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UTA educators developing competency-based online course to help math teachers better teach geometry students

Thursday, April 28, 2016 • Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

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Two University of Texas at Arlington researchers are developing a competency-based online, graduate-level course that will help math teachers more effectively learn to teach conceptual geometry by measuring their competencies throughout the course

Joohi Lee, l, Mohan Pant, r, of the College of Education.

Joohi Lee and Mohan Pant, both of the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said the competency-based learning course will enable educators to master targeted academic knowledge and skills at their own pace.

The work is supported by a grant from Dallas-based online education company Academic Partnerships. The UTA team launched the pilot phase of the study, “Competency-Based Learning: Developing a Competency-Based Geometry Methods Course (A Two-Year Longitudinal Study),” this spring semester. The researchers are to request funding for a second year to help evaluate the efficacy of the fully developed course. Through this longitudinal study, the researchers intend to gain a better understanding of competency-based learning as well as its viability and effectiveness.

“Competency-based learning is an efficient approach to allow students to learn and to show their competencies at their own pace, focusing on what they know and what they are able to do,” said Lee, associate professor of the Early Childhood-6/English as a Second Language program and coordinator of the EC-6/ESL Program. “Once students meet expected outcomes, they can move forward to the next module without wasting time waiting for the following week.”

The U.S. Department of Education has actively encouraged higher education institutions to offer competency-based programs for efficient student learning. The UTA team’s project focuses on what students know and can do instead of on what is taught. The primary goal is to identify the specific competencies that students should learn and be able to do in order to meet targeted expectations. This allows students to move forward as soon as they have demonstrated competencies showing their mastery of expectations.

John Smith, interim dean of the College of Education, said that a variety of instructional formats can provide students with increased opportunities to learn and apply course content. Lee and Pant’s research is aligned with the University’s commitment to cultivate data-driven discovery, a core theme of the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“These new materials being developed by Drs. Lee and Pant will give geometry instructors or math teacher educators additional tools to consider in their instructional repertoire,” Smith said. “With these tools, students will be able to acquire geometry skills at their own speed."

For the study, Lee and Pant will use a pre-experimental research design (e.g., measuring students’ perceptions of competency-based learning before and after taking the CBL course) to evaluate the effectiveness of implementing a competency-based learning course. They will also use a growth model for this two-year longitudinal study by measuring students’ perceptions of competency-based learning.

“We will apply a cross-sectional research design by measuring students’ perceptions in Year 1 and Year 2. At the end of year two, we will analyze the data collected from both years,” said Pant, an expert in research methodology.

David Gardner, deputy commissioner for Academic Planning and Policy/Chief Academic Officer for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, congratulated Lee and Pant on their grant and applauded the research.

“What Drs. Lee and Pant are doing through the College of Education is tremendous as it could lead to more efficient student learning,” Gardner said. “Many professions require at least a foundational understanding of geometrical principles and to explain events occurring within the natural world. When students have better understanding in critical areas such as mathematics, it leads to demonstrated competencies and an increase in educational and workforce opportunities.”

Garner added that the team’s efforts are in line with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60x30TX plan focused on increasing college completion rates in response to Texas’ need to meet the workforce demands. The overarching goal is that at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have a certificate or degree by 2030. In partnership with the THECB, UTA hosted the first North Texas gathering to begin the conversation about how to achieve the goals. Watch the video here.

About the College of Education

The College of Education is fully accredited through the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and in 2006 became the first College of Education within the UT System to receive accreditation through the prestigious National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. The college currently offers bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees through Departments of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Visit to learn more.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 52,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in the University of Texas system. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at