Aligning Teaching Methods and Students Learning Needs: Active Learning vs Traditional Classrooms


Most students in the science and engineering programs start their university career by enrolling in the Calculus sequence. As in most universities also at the University of Pittsburgh this is a course with a large Drop-Fail-Withdraw (DFW)-rate.

This project seeks to find ways to improve upon this by personalizing the Calculus education: We will develop a group-work and active-learning based Calculus I course and use this as an experiment to investigate thoroughly what kinds of students thrive in which teaching environment.

The underlying goals of this project are

  • identifying key student characteristics which would make them more likely to succeed when taught with a particular method of teaching
  • eventually offering students different choices of teaching style, with recommendations based on their personal learning characteristics

In the long run, we envision having the ability to offer a variety of Calculus courses which have consistent learning goals, yet allow for different teaching approaches – while making reliable recommendations to new students which teaching methods would suit them best.


Ryan Alvarado
Dana Miller-Cotto