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Wednesday, May 30 • 3:15pm - 4:00pm
Measuring Interdisciplinary Thinking in a Unique Teaching Environment: The Science One Program at UBC

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Science One, a unique alternative to the standard first year in the Faculty of Science at UBC, is a 29-credit program of study spanning two terms that provides 75 students an opportunity to immerse themselves in science. The program, led by 8 professors, presents the traditional science disciplines (biology, chemistry, math, and physics) in a unified, interdisciplinary format that cultivates critical, independent thought as the basis of scientific inquiry.

The program is built around a community of learners. Students create lifelong connections with friends and professors and dedicated classrooms and study spaces, as well as unparalleled access to instructors. Data show that Science One alumni out perform in traditionally challenging second and third year courses, even when accounting for incoming high school grades.

However, one of the key goals of any interdisciplinary program is to break down the siloed thinking that confines ideas to specific disciplines. While there is increasing interest in interdisciplinary science programs, there is a lack of documented research in interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Our work has been guided by two fundamental research questions:

1. Do students in an interdisciplinary program “think differently” than students in a multidisciplinary program?

2. Are students in an interdisciplinary program more readily able to transfer knowledge across disciplinary boundaries than those is a multidisciplinary program? If so, can we measure it?

Previously, card sorting has been used to distinguish expert and novice thinking in physics (Chi, 1981), biology (Smith, 2013) and chemistry (Krieter, 2016). We have extended this method to develop a card sorting instrument that measures interdisciplinary thinking. Students are asked to sort nine disciplinary textbook problems (3 each from biology, chemistry and physics). There are two hypothesized sorts: a disciplinary sort and an interdisciplinary sort.

During our session, we will show that participating in an interdisciplinary science program like Science One can break down these siloes. We will also discuss how card sort activities are a versatile method for measuring student knowledge categorization in many situations. To set the stage, participants will take part in a card sort to get a feeling for how hypothesized sorts can manifest themselves.

avatar for Chris Addision

Chris Addision

The University of British Columbia
Senior Instructor, Department of Chemistry and Science One ProgramDirector, Science Gateway Programs
avatar for James Charbonneau

James Charbonneau

Assistant Professor of Teaching, University of British Columbia
I'm an Instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UBC and the Associate Director the Science Gateway Programs, which includes Science One and the Coordinated Science Program. I spend most of my time either teaching or thinking about teaching.

Wednesday May 30, 2018 3:15pm - 4:00pm AKDT
Ballroom 2