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Curriculum Review Steering Group Presentation Engagement with disciplines and promoting a sense of belonging in our students Dr Derek Scott School of Medical Sciences
What qualifies me to talk about this? Background in classics/history at school as well as sciences. Graduate of this university for 2 degrees and one at RGU. Have studied subjects other than medical/biological sciences including history, philosophy, astronomy, physics, computing. As Wellcome Teaching Fellow in Biomedical Sciences, my role is to teach a variety of different subjects, review our practices, and promote useful innovations. Also play a role in making sure we are meeting our subject benchmarks. Responsible for much of the training in generic skills for biomedically-related subjects. Have worked in other places than universities in non-academic posts. Advisor of Studies External examiner for medical degrees at Newcastle University. Run Honours projects not just in pure science/medicine, but also in role of ancient civilisation in development of these subjects. I am a scientist/teacher who has had a broad education and an appreciation of arts subjects.
Do our students belong to their Schools/degrees? Retention and progression is big problem. Is part of this due to the fact that our students find it difficult to identify with their disciplines/degrees? Problem since we moved to School/College structure. Student/departmental societies help. If you were a student, would you want to stay somewhere where you felt you were just part of a large crowd? Easier for some Schools than it is for others, especially if a School only teaches one subject in one location, and all students in a cohort are always together. Will this get better or worse if we have less discipline-specific teaching?
Case Study School of Medical Sciences Divorced from main campus. Wide variety of degrees. Students in OA until level 3. Have to work hard for the students to feel that they are part of the School if staff are mainly in another location. We try and ensure that our students are not just memorising facts, but understand concepts and why these facts/concepts are actually useful/relevant in the real world. Our students are given choice of subjects at levels 1 and 2 if possible, but most choose not to move far away from their degree discipline.
Engaging with chosen degree discipline(s) Students tell us regularly that other subjects can be interesting, but not what they came here to study. Will it help me get a job, find a PhD??? If we can explain how it will help them find employment or improve their degree, then perhaps more willing. Students do appreciate instruction in subjects such as history, ethics, etc if it is contextualised to their discipline. They want to know that it will be useful.
Integration of transferable/life skills with discipline-specific courses Many of the desirable attributes/skills highlighted by Curriculum Review are things that we already cover in our courses. We dont have lectures/tutorials/practicals/seminars called Ethics, Problem-Solving, Religion/Culture etc. - we integrate these areas into our discipline-specific teaching.
Transferable/life skills should already embedded to some extent within our courses Consider the effect of ethnicity of choice of drug. Logistical/ethical/cultural concerns in dealing with human/animal subjects. Use of common sense! Communication, problem-solving, teamwork, IT, statistics, ethics, appreciation of their subject in a wider context – all dealt with at multiple levels as part of our current courses.
Concerns & Challenges Are we just considering language and business as sustained study subjects? 4 courses at level 1? Knock-on effect to other years? Will employers/students wonder whether new curricula will serve them well? Compulsory courses outside of the discipline make me shudder!!!! If we do have NACs, then they should go through same ASC as other subjects those students study. Will our disciplines be diluted too much? Effect on retention and progression?
Flexibility and choice are key! If arts students want to study science then thats great! If science students want to study an arts subject, then that is also great! If we sort the timetable, then this can happen more often. It already does occur at level 1 and 2. HOWEVER, if these students choose NOT to study outwith their subject, then that is just as valid as well. Flexibility of the Scottish system is one of its main strengths. On a personal note, compulsory arts study would have made me choose somewhere else (a view shared by many of our current science students when polled!). I would also look at the loads expected on equivalent courses in sciences and arts for same credits – see Catalogue of Courses.
What are our questions? Where is our evidence? This is something which is unclear to many staff. We all agree curriculum review is not only good practice, but essential. Many of us feel we lack data and evidence, and thus, are unable to make informed decisions about whether suggestions are good, bad or relevant. This is not about being positive or negative about Curriculum Review, people just want to know that they are making the best choices for students, staff and the University as a whole. As well as considering broad ideas, we also need to consider at this point whether they are practical. Consider our expenditure in time and money – if we dont get it right, then its extremely wasteful. Finally, we have to be careful what we communicate to others. We have not yet decided there even is a need to change,
Summary We need data to make informed decisions. We all agree that review is good. Keep our flexibility and choice. Dont prevent students from feeling they belong to a discipline or School. Is there even a need for separate, new courses like NACs? Why not just embed these skills/attributes in current courses? Does the train need to slow down so the passengers know where they are going and why its happening? We need to get this right
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