Recognition for changes to science education
Saturday, 24 November 2012
Professor Hill, Executive Dean of the University's Faculty of Sciences, has become a finalist in the Education category for his leadership of a range of improvements to the first-year science program.
Known as 'Enhanced Learning in First-Year Sciences', the program has been instrumental in increasing recruitment and retention rates in undergraduate science courses, with science curriculums focused on the '10 Big Questions' of science.
The Australian Innovation Challenge is a national search for the country's greatest ideas in fields from environmental science to education.
Run by The Australian in association with Shell, with the support of the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, the awards have seven professional categories, each carrying a prize of $5000. The overall winner will receive a further $25,000.
Under Professor Hill's leadership, the Enhanced Learning in First-Year Sciences program has been aimed at creating an environment that makes science relevant and engaging for students. The 10 Big Questions in science are based on research strengths in the Faculty and focus attention on issues of great social and scientific significance.
For the past two years, first-year science students have been provided with a free Apple iPad, giving them access to shared electronic resources and reducing dependence on expensive hardcopy textbooks. The Faculty also launched its electronic magazine, e-Science - a free resource for school teachers, students and the general public, designed to engage at all levels.
"Surveys of the student experience of learning and teaching show our first-year students are more satisfied with their learning, and retention rates have markedly improved," Professor Hill says.
"School teachers have adopted 'The 10 Big Questions' and the e-Science magazine in increasing numbers. e-Science has received more than 16,000 downloads or views globally.
"We will continue to make science as relevant and engaging to our students as possible. One of our next steps is to remove the financial burden of textbooks for our students, by providing free electronic textbooks to first-years in Biology and Geology, and for most of first-year Physics as well. These will be downloaded by students onto their free iPads."
The winner of The Australian Innovation Challenge Awards will be announced on 11 December in Sydney.