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The HE Curriculum Theme Neil Challis Mike Robinson Mike Thomlinson More Maths Grads HE Curriculum Team Sheffield Hallam Department of Engineering and Mathematics.

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Presentation on theme: "The HE Curriculum Theme Neil Challis Mike Robinson Mike Thomlinson More Maths Grads HE Curriculum Team Sheffield Hallam Department of Engineering and Mathematics."— Presentation transcript:

1 The HE Curriculum Theme Neil Challis Mike Robinson Mike Thomlinson More Maths Grads HE Curriculum Team Sheffield Hallam Department of Engineering and Mathematics

2 Outline The HE Curriculum theme of MMG Some themes to watch out for A whistlestop tour of the outcomes –Access to HE –Student/staff views of the problems –Some possible solutions Conclusions/Summary Questions/discussion 2 Old-fashioned origin of a mathematical function (6, 4) (Guardian, Rufus, 13 Sept)

3 A shameless plug Today: key findings and some common themes only For greater detail, please see the book. Also available at 3

4 What the curriculum theme was NOT about I cannot imagine a Mathematics degree without Banach spaces Numerical analysis … … add your own … We would not presume… 4

5 What the curriculum theme was about… Holding up a mirror to everything about HE maths provision, including access to HE/types of degree… student/staff attitudes and aspirations… student experience, including support, teaching, assessment, engagement… careers awareness, employer engagement, employability… … and hence, course design and curriculum content 5

6 What the curriculum theme was about… As we carried out our investigations we found we were dealing with human matters: Attitude Aspiration Enthusiasm Motivation… Emergent key words are: Diversity Community 6

7 Access to HE School Leavers Adult returners Mathematical deserts Foundation degrees Old-fashioned origin of a mathematical function (6, 4) _ _ _ _ R _ / _ _ _ _

8 Access to HE - school leavers Why maths? –from rare passion to frequent ambivalence –good, wide-ranging career options (but vague) –are teaching staff comfortable with this? Why here? –reputation - judged how? –reasons beyond our control (city, nightlife, etc) –only 1 in 5 cite course-related reasons –diversity in provision not fully understood (more later) 8

9 Access to HE - adult returners Maths has low proportion of mature students Return to education usually driven by career- development Anecdotal evidence of reluctance on part of some admissions tutors Mature students often struggle, but do well Variety of routes into HE for returners Variety of funding available Information for potential students and admissions tutors is difficult to find. 9

10 Access to HE - mathematical deserts Some UK areas have no maths courses –some have only courses with high entry requirements Students who wish to study from home unable to do so –affects ethnic minorities, lower socio-economic groups and adult returners disproportionately. Reduces supply of highly skilled maths teachers in the area Reduces opportunity for university-led outreach work with schools 10

11 Access to HE - foundation degrees No demand for FdSc in Mathematics alone More potential for more vocational courses –Mathematics with X –X with Mathematics Potential for national part-time distance learning programme developed jointly by …? 11

12 Student (and staff) perspectives on the difficulties of studying maths General comments Personal and social issues General educational issues Mathematical issues Relationships between staff and students Transition Student support Lectures, tutorials and assessment Old-fashioned origin of a mathematical function (6, 4) _ _ _ _ R _ / _ _ O _

13 Student experience: general comments Student experience before and during uni is extremely diverse More students are positive than negative, but –1 in 5 first years enjoy maths less than at school –1 in 4 feel less confident. Wide range of positive/negative issues raised by students –largely in line with issues raised by staff 13

14 Student experience: Personal Mathematics study is often not students' major worry –Money/homesickness/cooking/washing/making friends/… Personal issues continue beyond year one –eg moving out of halls at start of second year –searching for employment during final year 14

15 Student experience: general educational issues Switch to large classes difficult for many –staff contact highly valued –small classes appreciated –lectures seen as impersonal/sometimes viewed with disdain Feedback and assessment problematic for many Staff often identify lack of motivation/interest Staff identify obsession with 'the next test' 15

16 Student experience: mathematical Many students perceive subject as difficult Staff identify shortcomings in ability of some students on arrival Both students and staff recognise a difference in the nature of school and university maths Students report little time devoted to developing the new skills a university mathematician needs 16

17 Student experience: more on transition Transition to university life remains - and will remain - difficult for some Problems continue beyond the school-university transition into later years Beware of 'bridging a gap' (eliminate it) Beware of 'extra transitional support' becoming more work for students in the first term 17

