Carnegie Mellon University



1. What is the status of Quantitative Reasoning programming on your campus?

At Carnegie Mellon, the Mellon College of Science consists of the departments of Math, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. We are currently in the process of an undergraduate curriculum review. In addition, the Provost has formed an Assessment Task Force to document all forms of assessment, and to determine the future evolution of assessment on campus. The Assessment Task Force's goal is to change the conversation about assessment on campus and to encourage continued growth and to incorporate effective assessment activities across campus. One of the Assessment Task Force's early findings was that while many assessment efforts exist, there is a lack of knowledge about how to implement new strategies. In conjunction with the curriculum review and the Provost's Assessment Task Force, we feel this is an opportune time to incorporate more quantitative approaches to the natural science education in Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon University.


2. What are the key learning goals that shape your current programming or that you hope to achieve?

We are currently in the planning stages of implementing a new Calculus II course for chemistry and biology majors. This course will cover topics of integration, probability, differential equations, and modeling, all with relevant biological concepts. We hope this will be the initial step in integrating quantitative reasoning into our curriculum. This course will be offered during the spring of 2011. As a result of our discussions in planning for this new course, a few early goals were evident:

1. Students will be able to use mathematical approaches to solving biological problems.
2. Reinforce this mathematical approach in our biology curriculum in all courses, and during all four years at Carnegie Mellon.
3. Use the mathematical approach to problem solving in our biology laboratory classes.
4. Report results both in written lab reports and in oral presentations.

In addition, we are preparing a grant proposal for a summer undergraduate ten-week research institute that will have rising sophomore math and biology majors engaged in research with both Math and Biology faculty. The research projects will be chosen by the students, but will have a common theme of using a mathematical approach to solving biological problems. This program is modeled after our Summer Research Institute for sophomores from all science backgrounds. Students work in teams on current biological research problems guided by Biology faculty. This highly successful program has existed for five years, and has improved the students analytical and problem solving skills as well as being a valuable research experience. Therefore, our main goal of attending the workshop is to formulate a plan to begin to incorporate more math and statistics into our laboratory courses in biology in both written lab reports and in oral presentations. This will be a starting point to change our curriculum at all levels of their undergraduate education.


3. Do you have QR assessment instruments in place? If so; please describe:

We do not have QR assessment instruments. We would like to attend this meeting to develop a concrete plan for implementing QR assessments.


4. Considering your campus culture; what challenges or barriers do you anticipate in implementing or extending practices to develop and assess QR programming on your campus?

Our goal is to incorporate Quantitative Reasoning approaches across all departments in Mellon College of Science. We consider there to be some resistance due to faculty:

A) Being reluctant to change their current practices of assessment.
B) Little sharing of assessment efforts even within the same department.
C) Expressing a need for a centralized information bank— particularly a website on successful assessment practices and examples.
D) Expressing need for resources and support to enhance assessment practice

We feel that we can address many of these issues through communication and demonstration of assessment practices.


5. Considering your campus culture; what opportunities or assets will be available to support your QR initiatives?

We have several assets in place:

1. Leadership and support from the Department Heads. Both the Math and Biology Department heads support and encourage QR assessment practices.
2. Collaborative efforts. We already have a collaborative effort in place with the formation of the new Biology Calculus II course. We expect this collaborative effort to expand to develop assessment tools within both departments. In addition, the Provost's Task Force has found that in departments that have developed Web sharing of assessment practices, faculty are more likely to incorporate assessment practices into their teaching.
3. Support from experts. We have the Eberly Teaching Center where faculty members can partner with the Eberly Center staff to collaboratively develop assessment tools and engage in ongoing consultations to support, develop and implement new teaching practices.
4. Finally, we feel that our team and our level of experience and engagement will be an asset to implementing QR initiatives.

Besides being an interdisciplinary team that works well together, we have the desire and enthusiasm to implement QR among our departments. Together, we deal with large numbers of students from all majors in the Mellon College of Science. This will be a tremendous asset to our efforts.