Get Involved with QS and iJMEST

May 19th, 2012 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – May 2012

Call for Papers – iJMEST Special Issue

We need your contributions and scholarly papers! The QS in Science project has initiated a Special Issue of International Journal of Mathematics Education in Science and Technology (iJMEST), a highly rated journal with a sustained record in the field. The Special Issue – Quantitative skills in science: integrating mathematics and statistics in undergraduate science curricula – is due for publication in September 2013. Empirical research, case studies or theoretical essays are welcomed. We hope contributors will come from a range of disciplines. Additional details are outlined on our Get Involved page and  iJMEST_call_for_papers_A4_flyer.

journals and hand typing at keyboard



QS videos

Video is a great way to communicate ideas and share insights. Professor John Rice—Executive Director, Australian Council of Deans of Science—explores the issues related to Quantitative Skills (QS). This video—What is the QS issue?—is a brilliant reminder and reflection on the QS issue and its importance in Australia. We plan to share more clips in this series over the coming months.

We’d also like to highlight our QS in Science YouTube channel, a useful and engaging resource to use in presentations. We’ve created playlists of relevant videos including Need for change in science and mathematics education and Implementation of new approaches in maths and science. If you have a clip to recommend please contact us.

In our next Update, we’ll provide more details on the QS in Science events planned for later in the year.

Quantitative Skills: the Dance of Science and Mathematics

March 27th, 2012 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – April 2012

Higher Education Newsletter

We’ve recently had an invited article—The Dance of Science and Mathematics in Higher Education: the Quantitative Skills (QS) in Science Project—published in the December 2011 edition of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) newsletter that outlines the aims and progress of the QS in Science project to date. We’re pleased this article allows us to communicate our research findings and message to a wider audience. Would you like the QS in Science team to draft an article for your professional society’s newsletter? Contact us.

Scientists using a calculator at a laboratory bench

 12 Online Case Studies

We’ve made a great deal of progress in the QS in Science project and now have Case Studies from 12 Universities published online. With a focus on how QS are incorporated across the science curriculum, the Case Studies examine majors in biological science, chemistry and biomedical science with two case studies from the United States. View our Overview page for summaries and links.

Data Analysis

The initial coding of over 35 interview sessions from 13 universities  is done! Recall our sampling strategy was to study those universities in Australia where QS were identified as a learning outcome. We then selected two exemplar case studies in the United States for benchmarking purposes.

Drawing on Fullan’s model for large scale educational change, our first round of coding highlights that most Australian universities are in the early stages of implementing changes to build QS and are taking varying approaches to threading QS across the undergraduate curriculum. As you would expect, our initial data analysis has raised many questions. As we progress, we’ll focus on answering the following in our second phase of data analysis:

1. Who are the drivers for change—seeking to build the QS of science students—and what is motivating them?
2. How are mathematicians and scientists working together to address the challenges of building QS across the science degree program?
3. In the era of government accountability, how do we know our students are graduating with sufficient QS?

We look forward to reporting on this data and offering examples of how institutions are overcoming common obstacles. Please contact us if you have a relevant question that you might like us to explore in our next phase of data analysis.

Dissemination activities

Following our busy year of data collecting in 2011 (!) we are planning for a busy year of reporting and engaging you all in discussions on how to move forward in building the QS of Science students. We have workshops, presentations and scholarly articles planned for 2012 and 2013. We’ll be posting more information throughout the year, but in the meantime check out our Events page.

Education at the Intersection of Physics and Biology

Biology and physics communities have a unique opportunity to collaborate and contribute to a special issue of CBE—Life Sciences Education (CBE-LSE)—an online journal from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). Due to be published in 2013, the issue will focus on the integration of physics and biology education. Abstracts are due by June 1, 2012. For more information, see Call for Papers. Remember, CBE published a special edition on integrating biology and mathematics in 2010.

In our next Update, we’ll provide more details on the QS in Science events planned for later in the year.

Communicating QS into 2012

December 14th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – December 2011

Case Studies

We’ve reformatted and streamlined the navigation and menus on our website and we’re excited to announce a milestone of nine Case Studies online—UniMel, UniSyd, UQ, UWS, La Trobe, UoW, Monash, Macquarie and JCU—all of which can now be accessed via the Case Studies – Summaries & Links page. There is still more coming online in the New Year so keep checking back with us throughout 2012.

