Each student in the Knowledge Integration Senior Research Project (two-term course, INTEG 420/421) works on a short research project under the dual direction of a member of the Centre for Knowledge Integration and an advisor from a discipline related to the topic. The results of this project will be presented in thesis form, and will be critically examined by members of this and, where pertinent, other departments.
The students presented poster displays of their projects on Friday, April 4. Details at: Knowledge Integration Symposium 2014
Conference-style papers: KI Symposium Proceedings 2014 (PDF)
Jonathan Boss and Jesse Sharpe
Supervisor: Paul McKone, Centre for Knowledge Integration
imagine that! is a board game designed to encourage creative problem solving (CPS). CPS is the ability for one to identify a problem (or opportunity for improvement), gain a deeper understanding of the problem, and subsequently devise a novel and useful solution. CPS is a crucial component to societal advancement and innovation. Overall, the importance of CPS ability for students is not reflected in current North American curriculum. Research shows that CPS is a teachable skill best attained in adolescence. Thus, the goal was to create a successful model for teaching CPS to students aged 12 and up. Additionally, psychological research shows that students are far more likely to retain information taught to them in a way that they enjoy. Furthermore, the game employs principles of experiential learning -- a method that is more powerful than traditional textbook and lecture-style learning alone. Thus, a board game is an effective way to encourage CPS learning. imagine that! was designed to be a fun, interactive game that intentionally supports a number of meaningful learning objectives. These objectives collectively support our goal of teaching CPS: collaboration, creativity, imagining alternative uses for objects, linking seemingly unrelated objects and/or situations, and working within constraints.
Supervisor: Patrick Harrigan, History
Doping in sport has occurred at all levels of sport. However, very rarely is doping or anti-doping policy at the varsity sport-level the subject of study. This project explores the anti-doping policy of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) organization from 1983 to 2010. It will also discuss how doping infractions in professional and international-level amateur sport relate to the problems of controlling and stopping doping practices. The CIS has attempted to stay ahead of doping infractions within varsity sport since Sport Canada, a federal government organization, implemented a mandate in 1983 requiring all national sporting organizations to create an anti-doping policy. The relationship between the CIS and government organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and Sport Canada demonstrates how national policy has informed the CIS’s policy and what that meant for the CIS as the organization worked to create their anti-doping policy. The project also considers what changes have been made to the CIS policy over time, what tools they have used to deter doping, and who has made the policy for the CIS. While the CIS has attempted to stay ahead of doping practices, it has not prevented doping infractions from occurring at the interuniversity level. By investigating the history of anti-doping policy in Canadian varsity sport and how it has changed to meet the challenge of identifying and testing for new doping practices, this project depicts the changes this organization has made over time to deter athletes from doping and educate these student-athletes on the consequences of cheating in sport.
Anatomical Variants to the Brachial Plexus: A case study reflecting on introductory anatomy teaching
Supervisor: Tamara Maciel, School of Anatomy
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that exit the spinal column and travel through the neck into the arm where they provide motor and sensory function. This region is highly variable between individuals. Having a thorough knowledge of its structure and appreciation for its diversity is clinically important. Alternate branching patterns of the nerves that make up the brachial plexus can interfere with anaesthetic procedures to numb the arm, and can also confuse the diagnosis of neuromuscular pathologies in the upper limb. Many anatomists advocate for teaching medical students about variations to the brachial plexus, and about other clinically significant variant structures, so that they will be prepared to safely and accurately diagnose and administer treatment regardless of individual differences in anatomy. However, little attention has been paid to the intrinsic benefits of teaching about anatomical variations. I advocate that learning about anatomical variation is valuable for any student of anatomy because it gives all students a more thorough understanding of the structures they study, and also of the nature of the field. I present a case study of analyzing anatomical variation in the UW School of Anatomy, describing the brachial plexus variants I have dissected in our four human donors, and provide recommendations for using the brachial plexus as a model for teaching anatomical variation in the anatomy laboratory classroom.
Supervisor: Ed Jernigan, Centre for Knowledge Integration
I develop an iterative process for constructing and refining mathematical models of phenomena based on narratives. I argue that this process helps highlight important properties of the phenomena and that understanding these properties can provide insight into mathematical models from different fields that describe similar behaviours. This is followed by a high-level proof-of-concept case study using two mathematical models that display damped oscillations. This paper shows that the mathematical model for a mass-spring contains four properties that have corresponding analogs in the Rosenzweig-MacArthur predator-prey population model, despite being different descriptions of different phenomena from different disciplines. This iterative process allows one to approach a complex narrative with discrete and easily understood pieces which can be combined to create a more complete description of the phenomenon. I argue that the iterative process I develop has applications for teaching mathematics at an introductory level by providing students with a tool to develop mathematical models of their own, decompose complex models into composite behaviours, understand properties of mathematical systems, and then recognize those properties in unfamiliar models that describe similar behaviour. This paper finishes with a series of sample exercises for a prospective introductory math course for non-math-oriented students.
