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.