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Developing students and tutors perceptions of good mathematical communication on level one service mathematics module MU123: an investigation

Project leader(s): 
Sally Crighton, Andrew Potter and Gerry Golding
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The project addresses the issue of good mathematical communication for level one mathematics students. One of the key difficulties students face when new or relatively new to studying mathematics, especially in a service mathematics environment, is being able to structure mathematical arguments in a clear and logical manner. Tutors find the process of assessing and teaching good mathematical communication skills challenging, particularly for a diverse student cohort with varying degrees of mathematical fluency and background. Current practice varies considerably amongst tutors and this can lead to inconsistent assessment of learning outcomes which can prove to be frustrating for students.

In an attempt to reduce variability and subjectivity, it is proposed to undertake action research with the aim of developing a holistic approach to GMC which will inform the development of a marking grid which sets out clear expectations for students and tutors alike.

Tutors will be consulted via a number of focus groups on what in their opinion constitutes GMC at each level of mathematical competence attained by students throughout their MU123 journey. In parallel, students’ views will be sought through a number of targeted Adobe Connect sessions designed to cultivate a discourse on GMC and students’ perceptions of their development needs. We will also review the allocation of GMC marks across TMAs to investigate if the current GMC marks allocation is sufficient motivation for students to engage with practice.

It is envisaged that the outcome will consist of an explanatory video/screencast, a number of prescribed tuition interventions for each TMA and a GMC marking grid that tutors will complete as part of each TMA.

Crighton, S., Potter, A. and Golding, G. (2019) Project poster (PDF)

Theme: 

Factors influencing female participation in Physical Science Postgraduate Research Programmes

Project leader(s): 
Clare Reger, Mark Bowden, Anne-Marie Gallen
Faculty: 
STEM and The University of Liverpool
Status: 
Current
Body: 

Why do female graduates within Physics and Engineering choose certain research areas above others? While women are generally underrepresented in most areas of postgraduate and postdoctoral research, the gender balance varies between different research fields, and, in some areas, is significantly below the sector average. This project, a joint study of the Open University and the University of Liverpool, will explore the reasons why the proportion of women pursuing postgraduate research in the nuclear sector, and nuclear fusion in particular, is significantly lower  (~12%) than might be expected considering the sector average for physical science-based postgraduate research of ~25%. 

The lack of information about UGàPG progression makes it difficult to design evidence-based strategies.  With both the OU and Liverpool participating in nuclear sector Centres for Doctoral Training, insight into the decision-making processes of female undergraduates should enable the design of more inclusive recruitment strategies.

We propose a study to identify issues influencing the progression of women into postgraduate research. Within focus groups, female postgraduates will be asked to discuss their reasons for choosing their particular research field. One focus group will be drawn from women involved in nuclear fusion, a field with significant and persistent under-representation of women, while a second group will be drawn from a research field in which the number of women meets the sector average. This second focus group will also be asked to discuss reasons they may have for rejecting the fusion field.

The project will have two main outcomes. One immediate outcome will be information that can be used to inform better recruitment strategies for the OU and Liverpool based doctoral training centres. The second outcome, however, is a longer term one. The results of this small-scale, short-term study should provide the basis for designing externally-funded research into progression choices of women in physical/engineering sciences.

Theme: 

Understanding the profile of apprentices

Project leader(s): 
Leonor Barroca and Matt Walkley
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

Research questions: What is the current profile of apprentices in Computing, and what is their achievement, nationally and at the OU? How does our gender distribution compare with that nationally for apprentices in Computing?

Hypothesis: Claims have been made that apprentices achieve better than other students and that the gender distribution (https://bit.ly/2GINwtb) is also more equal for apprentices. We start from this assumption to investigate the profile of apprentices in Computing in the University and more widely.

Relevance to others: This project will contribute to a better understanding of the apprentice population and can be useful for the University in deciding on recruitment and strategy in relation to apprenticeships. A better understanding of apprentices’ profiles will also  allow for better support to apprentices in Computing.  

Outputs: a report comparing the profile of apprentices with that of non- apprentices in Computing at the OU,  and comparing the profile of apprentices in Computing at the OU and those across the sector. A suggestion of further areas to explore in relation to apprenticeships and recruitment. The existence of data comparing across the sector will bring evidence that could be used in decision making. Also, a better understanding of the profiles of apprentices will help with improving their support. This study is focusing on DTS apprentices, not on apprentices in general.

Method: Analysis of data at the OU and across partners in the IoC and interviews with OU apprentices.

Barroca, L. and Walkley, M. (2019) Project poster (PDF)

Theme: 

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