From Theory to Practice: Could the UNCSD indicators be used to effectively measure sustainable development at the community level?
Supervisor: Ian Rowlands, Environment and Resource Studies
Sustainable development is an abstract topic that has gained traction in the past three decades. Sustainable development is defined by the United Nations as: “Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable development uses an interdisciplinary, systems thinking approach to solving issues in the environmental, economic, social and political realms. Sustainable development faces many challenges and is highly contested in the academic arena. One challenge is how to measure sustainable development initiatives. In this report I ask the question, “Could the United Nation’s Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) indicators be used to effectively measure sustainable development at the community level?” By answering this question I hope to come to an understanding of how community leaders could make more sustainable communities. I attempt to answer this question by making use of secondary resources and a local case study. From this research I have concluded that it is ineffective for communities to use the UNCSD indicators for sustainable development projects. Instead I make several suggestions for community sustainable development projects wishing to move forward.
Supervisor: Katie Plaisance, Centre for Knowledge Integration
Philosophers of science have long considered that the basis for the epistemic authority of scientific claims stems from their objectivity – the fact that their truth is not contingent on the knower. One of the normative models developed to try and achieve objectivity states that it is achieved when non-epistemic values (social, political, cultural, and moral values) are prohibited from affecting science. This “value-free ideal” has been challenged increasingly on both its feasibility and desirability as a normative model by a number of philosophers, and much work has been done to redefine core concepts like objectivity to account for a post-“value-free ideal” understanding of scientific research (see Longino, 1990) where such non-epistemic values do have a role to play. Despite this, little has been said about what it means for practicing scientists to be operating under this new conception of science. In this paper, I propose that scientists – in light of this new understanding – have an obligation to disclose their non-epistemic values in their work. Moreover, I argue that disclosure of those values should be expected to increase public trust in science, by restructuring the nature of the interactions between members of the public (particularly marginalized communities) and scientists and the scientific community. I conclude with a brief discussion of some potential roadblocks to implementation and avenues for potential future work, including greater exploration of what non-epistemic value disclosure would look like in practice. I also provide a nascent proposal for how value disclosure might facilitate more effective trans-disciplinary research by providing a common ground for acceptance of inductive risk across domains with different epistemic and non-epistemic practices and standards.
Supervisor: Matthias Schonlau, Statistics and Actuarial Science
Many undergraduate degrees require the completion of an introductory statistics course, presumably making students more statistically literate. Statistical literacy refers to familiarity with the language and tools used by statisticians, a skill necessary for any citizen reading or engaging in studies that either use or should use statistical results. To determine whether statistics courses improve statistical literacy, I conducted an online survey with a simple random sample of undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo. I then compared students who have completed at least one statistics course to those who have completed none and found that taking a statistics course did not improve statistical literacy on the questions asked.
Keep the Ideas Coming: How startups encourage creativity and what other organizations can learn from their example
Supervisor: John McLevey, Centre for Knowledge Integration
In our rapidly changing world, it is often the creative and adaptable organizations that are the most successful. However, much of the research on creativity up to this point has focused on how individuals can be creative. Creativity in organizations is a relatively new area of research, and small organizations are underrepresented in the research that has been conducted so far. There is a need for more research on creativity in organizations with few employees and minimal structure, which motivates my use of startups as case studies. I did my research in the form of an organizational ethnography, by observing two startups over a period of months and conducting interviews with five employees at each startup. Based on my observations, I outline seven things the startups did to promote creativity in their organizations: valuing and acknowledging creativity, encouraging close relationships, communicating organizational impact, allowing freedom within clear boundaries, establishing creative processes, making the organization open to change, and providing the necessary resources for creativity. I then discuss the particular creative advantages that startups have because they are small, rapidly changing organizations, and how larger, well-established organizations might learn from this. Finally, I compare my findings with the existing literature and highlight any discrepancies that arise as a result of the current bias towards research on large organizations.
