with fostering what can be sometimes uncomfortable discussions, the cases also strove to decenter instructors and administrators. Hauk explained this as these individuals identifying when they are being egocentric and purposefully moving to “ego and ethno-relativism.” The cases allowed participants to practice the acknowledgement of inequitable practices, notice their actions, and take accountability for those actions as well as their outcomes.

Hauk and her team utilized two tools as a guide to facilitate discussions about the cases. The first tool entailed four agreements for participants to remember while having these conversations: stay engaged, expect to experience discomfort, speak your truth, and expect and accept a lack of closure.

While the discussions did not explicitly fix the problems at hand, they created awareness and agency among the participants.

“We are not going to right all wrongs in one 1-hour meeting, and so, the goal is let’s open up the door to see what’s going on,” Hauk said.

The second tool was a self-awareness tool developed during the project. Hauk’s team created a Venn diagram with three categories: safe, comfortable, and brave. Throughout the discussion, participants were able to put a dot on which feeling they felt most. Although this was as simple as a dot on paper or on the screen, it enabled participants to reveal their truths to others, according to Hauk.

She then began describing the specific cases. The first, “First Impressions Last,” encouraged participants to notice and build awareness of instructional intentions and student perceptions on the first day of class.

This video case activity focused on two questions from the students’ perspectives: 1) How will my/our thinking of students be included in classroom activity? And 2) How will instruction respond to my/our ideas and help people think more deeply?

Hauk and her team used an “alternate-lens” technique for this case activity. She explained this as decentering administrators and faculty by using the students’ viewpoints.

Similarly, the second case titled “Whose Math Is It?” took the student point of view but was centered on participation. Hauk identified the important questions for this case, which revolved around how students could participate in math learning in meaningful ways, how they could stay engaged, and how they could hide or be ignored in class.

For this video case activity, Hauk’s team used deconstruction. For example, some of the video clips they showed to participants were revealed first in audio format only, then in visual format with no audio, and then in both audio and video format. This allowed attendees to acknowledge and understand the different perspectives of learning situations in the classroom.

In a different fashion compared to the first two case studies, the final one, “Making the Grade,” focused on the instructor-learner perspectives. The goals were to build awareness of inequities regarding assessment, grades, and grading.

Hauk explained this was a difficult conversation to have for many participants, since many people possess strong practices and habits they haven’t thought about changing. Therefore, the technique they assumed for this case was “make strange.” She and her team identified commonalities and assumptions among the participants and questioned why they were beneficial.

“People often haven’t recently thought about why it might be a good thing and, maybe, begin to question its relevance or value,” Hauk said.

For this case, she showed approximately 10 minutes of the video clips from the discussions. It was interesting to see how the video case activity was used and how it really encouraged open discussion.

It was interesting to see how the video case activity was used and how it really encouraged open discussion.

The preview question for the instructors in this case was to consider if two students receive the same grade in their class, what is the same about them? Hauk said instructors often find this question difficult to answer, and her team actually found more success by offering this activity in an online format because of it.

This portion of the webinar was followed by video clips of a weekly seminar of teachers and their assistants, an activity that showed the correlation between in-classroom efforts and grades. During the subsequent discussion, attendees offered wide-ranging perspectives on the topic.

As part of the case, Hauk then asked participants to answer discussion questions about the video clips that would incite critical thinking about the topics. After a reflection activity, she included a monitor progress exercise, offering ways for instructors to continue to think intentionally about their practices and stay accountable by doing things such as polling students to understand their perspectives.

Although the three cases Hauk discussed have different goals, research has shown that video case activities increase the practice of noticing, meta-cognitive rehearsal, and self-agency.

Watch the webinar


Read Provencher’s other blogs covering the Pathways Collaborative webinar series:

OCCRL Webinar Analyzes Three Community Colleges’ Approaches to Equity"
Webinar Shares Tools for Reducing Inequitable Student Outcomes

TLC3 Publications

Mathematics Placement, Courses, and Use of Local Data in the STEM Mathematics Pathway in Predominately Black Institutions

This article focuses on mathematics placement, STEM mathematics pathway courses, and the use of local data, all factors that can have a disproportionate impact on students of color.

June 2020

Read the article.

Transitioning STEM Learners to Calculus: Findings from a National Survey of Mathematics Chairs in Two-Year Colleges by Hispanic-Serving Institutional Designation

This article presents findings from a national survey of mathematics department chairs in associate degree-granting colleges, disaggregated by Hispanic-serving institutional (HSI) status.

March 2019

Read the article.

National Survey of Community College Mathematics Chairs Technical Report and Summary

This report focuses on a national survey of community college mathematics department chairs conducted by the TLC3 research team during 2017 (TLC3 National Survey).

August 30, 2018

Read the report.

All Publications ›

Support for this work is provided by the National Science Foundation's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program under Awards 1625918, 1625387, 1625946, 1625891. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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