QS Findings – QS in 13 science curricula
The QS in Science team presented at the Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (ACSME) held at the University of Sydney, 26 – 28th September, on the various curricular models that were identified from the project’s 13 case studies. Almost all of these case studies were for a major in the life sciences. Findings from the case studies revealed a tremendous variation in the approach taken by the different institutions and in each year of the program. Four models emerged; each an approach to the teaching of QS in a single year.
The four models identified are:
- The unit model consists of specific unit/s in mathematics and/or statistics. Cross-disciplinary communication and co-teaching is most evident in this curricular model.
- The embed model engages students in QS context-based learning experiences, mostly provided by the relevant science-based discipline academics. This was the most common model found in the third year of a science program.
- The hybrid model combines the distinctly mathematical and/or statistical units (unit model) with QS embedded in science-discipline specific unit/s (embed model). This appeared only in the first year of science programs.
- The silent model indicates that no units have any QS embedded or could be identified as requiring QS.
Overall, QS could only be identified in a few units across the curriculum, largely due to the flexibility inherent in science programs.
More details may be found in the QS in Science project report (page 11, with the case studies presented in pages 28 – 65).
QS in Action – Featuring QS in Science innovators
Maths Skills Programs – support for first year science and statistics students at La Trobe University
The Maths Skills Program, a quantitative literacy support program offered by the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering for first year science undergraduates, has been running for the past two and a half years. It was developed as a First Year Experience resource in the university-wide curriculum reform project Design for Learning by project leader and mathematician, Dr Deborah Jackson, in close collaboration with science and statistics subject coordinators. Topics range from basic mathematical understanding to first year university mathematics. Tailored streams are provided for chemistry, physics, biology and statistics. Students are invited, through their first year subjects, to complete a screening test and advised to join the Maths Skills Program if they get below a certain mark in the test, or they can also self-nominate. Student participation is motivated by improvement of mathematical skills, improving mathematical confidence, or finding relevance of mathematics to their subject.
A combination of approaches allows students to select the learning and teaching activities that suit their own study style. Worksheets provide theory, relevance, examples and exercises. Questions written in context highlight the links between mathematics and science or statistics. Online programs have been developed using the Pearson education site MyMathTest and give students 24/7 access to pre, post and self diagnostic testing, as well as video help and study plans. Face-to-face help sessions give students one-to-one guidance and instruction. Student surveys show participating students value the program, increase their mathematical confidence and appreciate the flexible learning activities.
Learning materials are delivered through La Trobe’s Learning Management System and the Pearson site and are not publically available. To access website and for further information, please contact Dr Deborah Jackson at D.Jackson@latrobe.edu.au.
QS across Curricula – Featuring MathBench at the University of Maryland
The QS in Science project found that academics tended to develop their own resources when trying to address student inadequacies in QS. Once these resources were developed, the sharing of these with colleagues was not evident. However, the University of Maryland has reversed this trend, with the interactive modules making up the publically available MathBench in use across 30 science classrooms in the US and Australia.
The MathBench biology modules allow students to improve their QS through web-based activities that complement the content presented in the undergraduate biological science curriculum at the University of Maryland. Students using these modules have shown increased QS and enhanced appreciation of the essential role that mathematics plays in modern biology.
You can hear more about this amazing resource from the chief designer of these modules, Dr Katerina Thompson, who is a keynote speaker at the QS in Science-CUBEnet-VIBEnet symposium, to be held the University of Sydney, Australia, 10-11 December, 2012.
QS Events – International speakers at QS in Science-CUBEnet-VIBEnet Symposium 10-11 December
Registration is now open! The QS in Science-CUBEnet-VIBEnet symposium, Game on! Preparing our biology and biomedical graduates for the future will be held at the University of Sydney, 10-11 December, 2012. This free event will feature two world-renowned experts in the area of QS: Dr Katerina Thompson from the University of Maryland and one of the QS in Science team members, and Dr Kyle Seifert from James Madison University. Please join us to find out more about the educational resources and the teaching and learning activities designed to promote QS across the biological and biomedical sciences.