Project introduction and background information
The main goals of science education, provided by universities, are: learning the scientific content, learning the scientific methodologies and learning the scientific activities. In our BSc programme Food Technology we provide our students with courses in carefully chosen subjects. With this it is assured that the right scientific content is acquired by the students. The learning outcomes of the courses gives a good overview of which content is learned. But the scientific activities and the scientific methodologies are both less clearly defined in the learning outcomes of the different courses. The problem is that we know that our students learn about scientific activities and methodologies, but we do not know exactly in which courses they explicitly learn this and to what level. Secondly, the number of students in our programme has grown strongly in the last years, which forces our teachers to reconsider the learning activities in their courses. Some activities have been minimized (e.g. lab report writing), while others have been extended. In some courses, individual assignments are replaced by group assignments. We would like to make sure that our students have sufficient opportunities to practice the required skills (also individually), to meet the required level of the scientific methodologies and activities.
We would like to make sure that the students in our Bachelor programme gradually learn the scientific methods and activities. With this project, we want to design a learning path/model called “Scientific skills in Food Science”, that consists of several defined skills. The model that was developed by Leiden University is one of our inspirations. In this model students learn to take different roles. Each role holds several skills. We would like to develop a similar kind of model, but then specified to our study programme and our type of students (technology minded). So, our to-be-defined model should describe the different skills that students need to acquire over the course of the programme. The skills will be placed in a meaningful context, to make students aware of the goal of acquiring these skills.
Students are introduced to this to-be-defined model at the very beginning of the Bachelor programme. Teachers will refer to the model in their courses indicating to the student what role students should take for the different learning activities and what skills students are practising. For example, when students are working in a lab class, teachers tell the students that they are in an observer role. When students are giving / making a presentation they are in a communicator role, etc. By repeating this model in every course, students start to recognize the different roles that they can take.
We want to ensure that at the end of the Bachelor programme students have practiced all skills. We also want to prevent that some skills become underexposed and other overexposed. Therefore, for every course it is carefully described which skills are practiced and how they contribute to the learning path. With this teachers know how his/her course contributes to the development of the students regarding their scientific skills. Feedback to the student about this skill is also organized within each respective course.
Learning the scientific activities and methodologies is a gradual process: students should preferably learn science in whole authentic tasks in which the amount of guidance is slowly reduced and the amount of freedom is slowly increased. So, while in most courses students will focus on one or two specific skills, in some courses students will go through the whole task of performing science (take on all roles of the model). Also, in this way we can ensure that students have practised all skills before starting their Bachelor thesis project.
We want to set-up a shared electronic environment (Blackboard ?, Portfolio ?) in which all students and teachers can find and share information about the model, the skills, the roles, and see how the different courses contribute to the development of these skills. In this environment, students can track their own progress and are able to see how and when they can practice certain skills again. Also study advisors could for example use this environment to track the development of the students.
Objective and expected outcomes
- A clearly defined learning path for scientific skills
- The development of our own model that holds the various roles and skills, to communicate this with our students
- That all course coordinators will understand the role of their course in, and actively contribute to, the scientific skills development of our students
- That all course coordinators to understand the importance of refering to the model and use this model in their courses
- That students are aware of the importance of acquiring the skills and are able to reflect on themselves.
- Rich learning environment; The skills and attitudes that students need to learn to become a scientist needs a careful design of a programme, to ensure that every skill is practised with enough depth. This can all be ensured when all teachers in a programme are aware of the contribution of each course to the acquisition of these skills and attitudes
- Flexible and personalised learning paths; Students will be able to track their own progress regarding the different skills. Based on this, they will make better informed choices about which course they will choose (vrije keuzevakken), based on which skill they would like to deepen more.
- The model for the learning path could be extended to define clear scientific research skills for online Master programmes. Also, the model could be adapted to be used for normal Master programmes.