Changing perspectives in tertiary teaching: A collaborative approach between science and education faculties

Year: 1999

Author: Panizzon, Debra, Pegg, John, Mulquiney, Col

Type of paper: Refereed paper

There is an expectation that universities need to improve the quality of their teaching. At the University of New England, this movement has been facilitated by the establishment of a Teaching Development Fund to support selected projects. This paper reports on one such initiative involving members from the Centre for Cognition Research in Learning and Teaching, and lecturers and demonstrators in the Faculty of the Sciences involved in one of the largest foundation units within the University. The purpose of the grant was to assist the staff in creating a richer learning environment for students that catered for the diverse range of student backgrounds and ability levels upon entry. The project was carried out within the professional development framework provided by HITS (Help in Teaching Science). During the course of the project the focus moved away from an emphasis on what scientific content was to be taught towards an awareness of the complexities of student thinking and learning of the scientific content. In addition to this, the traditional role of demonstrators was seen to be inadequate and the view of a demonstrator as a teacher emerged. This newer role carried with it greater responsibility in terms of student learning, more autonomy, and a realisation of the centrality of the demonstrators as the link between lecturers and students in the learning process. The results of this close collaboration between professional educators and science staff have wide implications for Science Faculties in universities throughout Australia given the lower numbers of students opting for science degrees and the high attrition rates.