ACSME and DELTA papers

As we mentioned in previous Updates, the QS in Science team have been busy attending various conferences including ACSME (Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education, University of Melbourne, 28 Sept to 30 Sept, 2011) and DELTA (Rotorua, New Zealand, 27 Nov to 2 Dec, 2011). Access our papers below:

Visit our QS in Science Mendeley page to access our latest references and papers.

QS curriculum mapping tool

If you’re interested in the aims, methods and findings (so far) of the QS in Science project and think they relate to your own situation, then explore our QS curriculum mapping tool.

You might have noticed our Case Studies, which we’ve been sharing over the past few months. The QS in Science team uses a very easy-to-use Powerpoint template—that we’ve renamed the QS curriculum mapping tool —to help us illustrate our findings. We’ve found that this approach works well to consolidate and share—in an uncomplicated way—how Quantitative Skills are embedded into various curricula. Check out our short video below:

We’ve decided to share our QS curriculum mapping tool so that it might encourage science departments to:

  1. document where QS fit in your current/future curriculum
  2. share the images produced with other schools and departments to illustrate your own findings and to act as a initial discussion-starter.

We hope your find the QS curriculum mapping tool useful. Be sure to get in contact with us if you have any questions, comments, suggestions or other feedback.

HERDSA article

Look out for the QS in Science article Quantitative Skills (QS): The Dance of Science and Mathematics in Higher Education in the December HERDSA (Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia) Newsletter, which outlines the aims and progress of our project!

 QS in 2012

Apart from sharing additional Case Studies, the QS in Science team have plans for 2012 – dissemination and engagement with the community to discuss our findings and implications for curriculum development. Check back with our website for future updates.

Finally, we’d like to wish everyone a joyous festive season, happy holidays and an enjoyable 2012!

Sharing Two More Case Studies

September 26th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

We are thrilled to be sharing more Case Studies! We have two Australian research-intensive institutions ready for you. First, the University of Queensland (UQ) has been working to build the QS of all its science students since a 2007 review with QS specific evaluation data showing some successes and some areas for improvement. To be noted, this is one of the rare Australian Case Studies with QS specific evaluation data at a unit and program level. Wondering how to evaluate QS in Science at your institution? Have a look at UQ.






Next, the University of Melbourne features the Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Biomedicine, following a massive institutional shift towards degree programs that more closely align with European and United States qualifications. We encourage you to take a closer look.

Thanks to the folks at the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland for collaborating with us to create their Case Studies.

This is the start of several Case Studies we’ll be sharing. Please return to over the coming months to keep up to date with our findings.


Building Momentum with QS Case Studies

September 10th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Case Studies online

Our online Case Studies offer short, snapshot summaries of QS in science. Our first Case Study—Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia)— is now up! Like most Australian Universities, Macquarie is in the early stages of building QS in science. Their Case Study features a helpful QS curriculum mapping document (thanks for sharing this Belinda Medlyn!). Could be just what you need to get QS in science discussions started in your department. Case Studies are being released on a rolling basis so keep checking our website.

A peek at some initial findings

Phase 1 of our project involved collecting data from Australian Universities that were working to build QS in science.  We have interviewed over 30 academics across 11 institutions and endlessly trawled websites to gather data on how QS are included in the science curricula. Our Case Studies  have been framed around a model for large scale educational change, which has four broad phases: (1) initiation of change; (2) vision for change; (3) implementation for change; and (4) evaluation.

Our initial analysis indicates that most of our Case Studies are in the earlier phases of building QS across the science curricula. The lack of attention to evaluation is a concern. It appears that institutions are struggling with how to actually evaluate science-specific, program-level learning outcomes like QS. The QS in Science team hopes to offer some evaluation strategies in the coming year.

ACSME conference

The Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education focuses on practical teaching and learning issues in higher education and this year QS in Science is a hot topic! The program will feature two sessions (six papers) dedicated to QS in science along with several posters on the topic. The QS in Science project team is presenting a paper exploring the educational resources available to support QS. Another paper of interest is focused on bench-marking science-specific learning outcomes, including QS, across two Australian Universities – key topic given our initial finding that evaluation of QS in science is lacking. Both papers will also be added to our website under Links in early October.

International Case Studies

As we’ve mentioned, our Australian Case Studies are coming along. Our QS in Science project will also feature selected international universities with data collection for our international Case Studies starting in October 2011 with James Madison University, Purdue University and the University of Maryland. These are all large institutions with innovative approaches for building QS in science so we’re eager to look more closely. As with all our Case Studies, we’ll share our findings once data is collected and we’ve had a chance to collate and analyse.

