Using mathematics and IT in harmony: a learning approach

Russell, Daniel and Avery, Barry (2016) Using mathematics and IT in harmony: a learning approach. In: British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference 2016; 13-15 Sep 2016, Leeds, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Mathematics and information technology have a long history as essential components of an undergraduate business degree. They have typically been taught as two independent components of a multidisciplinary programme. At Kingston University a recent restructuring of undergraduate programmes resulted in these subjects co-habiting a single module providing an opportunity for an interdisciplinary learning approach where mathematics and information technology are taught in harmony. We believe that this not only motivates learning by contextualising the delivery of the material but also improves the quality of the learning experience by creating a learning environment which supports the fourth level of the SOLO taxonomy, relational, where learners, inter alia, apply, integrate and analyse (Biggs and Tang, 2009). As a result, students gain in confidence through a deeper understanding of problem solving techniques, using the tools and technologies that formal mathematics and application software in combination can provide. This research investigates the learning achieved by students on the module. We describe the design and delivery of the module and evaluate its success using the SOLO taxonomy. The evaluation was centred on two main research questions: Do students recognise the mutual dependency of the components and how does this affect their motivation for learning and their understanding of the component disciplines? • Do students feel confident in their ability to integrate and synthesise mathematics and information technology to support problem-solving in a business context? • This research uses insights drawn from the existing literature in interdisciplinary learning. A mixed methods approach has been adopted, using thematic analysis and quantitative measures, applied across data collected from a variety of sources, including questionnaires, performance data and institutional quality feedback processes. This paper presents the interdisciplinary framework, an analysis of the results, conclusions and recommendations on the use of an interdisciplinary approach applied to mathematics and information technology teaching, along with the key success factors, such as addressing the tensions that can arise where participants may have an acknowledged weakness in one or both of the subject areas.

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