Developing the critical thinking skills of astrobiology students through creative and scientific inquiry.
ABSTRACT: Scientific inquiry represents a multifaceted approach to explore and understand the natural world. Training students in the principles of scientific inquiry can help promote the scientific learning process as well as help students enhance their understanding of scientific research. Here, we report on the development and implementation of a learning module that introduces astrobiology students to the concepts of creative and scientific inquiry, as well as provide practical exercises to build critical thinking skills. The module contained three distinct components: (1) a creative inquiry activity designed to introduce concepts regarding the role of creativity in scientific inquiry; (2) guidelines to help astrobiology students formulate and self-assess questions regarding various scientific content and imagery; and (3) a practical exercise where students were allowed to watch a scientific presentation and practice their analytical skills. Pre- and post-course surveys were used to assess the students' perceptions regarding creative and scientific inquiry and whether this activity impacted their understanding of the scientific process. Survey results indicate that the exercise helped improve students' science skills by promoting awareness regarding the role of creativity in scientific inquiry and building their confidence in formulating and assessing scientific questions. Together, the module and survey results confirm the need to include such inquiry-based activities into the higher education classroom, thereby helping students hone their critical thinking and question asking skill set and facilitating their professional development in astrobiology.
Project description:A biomedical sciences graduate program needed an introductory class that would develop skills for students interested in a wide variety of disciplines, such as microbiology or cancer biology, and a diverse array of biomedical careers. Faculty created a year-long student-centered course, Scientific Discovery, to serve this need. The course was divided into four modules with progressive skill outcomes. Each module had a focus related to each of the major research areas of the collective faculty: molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, and infectious disease. First-year graduate students enter the program with relevant college-level biology and chemistry coursework but not in-depth content knowledge of any of the focus areas. Each module features a biomedical problem for the students to gain specific content knowledge while developing skills outcomes, such as the ability to conduct scholarly inquiry. In 2015, the theme of the infectious disease module was to create an effective human vaccine to prevent Lyme disease. The module required students to learn fundamental concepts of microbiology and immunology and then apply that knowledge to design their own Lyme disease vaccine. The class culminated with students communicating their creative designs in the form of a "white paper" and a pitch to "potential investors." By the end of the module, students had developed fundamental knowledge, applied that knowledge with great creativity, and met the skills learning outcomes, as evidenced by their ability to conduct scholarly inquiry and apply knowledge gained during this module to a novel problem, as part of their final exam.
Project description:Innovative 21st-century methods for teaching biology should provide both content knowledge and diverse scientific competencies. The Curriculum Guidelines of the American Society for Microbiology highlight the importance of developing scientific thinking skills, which include the abilities to formulate hypotheses, to communicate fundamental concepts effectively, and to analyze and interpret experimental results. Additionally, contemporary science education should enhance creativity and collaboration as key student assets in its bid to overcome negative perceptions and learning difficulties. In recent years, the expanding movement for so-called "STEAM" approaches (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) has increased in STEM curricula. The movement seeks to integrate the arts into science classes to transfer enthusiasm, support individual self-sufficiency, and encourage creative solutions. To meet all these demands, we developed an inquiry-based approach that actively engages students in hands- and minds-on activities on the topic of "decoding the DNA structure" in an outreach laboratory. Since teaching abstract molecular phenomena is a challenge in biology classes, we combine classical experimental tasks (DNA isolation, gel electrophoresis) with creative modeling. The experiments are linked by the modeling phase: immersed in the story of the discovery of the DNA structure, our participants independently construct a DNA model from a box filled with inexpensive craft supplies (e.g., glue, straws, pipe cleaners, beads). After initial pilot testing, the implementation of our approach clearly produced short- and mid-term learning effects among the students, providing a successful example of a STEAM-based approach in a laboratory setting.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Childhood is an important period for developing maturity in thinking. Accumulating evidence shows the association between physical activity and cognitive function. Although both the intelligence quotient and emotional quotient have been reported to be associated with physical activity, there is a limited amount of published research regarding the association between physical activity and cognitive function in children and youths. With respect to creativity, an important skill for the twenty-first century, little evidence on the creative quotient promotion in childhood is available. The present study, therefore, is designed to explore the correlation between physical activity and creativity.<h4>Methods</h4>The participants included 1447 students with different age groups in 34 schools from Southern Thailand. Age groups were categorized according to Thailand's 2016 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, where 521 students were aged 6-9 years, 487 students were aged 10-13 years, and 439 students were aged 14-17 years. Creativity was measured through the use of the Test for Creative Thinking-Drawing Production (TCT-DP). Active play, time with family and peers, and sedentary behavior were monitored by the Thailand Physical Activity Children Survey-the Student Questionnaire (TPACS-SQ).<h4>Results</h4>The correlation between the TCT-DP score representing creativity and active play was noticed in adolescents (r = 0.148, p = 0.001), but not found in participants aged 6-13 years. Active play was associated with time with family and peers in all age groups (r = 0.485, p < 0.001).<h4>Conclusions</h4>The present data supports the idea that optimal physical activity is required during childhood for developing thinking process. Promotion of active play with family and peers may facilitate creativity skills.