The Power of Community Building, Leisure, Education and Relationships in Alternative Mental Health Support on Campus
Supervisor: Darla Fortune, Recreation and Leisure Studies
The University experience is not an easy one. Away from everything once familiar, students begin the challenging transition to adulthood by building and maintaining a social life, establishing a home, learning how to take care of themselves, and working towards some sort of degree. It is not a simple feat to balance the challenges presented in all of these areas, and every student experiences them differently. When the challenges begin to pile up, it is not uncommon for students to experience difficulty in maintaining mental wellness. Whether stemming from a previous experience before university or from these new pressures, an extraordinary amount of students on university campuses struggle with mental illness every year. This study examines the nature of mental health and wellness support being used by University of Waterloo students. Specifically, it examines what support exists as an alternative to the medical model by exploring students’ feelings of support, support systems established in the areas of community programming, leisure, education initiatives and relationships and, finally, on any ideas they have for effective support on campus. Interviews were conducted with University of Waterloo Undergraduate students, using Appreciative Inquiry methods, to discover and understand what is needed to feel truly helped and supported. Interview themes include reciprocal relationships, acceptance and belonging, education reducing stigma, professors as a support, peer-to-peer mentoring, and balance. These themes were used during a focus group with professionals and students on campus who are involved in mental health and wellness programs to brainstorm initiatives for mental health and wellness on campus. The research culminates with the identification of new campus initiatives that provide students with non-medical avenues to maintain their mental health and wellness.
(Digital) Connections: An exploration of the attitudes and behaviours students hold towards online dating platforms
Supervisor: Toni Serafini, Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies
According to Odaci and Kalkan (2010), Internet use is most common among young adults between the ages of 16 and 24, and communication is the driving factor. No longer are they limited by traditional face-to-face interactions; virtual connections via social network systems (SNS), such as online dating platforms, are adding to the menu of options available to young people looking for love, sex, and/or companionship. Research thus far has focused and speculated online dating use is most prevalent among older demographics, over 40 years of age (Hogan, Dutton, & Li, 2011) . Since Lenhart and colleagues (2010) reported that 72% of Internet users were between the ages of 18 and 29, it is important to examine how this population uses Internet and relate computer-mediated communication technology in their pursuit of intimacy and sexual needs.
An exploratory online survey, consisting of 100 questions, was created and made available for volunteers who were actively recruited from current and recent 2013/14 calendar year graduates. Demographics collected from respondent pool (n = 652) showed median age = 21, >72% from the University of Waterloo, >82% full-time students and a 1 to 3 M/F ratio. Comparisons between 3 main groups (Group 1: Students who currently/ have in the past online dated; Group 2: students who might consider online dating in the future, and Group 3: students who have never/would never consider online dating) were conducted to gauge differences in attitudes and behaviours towards online dating. Initial exploratory results are discussed.
Supervisor: Ed Jernigan, Centre for Knowledge Integration
Mathematical modelling is a way of describing the behaviour of real-world systems using quantitative language. To put it simply, it’s all about patterns—looking past the qualitative aspects of a phenomenon to recognize some structure and regularity that we can then analyze and quantify. These patterns, and the mathematical models that describe them, underlie many of the connections that exist between disciplines, and a facility with quantitative reasoning is invaluable to a knowledge integrator hoping to better understand and explore those connections. In this research project, I examine some qualitative phenomena of interest and detail how we can create meaningful quantitative models of their behaviour, highlighting some interesting connections along the way. Linear difference equations can describe supply and demand, the population fluctuations of predator-prey systems, the accumulation and repayment of debt on a loan, and the runtime of certain computer algorithms. The logistic function began as a model for human population growth, but has since been used to describe the rate of autocatalytic chemical reactions and the spread of new products and innovations throughout a population. Impulse response functions describe a system’s reaction to an instantaneous input, and are used to model shocks to an economic system, the diffusion of medicine through a bloodstream, and the response of telescopes to incoming stellar light. Network graphs can be used to model connections in the broadest sense, and provide the structure required to pull meaningful data from social networks, neural networks, transportation networks and even conceptual networks.
Supervisors: Katie Plaisance, Centre for Knowledge Integration and Trevor Holmes, Centre for Teaching Excellence
The goal of this project is to explore issues with participation evaluation and develop a proposed solution to any problems found. The encountered problems focussed on was a lack of communication regarding participation grades, lack of transparency of criteria used to determine participation grades, and poor understanding of the intentionality behind using participation as an explicit evaluation method. The proposed solution being researched for this project is a clear, flexible, and adaptable evaluation rubric that will allow for easier communication between the student and the teacher regarding a participation marks. For the purposes of the project, I am defining participation as “active engagement with the course material resulting in a communication of an opinion or idea with at least one other person, either another student or a professor, or active engagement in the form of active listening, attentiveness, or attendance”. Surveys of students and professors, as well as a focus group with students and a workshop with professors facilitated through CTE were used to create an initial prototype based on input from faculty and students and research into best practices for participation evaluation. The final prototype is created based on additional feedback and focus testing, and is designed to be used at multiple points during the term and to facilitate simple understanding of mark distribution and areas in which to improve for the student, as well as providing the professors with an avenue to make their intentions in using participation explicit.