Exploring Beyond the Core: Science Literacy in an Undergraduate Integrated Curriculum

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Symons, S.L., Colgoni, A., Harvey, C.T. and Eyles, C.H., McMaster University, Canada.
Presented at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) 2012 Conference in Montreal. 

Abstract

Science literacy is a central component of the Integrated Science Program (iSci) at McMaster University, providing a common thread through all four years of the undergraduate program. We define science literacy as the writing, reading, communication, and information skills required to practice science. The aim of the science literacy component is to prepare the next generation of professional scientists to communicate not only within academia, but also to the wider community.

We present preliminary results from the first three years of the program, investigating student attitudes to science literacy in terms of their own confidence and the value they place on skills and experience in the component. The study has been conducted both for program development purposes and to evaluate the outcomes of our teaching methods. The surveys were also designed to raise student awareness of their own science literacy skills as valuable outcomes of their university education. We will also demonstrate how science literacy fits within a larger program where students engage with research skills early in their degree program.

Our methods are relevant to any undergraduate science course with professional integrated skills components. We will share our teaching techniques and survey methods, and conclude with preliminary results from our study.

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