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Wednesday, June 18 • 2:30pm - 3:20pm
CON2.02 – Delivering an Interdisciplinary Curriculum Via Research Projects: How to Make it Work (Room A239)

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Transforming undergraduate experiences to allow students to learn through active engagement in stimulating and relevant project work is extremely effective. A project-based approach, where students explore real-world, open-ended questions, seems to be particularly successful for women in engineering (Vaz et al., 2013) and has been proposed as a strategy for science, technology, and mathematics, as well (Grasgreen, 2013). The Honours Integrated Science (iSci) program at McMaster University focuses on student learning of science through a series of team-based, interdisciplinary research projects.  Students are introduced to the tools and techniques required for effective research in their first six weeks in the program. They engage in a low stakes ‘practice’ research project during this time and by the second half of their first term they embark on their first full exploration of guided inquiry.  Instructor involvement in research projects gradually decreases as students move through first year and subsequent years of the program; by fourth year, iSci students are extremely proficient in conducting both team-based and independent disciplinary and interdisciplinary research. They have been transformed into independent and creative learners. 

This session will explore methods to transform the experience of all learning community members through the design and delivery of interdisciplinary research projects. Workshop participants will work in small groups (1) to identify key tools and techniques essential for effective student investigations, (2) to identify potential research project topics, and (3) to identify effective means of disciplinary integration. The focus will be on delivery to first year students. Participants will also consider ways to design and scaffold upper level research projects and how these may differ from introductory level projects.  We will examine strategies for staging development of disciplinary and ‘soft’ skills as well as the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes and experiences.  We will also discuss assessment and evaluation processes that are most appropriate for project-based learning.

The workshop will be informed by the experiences of instructors and staff responsible for the design and delivery of the iSci program.  We will reflect on project design, the creation of experiential (lab and field) components, project assessment, and challenges we have faced during the first five years of running this program. Workshop participants will gain an understanding of the basic elements required to establish project-based learning initiatives at course or program levels.

Wednesday June 18, 2014 2:30pm - 3:20pm EDT
A239 McArthur Hall

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