Tracey Kiser graduated in June 2016 from the University of California San Diego with a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Teaching and Learning. The only person in her family to graduate from college, Kiser is dedicated to closing the academic achievement gap for low-income students. “I am a living testimony for students who come from low-income families and neighborhoods infested with gangs, drugs and violence,” she said. “I want to show students that they can also change their situation and achieve their dreams.” Kiser has taught high school math for nine years, but it was teaching at a community college class that inspired her doctoral research. She realized she was teaching the same content in the college remedial math class that she taught in her high school classroom, and wondered why some of her college students were struggling.
Math is the number one predictor of whether or not a student will graduate so helping students succeed in math is critical. For her dissertation, Kiser focused on understanding student learning needs and how instructional practices address those needs. Kiser looked at strategies, such as providing tutors inside and outside of class and changing the classroom structure to include group work, rather than just a lecture. “The voices of students who are unsuccessful in developmental mathematics and faculty who are teaching developmental mathematics are needed to help build teaching and learning strategies that will maximize student learning needs, skills, equal access and student success,” she said. “Many students have a fixed mindset about math. It’s something they’ve always struggled with, so they assume they will continue to struggle,” said Kiser. “Working with professors to understand where students are coming from and teach in a way that promotes a positive growth mindset can make a big difference.” “My research as a graduate student has given me a foundation to stand on to really make a difference for students, and not just in math,” she said. Inducted in 2016 into the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, which recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement as well as leadership, service, and advocacy for underrepresented groups, Kiser plans to teach at the college level and continue working with students to help them succeed.