The goals of this research study included evaluating the outcomes of Interdisciplinary Science Threshold Experience (InSciTE) on student experience of science discipline, level of sense belongingness to a large Faculty of Science (FoS), outcomes in learning science literacy skills and whether a student's background played a role in the differences of effects of the high-impact teaching practices. InSciTE was designed to facilitate the transition from high school to a large research-intensive university, and specifically to a FoS with over 6,000 undergraduate students.
The FoS in a Canadian university engaged in the development of a *9 credit program bundling foundational statistics and chemistry courses with integration of aspects of mathematics and biology or physics to create a new first-year, academic interdisciplinary experience called InSciTE. This project-based curriculum emphasized teamwork and leadership, and presented complex interdisciplinary challenges facing today's world. A team-teaching environment consisting of instructors, a lab coordinator and teaching assistants was instrumental for the core InSciTE courses. In addition, the authors utilized a variety of learning practices with interdisciplinary themes to meet the learning outcomes. Course activities included field experience and tours, blended learning and flipped lectures, guest speakers, discovery-based lab activities, group discussions and projects, a capstone research project, and a combination of formative and summative assessments. The authors proposed two hypotheses for the evaluative study; first that the high-impact practices (HIP) will improve students’ experiences and belongingness to science faculty, and second that InSciTE facilitates learning of scientific literacy skills. To assess the effectiveness of InSciTE, the authors used two surveys, the first being the Test of Scientific Literacy Skills (TOSLS), which measures skills related to major aspects of scientific literacy: recognizing and analysing the use of methods of inquiry that lead to scientific knowledge and the ability to organize, analyse, and interpret quantitative data and scientific information. The second survey examined student belongingness, motivation and autonomous learning, combined with demographic data questions.
The results suggest that InSciTE students reported higher feelings of relatedness, group membership, and career aspirations and performed better on the TOSLS compared to students in other science courses.
As a leader in interdisciplinary science, the FoS at a Canadian university developed a full-year course bundling foundational statistics and chemistry courses with integration of some aspects of mathematics and biology or physics to create a new first-year, academic interdisciplinary experience called InSciTE. This project-based curriculum emphasized teamwork and leadership, and presented complex interdisciplinary challenges facing today's world aiming to facilitate transition from high school to a research-intensive university.
Rissanen, A., Hoang, J.G. and Spila, M. (2023), "First-year interdisciplinary science experience enhances science belongingness and scientific literacy skills", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-09-2020-0313
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