Case Studies – Summaries & Links

November 25th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Summaries & Links No Responses

Australian Case Studies

Curtin University

The Curtin Case Study gives an overall view of the Bachelor of Science. In the BSc students choose from four structured programs for first year, which prepare them for a broad area of study without locking them into one particular discipline.

James Cook University (JCU)

The JCU Case Study focuses on the Marine Biology major in either the BSc. The BSc program features great flexibility that makes defining the critical pathway for building QS quite challenging. JCU has developed an integrated first year QS unit for all science students that involves collaboration across mathematics and science departments.

La Trobe University

The La Trobe Case Study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences in either the BSc or the BBiolSc. The flexible nature of the degree program, especially in the second and third years, enables students to mix and match thus making it difficult to identify the “QS pathways” within the majors.

Macquarie University

The Macquarie Case Study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences. The Biological Sciences majors incorporate QS into many units, as evidenced by the curriculum mapping documentation which articulates what QS are needed and which units include them across the degree program.

Monash University

The Monash Case Study focuses on major in Biological Sciences in the BSc.  QS are expected to be embedded from first year. However, the flexible nature of the degree program, especially in the second year enables students to mix and match.

University of Melbourne 

The Melbourne Case Study focuses on two degree programs: the BSc with a focus on the Biological Sciences majors and the Bachelor of Biomedicine. Both programs provide good QS foundation in first year but offer flexibility in second and third years that blurs the QS critical pathway.

University of Sydney

 The University of Sydney Case Study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences. The Biological Sciences majors can build on the mathematical and statistical knowledge provided in the compulsory level one units. However, this program features flexibility, especially in the second and third years that enables students to mix and match.

University of Queensland (UQ)

The UQ Case Study focuses on the Biomedical Sciences major in the BSc. The BSc requires a calculus-based entry unit (Maths B).  The Biomedical Sciences major recommends a common first year for students  then includes some core units with greater flexibility in upper levels of study.

University of Western Sydney (UWS)

The UWS Case Study focuses on the Chemistry major in the BSc.  This major offers students a choice between two calculus based mathematics units at the first year level. This knowledge is built upon in varying degrees in the subsequent chemistry units that are compulsory.

Wollongong University

The Wollongong Case Study focuses on Bachelor of Science majors in the Biological Sciences. In this majors QS are embedded within level 1 discipline units, progresses through a level 2 statistics unit followed by the embedding of QS components in level 3 biological sciences units.


USA Case Studies

James Madison University  (JMU)

The JMU Case Study focuses on the Biology major   which offers considerable QS structure in the first two years of the program.  The final two years provide students greater flexibility. Interestingly, JMU has a well-developed program of evaluation, a weakness of universities that have been covered by the QS in Science project.

University of Maryland (UMD)

The UMD Case Study focuses on  Biological Sciences major where strategies to embed mathematical and statistical content into units are across  four years of study and included: creation of a series of online modules, MathBench, development of a highly quantitative biology unit, and an upper-level mathematical biology unit.

 

La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia)

September 18th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Case Studies, La Trobe University No Responses

Print Version_La Trobe Case Study_Sept2011

La Trobe University is a multi campus university based in the state of Victoria, Australia with approximately 30,000 students enrolled across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs.  Established in 1967, La Trobe is a member of the Innovative Research Universities, a consortium of seven universities across Australia.

 

Science at La Trobe: The Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering offers a Bachelor of Science (BSc) program with 20 majors.   The program has an average annual intake of 250 students. The entry requirement for the BSc at the Melbourne campus is an ATAR of 65 (admissions ranking from 0-100, with 100 the highest rank). The Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering also offers a Bachelor of Biological Sciences (BBiolSc) program with 11 majors. The program has an average annual intake of 600 students. The entry requirement for the BBiolSc at the Melbourne campus is an ATAR of 51. The Faculty offers an extensive range of named degrees in science, technology and engineering, however these do not form part of this case study.

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: The BSc requires Mathematical Methods (Calculus-based high school subject). The BBiolSc has no mathematics prerequisite from secondary school.

The La Trobe case study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences (in either the BSc or the BBiolSc), and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At the institutional level the Design for Learning project spawned university wide review of curriculum.

This provided the opportunity for a review of both the BSc and BBiolSc degrees, which prompted discussion by academics in the biological sciences regarding the skills expected of graduates and documentation of the often weak quantitative skills (QS) with which students entered third year units in these disciplines.  Similarly there was a perception amongst staff that the standard of QS in the first year cohort was dropping.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

La Trobe University has six institution-wide graduate capabilities.

The Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology has developed its own set of graduate capabilities for programs in science with quantitative literacy listed as one of the extra capabilities for its students. Within the Biological Sciences, specific majors have begun listing QS specific 3rd level learning outcomes, see a example here: QS learning outcomes for third year Zoology.  Mapping activities for QS in science are underway at La Trobe.

Implementing for Change

“How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?”

The Biological Science majors can build on the statistical knowledge provided in level one units.  However, the flexible nature of the degree program, especially in the second and third years, enables students to mix and match.  This makes it difficult to identify the “QS pathways” within the majors.

 

1st level features a choice of recommended statistics units. STA1DCT, Data-based Critical Thinking, is an option for students without high school mathematics. The second unit is the revised STA1LS, Statistics for Life Sciences, and is an option for students regardless of mathematics background.

