National University of Singapore (SINGAPORE)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 6170-6180
ISBN: 978-84-616-0763-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain
Contemporary scientific problems are no longer confined to a specific branch of science. Very often scientists define a new field of science (e.g. material science, actuarial science, biophysics, etc) which in itself is a combination of more basic sciences, namely mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. This new vision of “integrated-science” requires all Science Faculties to: (1) equip their undergraduates with knowledge and skill to collaborate with fellow scientists across the disciplines; (2) learn new ideas outside their major; and (3) assimilate these ideas into something novel. The main questions are: how broad and deep do we want to teach our undergraduates integrated-science? And how shall we execute this pedagogy? Going too broad causes students to lose focus, while focusing too much causes students to lose the relevance of their subject in relation to the bigger scientific issues at hand. We address these issues through our pedagogical model, the Integrated-Science Curriculum (ISC), which has been implemented in the Special Programme in Science (SPS) at the National University of Singapore.

The Special Programme in Science was established in 1996 as the Faculty of Science’s premiere academic programme to nurture aspirant scientists toward the growing R&D demands of a 21st-century knowledge-based economy. The programme is open to all students who enrol in the Faculty of Science, and it runs in addition to the students’ chosen major. One common component in the educational background of each student is that they have passed through the GCE A-level examination (or equivalent) and are, therefore, conversant in college-level basic science.

The Integrated Science Curriculum consists of 4 modules based on different “scales-of-the-universe”, namely: Atoms to Molecules, The Cell, The Earth and The Universe; and 2 research-based modules, titled “Discovering Science” and “Investigating Science”. In that sense, the 4 thematic-based modules foster the necessary background knowledge in multidisciplinary science (for instance, The Cell module discusses how random Brownian motion contributes to cell dynamics), and the 2 research-based modules emphasize the rigor of research methodology and the importance of science communication (through repeated written reports, poster and oral presentations), while at the same time providing students with the first-hand opportunity to dabble in scientific investigation (i.e. now putting the knowledge into practice). Additional tools such as sophisticated computation and visualization software (e.g. MathematicaTM) enable SPS students with diverse backgrounds and academic interests to better understand and appreciate science. Finally, at the backbone of the curriculum is the strong involvement of student-mentors (i.e. senior SPS students) to guide the junior SPS students in interactive sessions, research projects, etc. In my talk, I will address issues related to SPS student selection, the challenges faced in implementing the ISC, and how active-learning is an integral part of the ISC.

This work follows up the earlier report presented in INTED2011: L.L. Koh, R.C.E. Tan (2011) Designing A Through-train Programme That Integrates Undergraduate and Graduate Education, INTED2011 Proceedings, pp. 392-397
Special Programme, Undergraduate Study, Integrated Science Curriculum.