The Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at the University of Leicester comprises a strongly collaborative teaching team delivering the University’s innovative Natural Sciences undergraduate programme. Over 12 years the team has developed a unique programme of interdisciplinary modules taught by problem-based learning (PBL) that integrates employability skills through authentic assessments.
The core PBL facilitation is delivered by the teaching team, with lecture contributions from around 50 research academics. The team consists of Sarah Gretton (director and biology tutor), Cheryl Hurkett (physics tutor), Dylan Williams (chemistry tutor) and Derek Raine (programme founder). The team, all of whom have HEA Fellowships and discipline based PhDs, use pedagogic research and scholarship to provide the evidence base for the development and dissemination of the programme.
Impact of work
The team approach has enabled a coherent curriculum of content and embedded skills across the STEM disciplines via a programme of interdisciplinary modules in which students, throughout their degree, engage with the process of scientific research. This approach has addressed the identified need for graduate scientists able to work across disciplines in cutting-edge problems, such as climate and nanoscience, as well as providing a broader base for discipline specialisation. Our research shows that students do indeed build confidence in their professional skills through repeated practice, and our graduates frequently record their appreciation of their skills development.
Plans for the future
We aim to continue to inspire other degree programmes (nationally and internationally) with our approach. Additionally, receiving this award would allow us to provide more focused support to staff interested in the strategic embedding of employability skills in degree programmes.
The Natural Sciences degree programme was developed initially with support from HEfCE through the CETL award and from the Institute of Physics through the Integrated Sciences and Stimulating Physics programmes.