2nd level features (from 2012) a new unit, BIO2POS: Practice of Science, that will be co-taught by a statistician and ecologist and focused on research methods. It is compulsory for zoology, genetics and botany students. The unit STA2ABS, Applied Biostatistics, is also an option for students in the biological sciences.

3rd level features  QS components are embedded in a range of units such as ZOO3EPA,  ZOO3EPB, BOT3FEB and BOT3ESE.

Extra Curricular QS: A current Faculty pilot project features a Curriculum Fellow from Mathematics who is collaborating with colleagues across first year Biology, Chemistry and Physics to develop a diagnostic mathematics test and subsequent program to support students with weak mathematical knowledge. The pilot project aims to contextualise the mathematical knowledge within the science disciplinary context to draw explicit links between the mathematics and its applications in the science units.

Interdisciplinary QS: The current curricular reviews across Science have sparked cross discipline conversations.  However, there are no formal structures or mechanisms that facilitate or promote cross-departmental planning around building QS.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardized procedures are in place at La Trobe University, including general unit surveys.

Evidence of QS learning outcomes: To date there has been no formal evaluation on the effectiveness of the changes in the curriculum to build QS.

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Thanks to the following people at La Trobe University for collaborating with us to document this case study.

Elizabeth Johnson, Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering
Deborah Jackson, Curriculum Fellow, Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering
Luke Prendergast, Senior Lecturer in Statistics, School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering
Michael Clarke, Professor of Zoology, Head of Zoology Department, Head of School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering
Tom Angelo, Professor of Higher Education, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Curriculum and Academic Planning)

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts on the La Trobe Case Study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of September 2011. The interviews to gather these data were conducted in May 2011.

University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia)

September 18th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: University of Sydney No Responses

Print Version_Sydney Case Study_Sept2011

The University of Sydney is a research-intensive institution in Sydney, Australia.  It was established in 1850, is the oldest University in Australia and is a member of the research-orientated Group of Eight.  In 2009, the University enrolled approximately 48,000 students in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

 

 

Science at Sydney: The Faculty of Science administers the large, broad and flexible Bachelor of Science (BSc), which has an average annual intake of 2000 students. The BSc had an entry cut-off of 84.50 in 2011 (out of a possible 100, with 100 being the highest ranking).  The Bachelor of Science offers over 30 majors.

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: There is no Mathematics requirement for entry into the BSc.

The University of Sydney case study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At the institutional level, an ongoing graduate attributes project, led by staff from the centralised Institute for Teaching and Learning, has prompted policy change across the institution.

In the Faculty of Science, external drivers around national policy in higher education have prompted further activity towards changing curricular and assessment practices. The Learning and Teaching Academic Standards project and subsequent articulation of National Science Threshold Learning Outcomes has further prompted change to better articulate and document learning outcomes and standards at the University of Sydney.

QS are viewed as an inherent characteristic of a scientist, and the need to transition undergraduates into honours in science prompts QS activity in the Life Science majors in the BSc at the University of Sydney.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

There are established university-wide graduate attributes which are framed around the “Sydney Graduate” with five clusters of more specific attributes.

The University-wide attributes have been articulated into Faculty of Science statements of attributes around the five clusters. Although QS are not explicitly stated, the statements implicitly assume QS. These statements were ratified by the Faculty following industry consultation.  A mapping exercise within the Faculty of Science involved unit coordinators identifying which of the five cluster areas they teach in their unit, however this occurs at the generic level of the five cluster areas of attributes and is not science specific.

The Biology department utilises the Faculty of Science statements of attributes.

Implementing for Change

“How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?”

The Biological Sciences majors can build on the mathematical and statistical knowledge provided in the compulsory level one units. However, the flexible nature of the degree program, especially in the second and third years enables students to mix and match, making it difficult to identify the “critical QS pathway” within the majors.

 

Curriculum Structure for building QS: The above diagram shows the “critical QS pathway”, highlighting the requisite units for the major. In the Biological Sciences majors the inclusion and development of QS occurs at the level of the individual major and varies considerably.

1st level features a philosophy of building foundation knowledge in the “enabling sciences”, including physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology. The only compulsory unit is mathematics, where a selection of units is on offer to accommodate for the range of prior mathematics knowledge.  Mathematics for Life Sciences is a unit tailored for BSc Life Sciences students, and is one of the options available.

2nd level features more specialised units where QS can be applied in context. Plant PhysiCAL was developed for plant biology specifically to build the QS of students. The interactive, online modules are offered as supplementary support for students, and are an example of context specific QS embedded in upper level Life Sciences units.

3rd level features more specialised units where QS can be applied in context.

Extra Curricular QS: There is a Mathematics Learning Centre to support the mathematics units, although it is limited to ‘eligible students’.

Interdisciplinary QS: There is currently a project, the Sydney Scientists, which is bringing together teaching teams from the four first year units to discuss commonality across the units in terms of graduate attributes.  However, the focus is on mapping writing and communication skills with QS to a lesser extent.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at the University of Sydney, including general unit surveys.

Evidence of QS learning outcomes: No science specific, program level evaluation procedures are in place at present, although conversations are beginning to explore standards based assessment around science graduate attributes.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning activities at the University of Sydney have focused on numeracy in science, and the transfer of mathematical knowledge into a science context.  A list of references is provided below.

