‘…every university now has at its disposal the tools to improve undergraduate STEM teaching, and no defensible reason for not using them.’ (Bradforth et al, 2015)
The ACDS has launched its first occasional paper “Evidence-based Practice in Learning and Teaching for STEM disciplines” from Prof Tina Overton (Monash) and Prof Liz Johnson (Deakin). This paper presents core principles for effective learning and teaching strategies that can be derived from the research evidence of how students learn. The evidence is very clear that:
- learning (and assessment) is constrained by available working memory,
- learning can be improved by creating explicit links from existing to new knowledge and scaffolding learning
- preparation before a new learning experience allows better learning, and
- active learning strategies are much more effective ways to create deep learning.
The paper presents key research papers in STEM disciplines that build from this understanding of how learning learn to examine the evidence for the effectiveness for active teaching strategies including:
- pre-lab exercises and preparatory reading for lectures,
- flipped classroom that embeds scaffolding and active learning, and
- authentic learning and assessment that is more engaging and can promote long-term learning
- technology-rich teaching which is still an area of active research.
The authors link each finding to the implications for learning and match to practical advice for learning and course design that will improve learning outcomes.
Download here and use this paper to stimulate discussion in your discipline or Faculty about effective learning and teaching.
Bradforth, S. E., et al. (2015). “University learning: improve undergraduate science education.” Nature 523: 282-284.
Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, is a big fan of the PhD. His speech on July 29th, at the Park Royal Melbourne Airport, available here, makes a powerful case for an expanded vision of it. The PhD should return to its roots as an experience that creates deep, adaptable and capable thinkers, fit for a challenging world beyond discovery research. PhD students are not just ‘academics in utero’.
The speech was made to open a national forum convened by the ACDS and ACGR (Australian Council of Graduate Research). The forum was held to raise awareness of the recommendations of the Review of Australia’s Research Training System, commissioned last year by the Federal Government from the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).
Their report, released on April 14th this year, makes recommendations about the conduct of postgraduate research that will have considerable impact on science faculties. The Chief Scientist’s speech provides an eloquent and entertaining insight into the imperatives driving such recommendations.
He goes on to argue for changes to business incentives to collaborate with universities. He notes the opportunities for research students provided by the initiatives in NISA, and commends models such as the Canadian Mitacs and French CIFRE programs that connect research students with industry.
The Office of the Chief Scientist has provided a $150,000 grant to the ACDS to establish a national network supporting work integrated learning in science faculties and schools.
A call for co-funded lighthouse projects will go out in late August and a national forum will be held on December 11th at the Park Royal Hotel at Melbourne Airport.
The grant was announced on July 16th at the ACDS Teaching and Learning Conference in Brisbane . More information about the proposed program can be found here.
The announcement amounts to six measures including industry growth centres and a package promoting STEM skills in schools. How it will impact the CRC program is canvassed in this CRC Association response.