2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 273-8
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


EYLES, Carolyn H., Integrated Science Program & School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada, SYMONS, Sarah L., Integrated Science Program & Department of Physics & Astronomy, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada and HARVEY, Chad T., Integrated Science Program & Department of Biology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada, eylesc@mcmaster.ca

The new and pedagogically innovative Honours Integrated Science (iSci) program at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) is one of only two 4-year integrated science programs of its type in existence. The program was designed to provide students with an interdisciplinary science education that emphasizes the links between scientific disciplines and focuses on learning through research and the development of scientific communication skills. The program also fosters a learning environment in which innovative styles of instruction can be developed and practiced. The iSci program accepts up to 60 students each year and is taught by a team of 18 instructors comprising both senior and junior research and teaching-stream faculty, post-doctoral fellows, a lab coordinator, instructional assistant, a librarian and library staff, and an administrator. The program is designed around a pedagogical model that emphasizes hands-on learning through interdisciplinary research (Research-based Integrated Education: RIE) and is mostly project-based and experiential. Instructors from all discipline areas are commonly involved in team-teaching activities that involve the integration of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and Earth science. Students’ development of research skills is scaffolded, especially in the first year, and by upper years our longitudinal study of the program has shown that they are extremely proficient problem-solvers and researchers. Furthermore, the iSci course structure includes multiple independent research opportunities with supervisors who can be drawn from any disciplinary unit across the University. All students in the program take a core suite of iSci courses and can concentrate elective courses in disciplinary areas to gain specialist expertise enabling them to enter graduate programs in science disciplines. Approximately 60% of graduates from the iSci program enter graduate school, 25% enter professional schools (medical, dentistry, law), and 15% choose to work or travel. The iSci program has been particularly effective in directing students into the Earth sciences as students are introduced to the discipline in their first year and the interdisciplinary research structure encourages consideration of geoscientific applications in all projects.