Poladian, L. (2011). Distinct targeting of multiple mathematical proficiencies in first-year service teaching. Proceedings of Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, University of Melbourne, 28-29 September 2011.
http://escholarship.usyd.edu.au/journals/index.php/IISME/article/viewFile/4833/5577

Quinnell, R. and Thompson, R. 2010, Ch 9: Conceptual Intersections: Re-viewing academic numeracy in the tertiary education sector as a threshold concept, in Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning, Land, R., Meyer, J.H.F. and Baillie, C., (eds), Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 147-164,
http://unsworks.unsw.edu.au/fapi/datastream/unsworks:7193/SOURCE01

LeBard R., Thompson, R., Micolich, A. and Quinnell, R. 2009, Identifying common thresholds in learning for students working in the ‘hard’ discipline of Science, Conference Proceedings of Motivating Science Undergraduates: Ideas and Interventions, Uniserve Science, The University of Sydney, October 1 & 2, 2009, pp 72-77.  http://sydney.edu.au/science/uniserve_science/images/content/2009UniServeScience%20proceed.pdf.

Roberts AL, Sharma MD, Britton S, New PB. Identification and Use of Theoretical Frameworks for a Qualitative Understanding of Mathematics Transfer, CAL-laborate International, 17 (2009), no. 1, 1 – 14.

Quinnell R Wong E. 2007. Using intervention strategies to engage tertiary biology students in their development of numeric skills. Proceedings 2007 National UniServe Conference: Assessment in Science Teaching and Learning. 70-74
http://sydney.edu.au/science/uniserve_science/pubs/procs/2007/16.pdf

Roberts AL, Sharma MD, Britton S, New PB. An index to measure the ability of first year science students to transfer mathematics, International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 38 (2007), no. 4, 429–448.

Britton S, New PB, Sharma MD, Yardley D. A case study of the transfer of mathematics skills by university students, International Journal of Mathematics Education, Science and Technology, 36 (2005), no. 1, 1–13.

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Thanks to the following people at the University of Sydney for collaborating with us to document this Case Study.

Charlotte Taylor, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Science
Rosanne Quinnell, Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences
Leon Poladian, Associate Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts on the University of Sydney Case Study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of September 2011. The interviews to gather this data were conducted in May 2011 with further communications in August 2011.

 


 

University of Wollongong (Wollongong, Australia)

September 16th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: University of Wollongong No Responses

Print Version_Wollongong Case Study_Oct2011

The University of Wollongong is a public, multicampus university with approximately 26,000 students. It has nine faculties and offers 30 degree programs across its campuses in Australia and overseas.

 

 

 

Science at Wollongong: The Faculty of Science consists of three schools of roughly equal size: Chemistry, Biology, and Earth and Environmental Sciences. The Faculty offers a range of three and four year Science degrees. The most general is the three year Bachelor of Science (BSc) with an average annual intake of 260 students. The entry requirement for the BSc is an ATAR of 75 (admissions ranking from 0-100, with 100 the highest rank).

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: Mathematics is not required for entry into the BSc although it is assumed knowledge. Students without at least HSC Band 4 Mathematics or equivalent are required to take a mathematics subject (usually MATH151) in the first year.

The Wollongong case study focuses on Bachelor of Science majors in the Biological Sciences, and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At Wollongong each degree program is reviewed every five years, with the reviews run by the relevant faculty education committee.

Strategies around the enhancement of QS outcomes have largely occurred independent to cyclical reviews of degree programs and have been driven by the needs of individual disciplines.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

The University of Wollongong has identified institutional graduate qualities, which have been further contextualised at the Faculty level.

The Science Graduate Qualities assume quantitative skills (QS) with statements such as:

  • Scientific approach to the acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data

Currently, staff within the Faculty are mapping graduate qualities across the science curriculum.

Implementing for Change

“How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?”

Curriculum Structure for building QS: Students are expected to enrol in the major having either completed secondary school mathematics, or complete an equivalent unit when they begin their study at Wollongong. QS are embedded within level 1 discipline units. A QS pathway exists through a level 2 statistics unit followed by embedding  QS components in level 3 biological sciences units.

1st level features a mathematics unit taught by mathematicians for those whose mathematics on entering university is not up to the required standard. QS components embedded within compulsory chemistry units in both semesters with specific QS resources and QS components embedded within compulsory biology units in both 1st and 2nd semesters.

2nd level features a compulsory unit: Statistics for the Natural Sciences STAT252 taught by School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics.

3rd level QS component embedded within ecology subject BIOL355 (optional).

Interdisciplinary QS: The need to address QS of students across Science has sparked cross discipline conversations. However, there are no formal structures or mechanisms that facilitate or promote cross-departmental planning around building QS.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at Wollongong, including general unit surveys.

Evidence of QS learning outcomes: To date, in the Faculty of Science, and in the Biological Science majors, there has been no formal evaluation on the effectiveness of the changes in the curriculum to build QS.

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Thanks to the following people at Wollongong for collaborating with us to document this case study:

Paul Carr, Associate Professor and Associate Dean Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Science
Glennys O’Brien, Senior Lecturer, School of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
Kristine French, Professor of Ecology, and Director of Janet Cosh Herbarium, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science
Tracey Kuit, Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science
James Wallman, Senior Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science

If you have any questions or comments on the Wollongong case study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of October 2011. The interviews to gather this data were conducted in May 2011.

University of Queenland (Brisbane, Australia)

September 10th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: University of Queensland No Responses

Print Version_UQ Case Study_Sept2011

The University of Queensland (UQ) is based in Brisbane, Australia with approximately 40,000 students enrolled across undergraduate and post-graduate programs. Established in 1909, UQ is a member of the research-intensive Group of Eight universities in Australia and a member of the global Universitas 21.

