Teaching Innovation Awards Winner
University of Kent
Skills in mathematics form a key aspect of Natural Science degree programmes at the University of Kent. With the cancellation of A-level/ BTEC examinations, lack of in-school teaching and lockdown fatigue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it was predicted that some students may struggle with mathematics skills necessary in the first year of their degree.
In collaboration with LearnSci, the Division of Natural Sciences (including the Schools of Biosciences, Physical Science and Sport and Exercise Science) set out to produce an interactive online Smart Worksheet to identify such students. The Smart Worksheet encompassed fundamental mathematical principles in a range of presentation styles to ascertain not only the theoretical areas but additionally how the problems appear (i.e. graphically, tabular, written format) that students might find problematic. The Smart Worksheet incorporated GCSE, A-level, and BTEC level questions, which increased in difficulty as the student advanced through it.
An example of an application of this Smart Worksheet is within the School of Biosciences. To ascertain first-year student numeracy skills, the Smart Worksheet was sent to the students two weeks prior to welcome week. The students had four weeks to complete it, providing a time frame for data analysis and implementation of any support aids into the curricula, prior to the programmes advancing.
The Smart Worksheet assessed both individual student and entire cohort understanding across Natural Sciences. Academics across multiple programmes were then able to adapt and shape future lectures and resources to support student learning success and direct support to where it is most useful. For the School of Biosciences specifically, it identified 40% of the incoming students to not have adequate mathematical skills, facilitating the implementation of additional support strategies for those students.