As the new academic year begins, freshmen enter into USP and many of them will undertake either Writing & Critical Thinking (WCT) or Quantitative Reasoning Foundation (QRF) as part of their USP curriculum.

We have had the USP Writing Centre for many years now, aiding students with writing conferences, but beginning this academic year, our freshmen have another resource available to them — the QR Centre (QRC). The QR Centre is a new initiative. Surveys were conducted last year, to which USP students responded positively to the idea of an official support structure for QRF.

Opening on Tuesday 25 August 2015, the QRC hopes to provide students with aid and support, particularly for QRF modules, which are a compulsory rite of passage for all USP students.

Beyond just remedial aid, the QRC has also its eye on developing a positive environment for QR-related discussion and concepts.

Instead of the appointment-based system that the USP Writing Centre uses, the QRC has adopted a novel ‘drop in’ concept. Inspired by the Writing & Language Centre at the University of New Mexico, the idea of drop-ins is for students to feel free to simply drop in to the QRC at any time during operating hours, to work on any QR-related tasks.

QR assistants on staff will be available to provide aid and clarification for any doubts or queries students may have, as well as to incite further discussion and exploration of deeper issues. Besides the QR assistants, peer-to-peer tutoring or discussions can take place, allowing students to glean insights from one another.

Imran Shah (Pharmacy + USP, Class of 2017), one of the pioneer QR assistants, is enthusiastic about the concept of drop-ins. “When you gather USP students together in a common space, discussion and debates are almost inevitable,” he quipped, “and those are among the best modes for learning and discovery.”

Steven Liman (Civil Engineering + USP, Class of 2018), another QR assistant, is just as excited about the QRC. “The QRC is a refreshing initiative. It will definitely add colour to our holistic learning in USP simply because it believes learning should not be delayed. The moment we have questions, just drop in!”, he tells me.

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The QRC is spearheaded by Dr Shawna Metzger, Director of the QRC, along with fellow QRF professors, Dr Philippe Raynal and Dr Edmund Low. On the ground, five QR assistants are on staff, with two assistants on duty at each Drop-in Session.

“We're really looking forward to getting underway,” says Dr Shawna. QRF in USP has  grown so much over the past few years. This is the next natural step--creating a dedicated physical space for QR in the USP community. We're using QRF to help jumpstart that.”

“Only QRF?” I ask.

Dr Shawna nods. “For now, at least in terms of what 'official' help students can reasonably expect. We needed a place to start, and QRF is compulsory for everyone. That gives us a set of common basics to build from, and lets us work on tweaking the drop-in format for our purposes, here, in USP.”

“That said,” she pauses for a beat, “we're open to thinking about Inquiry-tier modules that might benefit from 'official' QRC help. But that's long term. It'll depend a lot on what we hear back from the community over the next few semesters--whether or not that'd be something people find helpful.”

“People can still come to the QRC to work on whatever QR work they'd like,” she points out.  “If they have questions about material for our QRAs, that's where the 'QRF only' bit comes in.”

As I end my conversation with Dr Shawna, I revive a joke from our QRF module, and ask her if she's ready for everything to get messy.

“Oh, absolutely,” she laughs, before getting serious. “We're trying something completely new. There'll be things that go well, and things that most certainly will not. We're counting on it, really--and counting on hearing about it. It means that we've created something that the community finds useful, which is what we're going for. That feedback will help inform the refinements we make, next semester and into the future.”

So, just drop in to the QRC!

The QRC is slated to start operation from 25 August 2015, and will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6.30pm to 9.00pm in Semester 1 of AY15/16. It is housed in the Multimedia Lab at the Cinnamon South Learn Lobe. More details about the QRC can be found at the QRC website at http://usp.nus.edu.sg/qrcentre/.