Science at UQ: The Faculty of Science offers a Bachelor of Science (BSc) program with 20 majors along with a series of smaller, more structured named degree programs and a suite of dual degree programs. The program has an average annual in-take of 1000 students. The entry requirement for the BSc is an overall position of 10 (OP; range of 1-25 with 1 being the top rank).

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: The BSc requires Mathematics B or equivalent, which is a calculus based high school Mathematics unit.  Queensland has three mathematics units, Mathematics A (basic unit), Mathematics B and Mathematics C (advanced Mathematics taken in parallel to Mathematics B).

The UQ case study focuses on the Biomedical Sciences major in the BSc, and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At an institutional level, a cycle of review for generalist degrees occurs every 7 years. This prompted a substantial review of the BSc in 2007 leading to sweeping changes to the program from 2008. The review documentation was compiled into a single, publically available document. A report on the UQ BSc Review process was published on the Australian Universities Quality Agency good practices website as well.

During the institutional review process for the BSc, QS were recognized as a core attribute for UQ science students. Inspired by BIO2010, building QS across all majors in the BSc became a stated goal for the curriculum.

In the Biomedical Sciences, the belief that QS were an essential attribute was widely accepted.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

At an institutional level, University-wide graduate attributes were first developed in 1996 with a series of reviews and subsequent modifications.

The BSc Review, building on the University-wide graduate attributes, established a set of Science-specific graduate attributes, listed on page 247 of the BSc Review document.

More broadly, the 2007 BSc Review committee listed 12 recommendations, the first three relevant to QS in Science:

1. Development of a proposed structure that focuses more on the quantitative and information aspects of science, in which all students are required to take the units entitled(i) Foundations of Science (SCIE1000) and (ii) Analysis of Scientific Data and Experiments (STAT1201).
2. A concerted effort to teach a range of units in a more interdisciplinary manner, rather than as isolated entities.
3. Strong recognition that mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are enabling sciences and this is reflected in the expectation that all students who graduate with a UQ BSc will have achieved a level of competence in all of these areas.

In the Biomedical Science major, a team of academics drafted a set of major specific attributes that explicitly included QS, which are listed on page 252-253 of the BSc Review Document.

Implementing for Change

How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?

The Biomedical Science major in the BSc recommends a common structure for first year students and includes some core units with greater flexibility to choose electives as students progress in upper levels of study.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: The BSc with a focus on the Biomedical Sciences major. The above diagram shows the ‘critical QS pathway’, highlighting the requisite units for the major.

1st level features a highly recommended interdisciplinary Science-Mathematics unit, SCIE1000: Theory and Practice in Science, introduced in 2008. Statistics is a compulsory unit for all BSc students. Prerequisites for the major include chemistry, which relies on a high level of QS, and two biology units, neither of which relies heavily on QS.  The first year study planner is posted online.

2nd level features a breadth of choice with the philosophy that QS will be embedded into the Biomedical units.  From 2011, QS is explicitly incorporated into one of the core units, System Physiology, with a statistics lecture teaching into the unit.

3rd level features a breadth of choice with the philosophy that QS will be embedded into the Biomedical units. A capstone unit is required for ALL Biomedical Science majors in the BSc and includes a substantial QS component.

Extra Curricular QS: The University has some support structure for BSc students needing assistance in QS-related learning such as:

  • Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS)- is offered in first year statistics, chemistry and biology and offers students additional weekly study sessions facilitated by 2nd and 3rd year students.

Interdisciplinary QS:  Sporadic, individual interdisciplinary collaboration is common at UQ.  However, the concept of systemic adoption is now gaining grounds and being explored through an initiative of the Faculty of Science. Building QS across the curriculum is a priority area for the 2011 Faculty of Science Teaching/Learning Grants scheme.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at UQ, including general unit surveys.

Evaluation of QS specifically has been under-taken at a few levels

Unit level: SCIE1000: Evaluating the effectiveness of this new interdisciplinary science-mathematics unit

Research investigating the impact of learning mathematics in the context of science was completed during the first iteration of the unit  (Matthews, Adams and Goos, 2009).  Evaluation of SCIE1000 among biology students was conducted by Matthews, Adams, & Goos (2010). (Fig 2.)

Fig 2. Biology student perceptions of SCIE1000  in 2008 and 2009 on a 5-point Likert scale with standard deviation. The first survey question was, Think about your whole experience in this course (unit). Overall, how would you rate this course (unit)? (1 _ poor, 5 _ outstanding). The second survey question was, How important do you think mathematics is in science? (1 _ not at all important, 5 _ very important). Source: Matthews, et al. (2010)

Program-level: QS learning outcomes in the new BSc

A research project into the implementation of capstone units in Biomedical Science has resulted in a benchmarking project across UQ and Monash. This involves the administration of the Science Students Skills Inventory (SSSI) which explores graduating students’ perceptions of their attainment of science specific learning outcomes including QS.  In 2011, the SSSI will be administered across Monash and UQ for both the BSc and Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

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Thanks to the following people at University of Queensland for collaborating with us to document this case study.

Peter Adams, Professor of Mathematics, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, Faculty of Science
Jon Curlewis, Associate Professor of Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Science
Michael Bulmer, Senior Lecturer in Statistics, School of Mathematics and Physics Mathematics, Faculty of Science

If you have any questions or comments on the University of Queensland case study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of September 2011. Interviews for this case study were conducted in August 2011.

