Senior News Editor
The faculty of Science offers courses that cross a range of learning objectives and styles, as some courses are lecture-based, while others require a lab component. In between, are Science courses that hold potential for more invigorating student experiences.
To tackle the issues facing the Faculty of Science specifically, an open forum was held on March 21, hosted by the McMaster Science Society to give students an opportunity to voice their concerns about Science education at McMaster.
The informal discussion began with an introduction from University president, Patrick Deane who opened with a snapshot of the current status of Canadian universities.
“Governments do recognize that higher education is important,” said Deane, after explaining that even in the difficult economic times currently facing government spending, every effort is going toward preserving higher education.
Not only is McMaster on the verge of transformation but the country as a whole, is in the process of rethinking education, a long-overdue endeavour. The current model of higher education, noted Deane, has not changed since 1967 and Ontario’s per student funding at the post-secondary education is the lowest across the country.
“I am still very proud of the quality of education, but it is not a sustainable way of doing things,” he said, with particular reference to how a degree is structured and how to best incorporate the foundations of a discipline into the curriculum.
It is important to garner those skills vital to developing a career, while building a holistic experience which may come from experiential education and incorporating research into undergraduate education in a feasible way.
Such far-reaching goals would only be a product of additional funding, something that will not be a reality for many years given the current economic situation. What can be done, however, is reconfigure the university’s budget system, “which might make the money go further,” said Deane. The University is currently in the process of implementing a new budget model.
One consideration proposed by an audience member, was the possibility of outsourcing education to companies that could provide the resources that the University is currently struggling to provide. As attractive as this alternative may seem, it may lend itself to numerous legal complications and there is no deficiency in faculty expertise at this University, explained Deane.
Another audience member expressed the promising role of mentorship programs, while another stated the need for students to take charge of their education as well.
The event concluded with a panel discussion, moderated by Alison Sills, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Panelists spoke about problems faced when trying to implement discussion-based courses. The over-arching problem was that students don’t take charge of self-directed learning and poor test results are reflected in the teaching evaluation of professors.
To be noted as well, is that many students are juggling many different things and prioritization is a natural part of dealing with the copious amounts of work, noted Dr. Kimberly Dej, professor in the department of Biology.
A blended model of discussion and lecture-based approach is one that may be more effective. A financial investment has already been put toward to bringing online courses to McMaster and incorporating a blended model of teaching.
The Faculty of Science is among the faculties that may be used for the pilot project, noted Sills.