Saturday, 2 August 2008

The MASH/TASH meeting

The second of yesterday's meetings was with Chetna Patel of the Maths and Statistics Help Service, which supports students across the institution with their maths and stats needs.  There are obvious parallels (beyond the chiming names) with TASH, and it was really helpful to get Chetna's perspective on how the two projects might link together.  It was also helpful to learn more about Chetna's experience in managing the maths and stats support service, and in working across the university with staff and students.

What Chetna is currently developing is a bank of diagnostic questions in all sorts of maths and stats areas, which will then be filtered and tailored to meet the needs of individual departments and modules.  This resource bank will be kept in MOLE, for ease of adaptability, and should be ready in an initial form for the next academic session.  The detail that the bulk of these diagnostic tests will examine is much greater than what TASH would aim for, as it is intended more to indicate general areas for student attention, rather than specific topics for detailed investigation.  So the main role of TASH here will be to help learners develop their awareness of what support mechanisms are available, and the importance of engaging with them, creating a positive mindset for engaging in more detailed diagnostic tests later in their studies.

Maths and stats - perhaps the latter in particular - cuts across many disciplines, and projects such as the Maths and Stats Teaching Circle are very good at supporting interdisciplinary discussions and exchanges of material.  We want to mirror this in TASH, by threading numeracy through the range of self-evaluation activities and materials we produce. and developing a more general form of number confidence in all our learners - and for that matter, our staff.  So while maths and stats clearly tick the biggest boxes under the "Research and data handling" and "Problem-solving and analytical skills" categories, we want to make sure they feature elsewhere, and that galouts like me, who have spent a lifetime hiding from quantitative data, are persuaded that it's really not so bad.

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