University of Melbourne (Australia)

September 4th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: University of Melbourne No Responses

Print Version_Melbourne Case Study_Oct2011

University of Melbourne is a multi-campus institution based in Melbourne, Australia.  Established in 1853, it is the 2nd oldest university in country with a strong focus on research. There are approximately 36,000 student enrolments across both undergraduate and post-graduate programs.

Science at Melbourne: The Bachelor of Science (BSc) is one of six new-generation degrees at Melbourne started in 2008. . The three-year degree program ‘provides flexible pathways’ with students selecting from 36 possible majors by third year that can lead directly to employment or further graduate studies in engineering, medicine and other graduate health vocation programs, veterinary science, education and scientific research in a range of fields. Five faculties contribute to the numerous majors on offer. In 2011, the entry rank for the BSc was 85 (top 15th percentile). The program has approximately 1110 students. Further details on the degree program are outlined in this Information Day video.

Biomedicine at Melbourne: The Bachelor of Biomedicine is one of the six new-generation degrees at Melbourne started in 2008, and is essentially a more structured science degree with an emphasis on biomedical sciences. The program enrols approximately 450 students per year, who can go on to professional health degrees, or on to do post-graduate studies in biomedical research.  The program attracts high-achieving students with an entry rank of 98.45 (top 1.5th percentile) in 2010.  The Faculty of  Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences has oversight for the program, although the Faculty of Science contributes substantially towards the program. Further details on the degree program are outlined in this Information Day video that specifically discusses the increasing relevance of QS in Biomedicine.

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science and Biomedicine: Both degree programs require Maths Methods, which is a calculus-based high school subject.

The Melbourne case study focuses on two degree programs: the BSc with a focus on the Biological Sciences majors and the Bachelor of Biomedicine. Both are framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At the institutional level the Melbourne Model was introduced in 2008 with the introduction of six new-generation degrees.  The new Melbourne degrees are intended to align more closely with degrees internationally, in Europe (Bologna process) and the United States that emphasise a more general undergraduate degree that leads to post-graduate qualifications in areas of specialisation.

A 2010 Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) audit, which focused in on the BSc, captured the on-going review process and discusses in the departments that teach into the Life Sciences majors. Questions such as ‘why they were doing what they were doing’ were under-way with some academics in the Life sciences indicating that students were graduating under-prepared for the quantitative requirements of the disciplines.

In the Bachelor of Biomedicine, the switch to the Melbourne Model prompted discussions around the program structure and desirable outcomes. The broader environmental phenomena influenced thinking on the curriculum. Advances in the field of Biomedical Sciences and the recognition of the increasing need to apply mathematics and statistics influenced thinking around the need for QS.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

The University of Melbourne has institutional graduate attributes.

The BSc at Melbourne has further contextualised the institutional graduate attributes into their handbook featuring statements that assume QS: 

  • understand the principles of sound project and experimental design, including data analysis
  • apply outstanding analytical, quantitative and technical skills to problem solving and, where relevant, design

The Bachelor of Biomedicine has adapted the BSc attributes and the QS that underpin the above statements.

Neither program has explicitly articulated QS standards or mapped them to the curriculum.  However, curriculum mapping of graduate attributes is underway in the Life Sciences majors in BSc.

Implementing for Change

“How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?”

The BSc. The BSc has no core, shared units in the degree program. There are 18 Life Sciences majors in the BSc that incorporate QS via core biology units. However, the plethora of majors and the flexible nature of the degree program enable students to mix and match units in the life sciences majors.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: Bachelor of Science, Life Sciences majors with a focus on the genetics major in 2nd and 3rd year. The above diagram shows the ‘critical QS pathway’, highlighting the requisite units for the major.

1st levelfeatures—for the 18 life sciences majors—two core biology units that both include substantial elements of embedded QS, which are taught by biologists. Prior to the Melbourne Model these majors listed a statistics unit—taught by the statistics department—as pre-requisite for upper level units. This was dropped for a range of reasons. Given that all Science students enter with a calculus-based mathematics requirement, the philosophy is to build on that knowledge base in the context of the discipline with QS provided in context and ‘just in time’ to increase actual and perceived relevance.It is common for life science major students to choose a mathematics or statistics subject in their first year, and also other science subjects such as Chemistry and Physics in which students’ QS are further developed. In addition, a University-wide ‘breadth‘ unit was introduced in 2008, Critical Thinking with Data, that is available to all students.

2nd level features core units in the more specific majors, which varies given the need for QS in the discipline.  In the genetics, QS is further embedded in the core units.

3rd level features core units in the genetics majors that further embeds QS in the context of the discipline.


The Bachelor of Biomedicine

The Biomedicine program incorporates several units aimed at building a mathematical and statistical knowledge base.  Whilst the program is structured around core/critical units, the application of this knowledge in second and third year Biomedicine is a ‘work in progress’.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: Bachelor of Biomedicine is a far more structured degree program.

1st level features a philosophy of building a strong mathematical and statistical knowledge base along with chemistry and physics units that are underpinned by QS. There are three mathematics units in place (Calculus 1, Calculus 2, and Linear Algebra) with students required to complete one based on the level of high school mathematics and level of proficiency. The statistics unit is designed around experimental design and data analysis with biomedical examples.

