Dr Rehan Shah awarded IMA grant for focus groups to empower students through co-creation of inclusive mathematics curricula

22 April 2024

Dr Rehan Shah
Dr Rehan Shah
Institute of Mathematics
Institute of Mathematics

Dr Rehan Shah has been awarded a special grant by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) for organising focus groups for empowering students through the co-creation of inclusive STEM curricula for mathematics courses, in conjunction with his collaborator Dr Brigitte Stenhouse from the Open University.

This forms part of an ongoing project initiative being led by Dr Shah within SEMS in partnership with Prof Claudia Garetto from the School of Mathematical Sciences at QMUL, which focuses on co-creating (with SEMS undergraduate student Ms. Ava Dahlia Belafonte taking the lead in the design of) teaching toolkit materials for use by academic staff to embed and incorporate as part of the diversification of undergraduate mathematics-based modules across QMUL.

The need for this arises due to STEM disciplines traditionally being taught to students through memorisation exercises and repeated application of formulae, with historical aspects if any, often limited to contributions made by white, male, European mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. Consequently, very few students can relate to these figures, which in turn contributes to the stigma that studying STEM subjects is esoteric, inaccessible, and extremely difficult for them.

To rectify this, there is a strong need for increasing students’ awareness of diverse representation within these disciplines; not just through exposure to mathematicians, scientists, and engineers from diverse and under-represented backgrounds (e.g. African, Islamic, Asian, female, disabled, and LGBTQ), but also those applying their skills within academia and industry through non-traditional pathways. This would present students with inspiring examples of both historic and current STEM professionals to serve as positive role models.

Following the pilot implementation of these resources in first and second-year undergraduate mathematics modules across SEMS, the proposed focus groups featuring student co-creators and participants from both QMUL and the OU aim to seek student feedback from inclusion of these resources and evaluate their perspectives and opinions on the initiative.

The education resource outputs of this project are due to featured on the SEMS EDI webpage as well as a dedicated QMPlus SEMS page for academics to make use of. In addition to receiving the Best Innovation Award at the QMUL Festival of Education posters presentation, Dr Shah's work on this project has also been selected for the QMUL Education Excellence Awards and President and Principal’s Prizes.

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