Coming up

In our next Update we’ll share more from our ACSME experience as well as insights from our more recent Case Studies.


Sharing Our First Case Study

August 27th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

The QS in Science team is excited to announce our very first Case Study: Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia)! We encourage you to take a closer look.

We’d like to thank Kelsie, Paul and Belinda at Macquarie for talking with us a few months ago. The QS in Science team examined the Bachelor of Science (BSc) program with a focus on the Biology majors. As outlined in the Case Study, Biological Sciences offers valuable insights into the early phases of building QS. Belinda shared a useful mapping document where QS in Biology have been articulated and mapped to units – very tangible and very helpful! The QS in Biology list might be the document you need to get the conversation started in your department!

This is the first of several Case Studies we’ll be sharing. Please return to over the coming months to keep up to date with our findings.

What’s Missing in the QS Equation?

August 9th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – August 2011


QS stands for Quantitative Skills. The QS in Science team is very interested in the discussion paper put forward by the newly created Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). Similar to many countries, Australia is moving in the accountability direction. Our initial data is highlighting a lack of evidence and evaluation for science-specific learning outcomes,  a concern not only for making evidence-based curricular decisions, but also in light of shifting government policies. Whilst ‘threshold learning outcomes’ for science undergraduates have been articulated at a national level in Australia, work is needed on how we evidence their achievement and the QS in Science project will offer some models for how this can be done in Australia.  What are your ideas, concerns, thoughts or questions about evidencing science learning outcomes? What can be learned from the experiences of our international colleagues? Let us know what you think by posting a comment below.


The QS in Science team will be giving presentations at the 8th bi-annual Delta conference on teaching mathematics and statistics in higher education and the 17th annual Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education. Both papers will be posted to our website soon and will discuss how QS are embedded in science programs. We’ll focus on QS educational resources, and how mathematicians and scientists are working across disciplines to build QS.  We hope to see you there!

Exciting collaborations

There’s a flurry of activity in Australia around science and mathematics in higher education with the recent funding of several  Disciplinary Networks and a Leadership for Excellence project that spans science higher education. The QS in Science team are collaborating with National Disciplinary Network leaders in Biology, Biomedical Science, Mathematical Sciences and Chemistry, along with a  National Fellowship promoting inquiry learning in the sciences. Watch this space in the coming months; we’ll post more information on our Links page as it comes.

Case Studies are coming!

Data analysis is well underway.  As you can imagine, a wealth of information is emerging around the challenges and opportunities of building the QS of science students.  Our first goal is to offer short, snapshot summaries to highlight how various university science programs and disciplines are building QS.  Some institutions are in the early stages of the process whilst others are able to share more advanced structures, approaches and innovations. No doubt there will be something to learn from each Case Study.  We hope to have these online in the coming months, following further collaboration with each institution.

Coming up

In our next Update we’ll share more about our Case Study analysis and the data we are collecting.

A Tense and Complex Relationship

July 8th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – July 2011

What is QS?

“QS” stands for quantitative skills. Simply stated, QS relate to numbers and how they are used for measuring, recording and analysing data or performing calculations. We have developed a more sophisticated definition: the application of mathematical and statistical thinking and reasoning in a given context (science in our case). Given the inherent interdisciplinary nature of QS in science, we are very interested in the links between mathematics and science, and the various tensions and complexities that exist between them in regard to content, curriculum design, practical application and real-world challenges. We’ve highlighted a few of these in a short video:

Progressing with Case Studies

Our Australian data collection is well under way! We are continuing to identify, collect and highlight efforts to build QS in science. We currently have ten Australian Case Studies, with data collection 90% complete. We’ve had some amazing interviews and would like to thank our higher education colleagues for being so generous, sharing and insightful! Analysis of the data has begun; we are aiming to communicate some descriptions of how QS are embedded and built very soon! International data collection is scheduled for October.

Mixed signals? QS in science and mathematics prerequisites

What is the apparent relevance of QS in Science in tertiary education, as portrayed by publically available documents? The QS in Science team is presenting a paper at the MERGA conference to address this question.

merga screen shot with photos of desert

We analysed a range of documents to examine degree structures within science programs at a selection of Australian tertiary institutions and found that not all institutions included mathematics from secondary school as a prerequisite for entry into science. Using chemistry as an example, we also found that very few subjects comprising chemistry majors appear to build QS through links across secondary school mathematics and first year chemistry. Perhaps one of the greatest barriers to the tertiary sector transmitting uniform messages regarding the importance of QS in science is the mixed signals being suggested around mathematics requirements for science degree programs. The lack of understanding within the higher education and secondary sector as to the most effective way to demonstrate the links between mathematics and science is most certainly an obstacle. Read more under ‘links’ tab at

ALTC Citation

Finally, we would like to congratulate Dr Carmel  Coady on receiving a 2011 ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. It is great to have you on the QS in Science team!