2nd level features two required block units that represent 50% of second level units.  These units are inherently interdisciplinary although the QS requirements are not substantial. The goal is to introduce some mathematical modelling. Students can select three science units and one ‘breadth’ unit.

3rd level features two required Biomedicine units although these do not have substantial QS components at present.  Students have options to select units based on their major within the program along with ‘breadth’ units.

Extra Curricular QS: The University of Melbourne has a well-resourced Mathematics and Statistics Learning Centre that provides institutional support for the development of mathematical and statistical knowledge via drop-ins to compliment units run by the mathematics and statistics departments. They also offer enrolment advice for mathematics and statistics units. The Statistical Consulting Centre coordinates the University-wide ‘breadth’ unit, Critical Thinking with Data, and has developed a series of real world, online case studies that are included in various units called Realstat. Contact Sue Finch for access to Realstat.

Interdisciplinary QS: The University has a hierarchy of committees that focus on curriculum and teaching/learning. At the degree program level, which is cross-faculty, there is a ‘Course Committee’.  The overlap in the BSc and the Bachelor of Biomedicine has resulted in a single ‘Course Committee’ for the two degree programs. At the Faculty level in Science, there is an ‘Undergraduate Programs Committee’ which can propose the approval of new units to the ‘Course Committee’.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at the University of Melbourne, including general unit surveys and the Melbourne Student Experience Survey.

Evidence of QS learning outcomes: To date there has been no formal evaluation on the effectiveness of the changes in the curriculum to build QS or other science-specific graduate attributes, in either the Bachelor of Biomedicine or the Life Sciences majors in the BSc.

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Thanks to the following people at the University of Melbourne for collaborating with us to document this case study, both in the Bachelor of Biomedicine and the Biological Sciences majors in the BSc:

Mark Hargreaves, Professor of Physiology and Director of the Bachelor of Biomedicine until 25 Sept 2012
David Williams, Professor of Physiology and Director of the Bachelor of Biomedicine from 25 Sept 2012
Michelle Livett, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Bachelor of Science
Deborah King, Director of the Maths and Stats Learning Centre
Dawn Gleeson, Associate Professor of Genetics
Mary Familari, Lecturer in Biology
Sue Finch, Statistical Consultant, Statistical Consulting Centre,  Department Mathematics and Statistics

If you have any questions or comments on the University of Melbourne case study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of October 2011. The interviews to gather this data were conducted in May 2011 with further communications in September 2011.

Overview

July 25th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Overview No Responses

Framing the Case Studies

Based on the extensive work of Michael Fullan on  large scale educational change, we have adapted a four-phased model to frame each Case Study as a means of understanding how QS are embedded into the curriculum at a program level, and to understand the broader educational change process.

1. The INITIATION OF CHANGE often emerges once a question such as “Why is change needed?” is asked.
2. Once the process has gained momentum, a question such as “What does change look like?” informs the VISION FOR CHANGE.
3. Progressing to more tangible outcomes by translating the vision into practice defines the IMPLEMENTING FOR CHANGE phase.
4. “How effective is the change?” is answered in the final phase, EVALUATING THE CHANGE.

Educational change in higher education is complex. While the above framework could appear simplified, each inter-related and often overlapping phase involves many factors including notions of leadership, educators, institutional context, disciplinary cultures, financial barriers, time pressures, and student diversity, to name a few.

Case Study aims and process

The idea behind our QS in Science Case Studies is to offer short, snapshot summaries to highlight how various university science programs and disciplines are building QS. Each Case Study is an extract from our recent data collection processes (mainly interviews).

Our key aims are to
1. inform the higher education sector about program-level curricular models for building QS in science; and
2. share information and insights into higher education curricular change processes.

Many institutions are in the early stages of the process whilst others are able to share more advanced structures, approaches and innovations. All institutions—even those in the early stages—offer valuable insights in regard to curriculum change processes.

two people writing with pens

 

Each interviewee has been involved in the development and has reviewed and revised their Case Study. We will publish more comprehensive and detailed information related to all Case Studies in the final phase of the QS in Science project.

Navigating the Case Studies

From the Case Studies top menu item, select Summaries & Links to view summaries of the Case Studies and link to expanded versions of each Case Study.  To display all institutions on a single page, select the Case Studies menu item. Click on the link in the top right of each Case Study for a printable PDF version.

University of Western Sydney

May 25th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: University of Western Sydney No Responses

Print Version_UWS Case Study_Sept2011

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) is a multi-campus university based in the Greater Western Sydney area of Australia. Established in 1989, it now has a student enrolment of approximately 40,000 and offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

 

 

Science at UWS: The College of Health and Science offers a Bachelor of Science  (BSc) in seven disciplines and a general BSc. The average annual intake of students is 300 with numbers varying across each of the eight degree programs. The entry score for each of these three-year degree programs is estimated to be at least 70 out of a possible 100 across all campuses offering the BSc.

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: There are no specific mathematics prerequisite requirements for entry into any of the BSc degree programs.

The UWS case study focuses on the Chemistry major in the BSc and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

In 2010 the project Reconceptualising Science was launched as a response to the continued international debate around tertiary science curricula and teaching. This ambitious project sought to remodel all of the Science degree programs to reflect an evidence and inquiry based curriculum. To achieve this, a whole of degree program approach to the curriculum was adopted.

The ensuing discussions among academic staff highlighted the need for quantitative skills (QS) skills to be embedded throughout the BSc, as staff perceived that incoming students’ ability to use QS was poor, with this lack of ability continuing into third year.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

The University of Western Sydney has institutional graduate attributes.