18 Student experience: lectures, tutorials, assessment Strong commitment from most staff to teaching Limited resources and future career opportunities can limit the scope for developing teaching skills Wide range of approaches to large and small group teaching and assessment –book reviews some of the many approaches –also contains case studies from different authors 18

19 Some possible solutions? Student Support Community Benefits for students and staff

20 Student support Obvious staff-driven support mechanisms include Personal contact (formal/informal) with staff Peer mentoring Drop-in centres Online support… But Single most important student support: FRIENDS Our role is to facilitate easy formation of friendships and hence mutual support networks 20

21 Community Mathematics students are (mostly) social creatures: They like to feel part of a community, which includes undergraduates from all years, as well as postgrads and academic and support staff Peers give personal and academic support. Contact with higher level students provides reassurance, and enriches the view. Higher level students gain more confidence with earlier work, and learn about explaining. A good, appropriate relationship with staff is crucial. 21

22 Community This is something which needs to be worked at. during induction and beyond social activities group work projects effective online communication PALS awareness of department's other work staff attitudes towards students (and hence vice versa)… … developing a full and frank educational relationship Staff investment in this is amply repaid. 22

23 Benefits for students and staff Benefits Full and frank educational relationship… → are valued → feel valued → feel genuinely part of things → happier → more enjoyment → work harder → succeed → leave with positive memory → more likely to forgive us our trespasses… Increased job satisfaction for staff Improved student enjoyment and satisfaction Good for the maths ecosystem Better NSS scores 23

24 Curriculum content and course design Diversity in mathematical sciences What constitutes a mathematical graduate? Curriculum content Employability and careers awareness Old-fashioned origin of a mathematical function (6, 4) _ _ U _ R _ / _ _ O _

25 Curriculum/courses: diversity in mathematics courses Mathematics students: Come from a wide range of starting points Aim for a wide range of finishing points For a healthy mathematical ecosystem, maths degrees must therefore provide a wide range of courses This is a strength of mathematical sciences. We should all support the MSOR benchmark support for diverse courses. We should encourage students to choose the right course for them Hence Maths at University booklet 25

26 26

27 Some questions What makes a maths graduate special? (Or if you like, what is mathematics? What is a mathematician?) We said we wouldn’t say ‘I can’t imagine a maths degree without…’ but what is essential? 27

28 Curriculum/courses: What is a maths graduate? Widespread view: key maths graduate qualities are set of skills attitudes ways of thinking behaviours… …developed through some mathematical content and knowledge, not particular content itself. Nevertheless, we often design courses around content first. 28

29 Old-fashioned origin of a mathematical function (6, 4) S _ U _ R _ / R _ O _ Requires (mistaken?) knowledge An understanding of how cryptic crosswords work A ‘spark’ On maths courses we usually focus on the knowledge. We expect them to pick up how it all works And the spark…? 29

30 Curriculum/courses: Curriculum content Do we squeeze in too much content, leaving insufficient time for reflection? Is that counterproductive not only for the majority who will not end up as professional mathematicians, but for those who will? Do we agree that mathematics is about logical thinking, problem solving, skills development, ways of thinking? 30

31 Curriculum/courses: Careers awareness/employability Recall: primary student motivation is to enhance future career prospects Few students use advanced mathematical ideas in future work, but many use lower level maths and general mathematical attitudes/skills Often in competition with non-maths students Staff should recognise and respect student aspirations Employability/career management/careers awareness should be included in our curriculum 31

32 Summary Diversity and community Recognition and respect

33 Diversity and community Students are people first, and therefore diverse in: age ability social group ethnicity experience and attributes aspirations and motivations needs Students are people first, and therefore mostly crave relationships with: peers other students staff 33

34 Recognition and respect They are not all like us: Some (small) proportion will become research mathematicians, by design or accident Some (small?) proportion are passionate about the subject Most are motivated by a desire to "get a good job", and see a Maths degree may help them. Their diverse aims and aspirations deserve recognition and respect. 34

35 Recognition and respect Should we seek a sense of common purpose between students and staff? Education is a partnership - students are junior partners, becoming more senior as things progress "I feel that the tutors and students work as a team aiming for one goal and that is the students' understanding and enjoyment of the subject" 35

36 Questions/contacts/shameless plugs 36

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