Coming up

In our next Update we’ll share more findings from our initial analysis of the Australian Cases!


June 4th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – June 2011

MERGA (Mathematics Education Research Group of Australia)

As we mentioned in our last Update, the QS in Science team are participating in a number of conferences. The AAMT and MERGA Mathematics: Traditions and New Practices conference will be held July 3-7, 2011 in Alice Springs with the theme Mathematics: Traditions and [New] Practices.  We’ll be presenting a paper A study of the Australian tertiary sector’s portrayed view of the relevance of quantitative skills in science.

HERDSA (Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia)

The HERDSA conference Higher Education on the Edge will be held 4-7 July, 2011 at the Gold Coast, Australia. We’ll be hosting a special roundtable session: Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning with our paper The interdisciplinary edge: transforming academic practice and enhancing student learning via interdisciplinary curricula.

Curriculum resources

During our recent visit to Miami many participants requested access to a couple of science and mathematics resources that we discussed:

MathBench is a series of interactive, online modules that contextualise mathematics in many areas of science (from the University of Maryland)

log graph of bacteria growth data

SCIE1000 is a first-year interdisciplinary science-mathematics course (run at the University of Queensland, Australia).

You’ll find weblinks and more information about these and other resources on our Links page.

Data collection and Case Studies

As we mentioned in our last Update we’ve identified a number of Australian Case Studies and data collection is continuing.  Overseas Case Studies are currently being confirmed.

As for additional Case Studies, it’s not too late! If you would like your university to participate as a QS in Science Case Study, find out more in the Getting Involved section of

Coming up

In our next Update we’ll share more about our dissemination activities and provide some feedback about our recent conferences.

The Miami Workshop Experience

May 15th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: Updates No Responses

Update – May 2011

Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Conference

We’ve been quite busy over the past couple of months, so for our May Update we have plenty to report! Building the mathematical and statistical skills of undergraduate science students is an important challenge that many higher educational institutions are struggling to address. In late March, QS in Science team members Kelly Matthews, Shaun Belward, Katerina Thompson and Carmel Coady presented a paper—Building the Mathematical and Statistical Skills of Undergraduate Students—at the Engaged STEM Learning: From Promising to Pervasive Practices conference (Miami, USA). We were thrilled to have 50 participants from a range of disciplines engage in our 8am session! As part of our interactive presentation the QS in Science team asked a range of direct questions to the audience and gathered some note-worthy responses. When asked if the quantitative skills of science students was a problem in their institutions, 100% of attendees indicated that this was an issue. When asked if building the quantitative skills of science students was a curricular goal in their institutions, less than half stated that it was a priority.

group of conference participants

Reconceptualising Science at UWS  

As a follow-up to our last Update, we’d like to introduce A/Prof Pauline Ross from College of Health and Science at University of Western Sydney (UWS). In this short video Pauline outlines some of the recent activities that are a part of the Reconceptualising Science project at UWS and its involvement as a QS in Science Case Study.

Reporting and Evaluation

The QS in Science team has sent its first progress report to ALTC. In addition—to keep us on track—the team initiated an informal early feedback from Vicki Tariq, our External Evaluator.  We were commended on quick ethics approval, an effective and engaging website and the breadth of our early dissemination activities.  

 Data collection has begun

 A significant part of our project is data collection, so it is important we keep this aspect on schedule. We’ve identified a number of Australian Case Studies and data collection has begun with University of Queensland (UQ) and University of Western Sydney (UWS) as well as Macquarie, Sydney, Monash and LaTrobe Universities.  Overseas Case Studies are being confirmed, with data collection scheduled for later in the year.

Networks and Case Studies

A great outcome from the Miami workshop is our QS in Science network has grown to include 30 academics from the USA, with several universities indicating interest in being a Case Study! It’s not too late! If you would like your university to participate as a QS in Science Case Study, find out more in the Getting Involved section of

Coming up

In our next Update we’ll share more about some of our upcoming dissemination activities including MERGA and HERDSA Conferences.