The BSc at UWS has contextualized the graduate attribute generic skill of ‘numeracy’ that incorporates QS, as follows:

  • Displays appropriate skills in gathering and critically analysing information that is required for solving scientific problems
  • Displays appropriate numerical and statistical skills for a professional scientist, in the context of their chosen scientific discipline(s).
  • Integrates theoretical and practical knowledge to analyse and solve complex and novel scientific problems.

Other UWS BSc graduate attributes have been articulated and mapped to the UWS graduate attributes and the ALTC Threshold Learning Outcome statements. Further ‘drilling down’ is occurring with a ‘whole of degree program’ curricula mapping exercise underway to map QS skills across the entire curriculum.

Cross departmental discussions between Chemistry and Mathematics has led to further articulation of what QS looked like in first year chemistry: Maths and Quantitative Thinking in Essential Chemistry_First Year.

Implementing for Change

How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?

Planned changes for 2012 are described here. The BSc (Chemistry) will offer students a choice between two calculus based mathematics units at the first year level. This knowledge is built upon in varying degrees in the subsequent compulsory chemistry units.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: The chemistry major at UWS has QS embedded throughout its program.  The above diagram shows the ‘critical QS pathway’, highlighting the requisite units for the major with a slant towards physical chemistry.

1st level features a choice of two units, Analysis of Change, or Mathematics 1A.  Both units are calculus based, and assume that students are proficient in algebraic manipulation. Students complete two chemistry units (Essential Chemistry 1 and Essential Chemistry 2).

2nd level features a number of chemistry units that rely on QS. In particular, the units on Physical Chemistry are heavily QS oriented.

3rd level features a capstone unit Science Research Project that most students choose to do. The expectation is that students have acquired a sufficient level of competence in QS to undertake the analysis usually required in such capstone subjects.

Extra Curricular QS: Currently UWS has a Student Learning Unit that provides both mathematical and statistical support to (mostly) first-year students. In 2011, UWS funded the establishment of the Mathematics Education Support Hub (MESH), which will provide both ‘just-in-time’ and ‘just-for-me’ help for both staff and students. The support provided by this centre will be tailored specifically to the mathematical and statistical needs of disciplines across the university by way of drop-in centres, online tutors, on-campus tuition and an extensive array of online resources.

Interdisciplinary QS: The University has a hierarchy of committees that focus on curriculum and teaching/learning. Due to a planned restructure which will take effect in 2012, the current suite of committees is under review. The 2011 Science Reconceptualisation process has promoted collaboration between science and mathematics staff that has resulted in a shared understanding of the content and pedagogy of the compulsory mathematics unit and the QS requirements of later stage science units.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at the UWS, including general unit and teaching surveys.

Evidence of QS learning outcomes: The proposed BSc programs will not be implemented until 2012. At present there are no plans to evaluate the success or otherwise of the changes made, but it is envisaged that this will be part of the next phase of this extensive curriculum review.

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Thanks to the following people at UWS for collaborating with us to document this case study:

Pauline Ross, Assistant Associate Dean Academic (Health)
Joanne Chuck, Senior Lecturer in Biology, School of Natural Sciences
Sebastian Holmes, Lecturer in Biology, School of Natural Sciences
Roy Tasker, Associate Professor of Chemistry, School of Natural Sciences.

If you have any questions or comments on the UWS case study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of September 2011. Interviews for this case study were conducted in August 2011.

Monash University (Melbourne, Australia)

May 25th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Monash University No Responses

Print Version_Monash Case Study_Sept2011

Monash University, founded in 1958, is a public, multi campus institution in Melbourne and is a member of Group of Eight universities in Australia. As of 2010 Monash has approximately 60,000 students with roughly 30% being enrolled in post-graduate programs.

 

Science at Monash: The Faculty of Science has seven schools offering an array of programs to about 3,500 undergraduate students with an average annual intake of about 800 students into the Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. The BSc has thirty areas of study, twenty of which are under the Faculty of Science and the rest are taught across other faculties.

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: The BSc does not have any mathematics prerequisite for entry. Once enrolled, BSc students must complete a level one mathematics or statistics unit. Monash offers different pathways for students to accommodate the range of prior mathematical knowledge of entering students.

The Monash case study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences, and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

In the Faculty of Science the Associate Dean, Education, together with the education committee, initiates five yearly reviews. In recent years, the BSc at Monash has undergone some changes in order to address the declining quantitative skills (QS) among graduates, and students’ under preparedness for tertiary level of mathematics (Varsavsky, 2010).

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

In 2007 a set of graduate attributes for the BSc was developed ahead of the university-wide more generic graduate capabilities.  Among the BSc graduate attributes is quantitative literacy, which is defined to be the ability to collect, organise, analyse and interpret data meaningfully using mathematical and statistical tools as appropriate to the discipline of specialisation.

For the Biological Sciences majors it means developing problem solving, data analysis and presentation skills and the ability to conduct activities such as survey, inventory and measure biodiversity in the ecosystem.

Implementing for Change

“How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?”

The Biological Sciences majors can build on the mathematical and statistical knowledge provided in the compulsory level one unit. However, the flexible nature of the degree program, especially in the second and third years enables students to mix and match, making it difficult to the QS pathway within the majors.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: The above diagram shows the ‘critical QS pathway’, highlighting the requisite units for the major. Monash Biological Sciences majors are expected to embed QS into biology units starting from first year.

