Western University

Team Members: Tom Haffie, Ka (Gordon) Lo, Tarah Mosleh, Reza Naqvi, Rosalyn Phung, Lindi Wahl
Supporters: Kris Knorr, Rafaella Shammas

Project Description

The Faculty leads for this project, Tom Haffie (3M Fellow; Biology) and Lindi Wahl (Applied Math), have recently been selected as Teaching Fellows for the Faculty of Science by the central Teaching Support Centre of Western University in London, Ontario. Students as Partners is the central organizing principle of this joint Fellowship. As a “research intensive” university, Western invests a great deal of resources in developing students as colleagues in research. In Science programs, the most prestigious capstone opportunity for undergraduates is an independent thesis course that immerses students in the culture of disciplinary discovery research. However, Western invests next to nothing in developing students as colleagues on the education side of the house. Students have very little opportunity for input into educational policy or the design of courses, assessments or learning environments. Our central Teaching Support Centre offers no programming that involves undergraduates. The Fellowship project has a broad goal of helping the Faculty of Science (and the broader University) begin to capitalize on the heretofore unrealized potential of students to make insightful and creative contributions as colleagues in their own education.

The project will infuse the notion of Students as Partners into the Faculty of Science with both broadly based speakers and workshops as well as specific programming for undergraduate and graduate students. The undergraduate component will be the creation of a new program called the Undergraduate Science Education Fellowship. The Fellowship will see up to 6 undergraduate student Fellows per year engaged in such roles as consultants, designers and evaluators on various educational projects across the Faculty of Science. For the previous 4 years, one of us (TH) has offered a course called Education in Life Sciences designed to increase the educational skills of undergraduate students. Students engage with literature on the scholarship of teaching and learning, gain experience with practical strategies for teaching and learning and develop a critically reflective practice. The Fellowship project will expand this course beyond Biology to include students from across the Faculty of Science.

Although alumni from this new Education in Science course will be excellent candidates for the Education Fellowship program, we need to start the student Fellowship before the course is offered for the first time. So this is where the Summer Institute comes in. We are proposing to bring a team of students to McMaster to design the Student Fellowship program in May for a September launch. Our candidates already have experience as informal “partners” with faculty: one is a leader in a peer-mentoring program, one is a developer of a novel program that provides feedback to faculty on their courses, two others have been collaborating with the Dean of Science on the design of active learning spaces. All of them are passionate about making a difference in the educational system and excited about the opportunity to network with other Institute participants. Attending the Institute will provide ideas and inspiration and connections to the Faculty Fellows as they try to change the world as it turns at Western. We understand that Students as Partners can be a radical idea that may be hard to “sell”. We look forward to drawing on the expertise of more experienced colleagues. Our student teammates will certainly benefit from the affirmation that their interests are valued and their contributions are welcome. Their work together will be more productive in a focused environment. We will simply create a better program as a result of attending the Institute.

Summary Aims of the Institute Project

  • Develop a Undergraduate Science Education Fellowship, addressing such questions as recruitment, management, budgeting, faculty engagement, evaluation and dissemination.
  • Design an Education in Science undergraduate course highlighting students as partners.

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