1st level features a range of maths and statistics units that students can choose from depending on their high school mathematics background. Most students doing Biological Sciences majors opt for either  STA1010 (Statistical methods for science) that builds on high school mathematics or SCI1020 (Introduction to Statistical Reasoning) that does not require previous mathematics. Students with high school mathematics can also opt for MTH1020 (Analysis of change)

2nd level features no specific required QS unit although 1st level and 2nd level breadth of study across disciplines could have varying levels of QS content.

3rd level features a core level three unit, BIO3011 Research Methods in Biology, that draws on previous QS knowledge.

Extra Curricular QS: The Mathematics Learning Centre provides institutional support for the development of basic mathematics via drop in support and tutorials.

Interdisciplinary QS: There are no formal structures or mechanisms that facilitate or promote cross-departmental planning or on-going communication around building QS in the BSc.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at Monash University, including student general unit surveys. However, there is no formal instrument for program level evaluation but there is a  program review every 5 years conducted by the Faculty of Science through the education committee, lead by the Associate Dean, Education. The BSc will undergo another review process in 2012.

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Thanks to the following people at Monash University for collaborating with us to document this case study:

Cristina Varsavsky, Associate Professor of Mathematics, School of Mathematical Sciences, and Associate Dean Education, Faculty of Science
Gerry Rayner, Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science
Dianne Atkinson, Associate Lecturer, School of Mathematical Sciences, Faculty of Science

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts on the Monash case study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of September 2011. The interviews to gather these data were conducted in May 2011.

 

 


Macquarie University (New South Wales, Australia)

May 25th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Macquarie University No Responses

Print Version_Macquarie Case Study_Aug2011

Macquarie is a multi-campus university based in Sydney, Australia.  Established in 1964, it has approximately 35,000 students as of 2009 across both undergraduate and post-graduate programs.

Science at Macquarie: As of 2008, the Faculty of Science offers a Bachelor of Science (BSc) with 25 majors. The 3-year degree has an average intake of 300 new students and is described as a “general degree program, which offers maximum flexibility”. The Faculty of Science also offers a range of more structured, named degrees in specific areas of science.

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: For entry into the BSc, mathematics is not a required prerequisite, although it is considered assumed knowledge.  The exception is the mathematics major, which does require mathematics for entry.

The Macquarie case study focuses on majors in the Biological Sciences, and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At the institutional level, organisational restructures in the past five years along with university-wide curriculum reviews have catalyzed change. 

In the Biological Sciences this prompted departmental discussions about what discipline specific capabilities where required of students. Quantitative skills (QS) were identified as a desired capability and an area of weakness for many science students. New academics to the department recognized the increasing reliance on QS in their own research, which influenced their ideas of desirable graduate capabilities and curriculum design. The need for competent honours and PhD students was also a motivation to better build the QS of students in the Biological Sciences major.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

University-wide graduate capabilities were identified at Macquarie in 2008.

The BSc at Macquarie does not have degree program specific graduate capabilities, as the degree program model is decentralized to the major-level.  Each major is expected to have a list of graduate capabilities.

In the Biological Sciences, quantitative skills (QS) have been identified as a graduate capability. The department articulated specific QS competencies across five areas:

  • Basic mathematical skills
  • Data management
  • Study design (experimental)
  • Statistics
  • Advanced statistics/mathematics

Specific topics for each of the above were then mapped to the current units offered to students by the Biological Sciences department. 

Implementing for Change

“How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?”

The Biological Sciences majors incorporate QS into many units, as evidenced by the curriculum mapping documentation. However, the flexible nature of the degree program enables students to mix and match units.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: BSc with a focus on the Biological Sciences major in 2nd and 3rd year. The above diagram shows the ‘critical pathway’, highlighting the requisite units for the major.

1st level features a common statistics unit taught by Department of Statistics, which is taken by students across a range of disciplines and recommended as a pre-requisite for many 3rd year Biological Sciences units. Additionally, data management is introduced into a core Biological Sciences unit. The mathematics department and the faculty office are discussing the possibility of an interdisciplinary science-mathematics unit.

2nd level features a biostatistics unit built around experimental design in science.  At 2nd year, there is an expectation that QS are incorporated into units offered by the Biological Sciences department.

At 3rd level— as part of capstone unit requirements—students select a unit from a choice of five (with four of these featuring significant quantitative skills components). At 3rd year, there is an expectation that QS are incorporated into units offered by the Biological Sciences department.

Extra Curricular QS: Macquarie is in the early stages of QS in Science curriculum change, however there is the Numeracy Resource Centre that provides institutional support for the development of basic mathematics via student drop-ins and workshops as requested by unit coordinators.

Interdisciplinary QS: There are no formal structures or mechanism that facilitate or promote cross-departmental planning or on-going communication around building QS in the BSc.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at Macquarie, including general unit surveys.

Evidence of QS learning outcomes: To date, in the Faculty of Science, and in the Biological Sciences majors, there has been no formal evaluation on the effectiveness of the changes in the curriculum to build QS.

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Thanks to the following people at Macquarie for collaborating with us to document this Case Study.

Dr Kelsie Dadd, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching
Belinda Medlyn, Senior Lecturer in Ecophysiology, Department of Biological Sciences
Paul Smith, Professor in Mathematics, Head of Department, Department of Mathematics.

If you have any questions or comments on the Macquarie Case Study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of August 2011. The interviews to gather this data were conducted in May 2011.