Project description:The use of graphical illustration in lecture presentations can make a seemingly boring lesson more attractive and enticing to students. Creating science-themed illustrations and science-based narratives can also lead to creative and critical thinking among students. We used writing editorials and creating editorial cartoons as a learning activity to promote critical thinking and creative skills that are essential in communicating scientific information. This activity can be used with a range of audiences, at various educational levels and in basic to advanced courses.
Project description:Modeling is a scientific practice that supports creative reasoning, motivates inquiry, and facilitates community sense-making. This paper explores students' perspectives on modeling in an undergraduate laboratory course, Authentic Inquiry through Modeling (AIM-Bio), in which they proposed, tested, and revised their own models. We conducted comparative case studies of eight students over a semester. Students described using models to support multiple forms of scientific reasoning and hypothesis generation. They recounted the challenges of dealing with uncertainty and integrating diverse ideas. They also described how these challenges pushed their thinking. Overall, students reported feeling a sense of scientific authenticity and agency through their modeling experience. We additionally provide an in-depth look at two students whose unique experiences in AIM-Bio emphasize the variable ways modeling can support inquiry learning. We claim that modeling emerged as a legitimate practice among students, because the AIM-Bio curriculum encouraged diversity in students' models, provided opportunities for students to grapple with uncertainty, and fostered collaboration between students. We suggest that biology educators consider how model-based inquiry can allow students to participate in science, as a way to support interest in, identification with, and ultimately persistence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
Project description:Problem-based learning (PBL) is a widely recommended method in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education through which students develop their scientific knowledge by collaboratively solving real-world problems. PBL benefits from both the activation of creative thinking and from socially shared regulation of learning (SSRL)-a group-level phenomenon whereby students collectively share common perceptions of their collaborative learning process and co-construction of knowledge. The current study examines the influence of three types of support (question prompts designed to promote SSRL, creative thinking, or a combination of both) on the participation of individuals in SSRL processes and on their knowledge acquisition, using a sample of 104 seventh-graders in accelerated science classes. Individuals' participation through the different stages of SSRL (forethought, performance, and reflection) was assessed using video recordings, and their scientific knowledge was measured through pre-and post-intervention knowledge tests. While all groups improved their scientific knowledge, individuals receiving only SSRL support improved their participation in most stages of SSRL compared with those receiving creativity or combined support, and a control group which received no support. The findings strengthen the case for SSRL-directed question prompts as a means to enhance student engagement in problem-solving tasks.
Project description:Past studies on the differential effects of active learning based on students' prior preparation and knowledge have been mixed. The purpose of the present study was to ask whether students with different levels of prior preparation responded differently to laboratory courses in which a guided-inquiry module was implemented. In the first study, we assessed student scientific reasoning skills, and in the second we assessed student experimental design skills. In each course in which the studies were conducted, student gains were analyzed by pretest quartiles, a measure of their prior preparation. Overall, student scientific reasoning skills and experimental design skills did not improve pretest to posttest. However, when divided into quartiles based on pretest score within each course, students in the lowest quartile experienced significant gains in both studies. Despite the significant gains observed among students in the lowest quartile, significant posttest differences between lowest and highest quartiles were observed in both scientific reasoning skills and experimental design skills. Nonetheless, these findings suggest that courses with guided-inquiry laboratory activities can foster the development of basic scientific reasoning and experimental design skills for students who are least prepared across a range of course levels and institution types.
Project description:Scientific thinking is a predicate for scientific inquiry, and thus important to develop early in psychology students as potential future researchers. The present research is aimed at fathoming the contributions of formal and informal learning experiences to psychology students' development of scientific thinking during their 1st-year of study. We hypothesize that informal experiences are relevant beyond formal experiences. First-year psychology student cohorts from various European countries will be assessed at the beginning and again at the end of the second semester. Assessments of scientific thinking will include scientific reasoning skills, the understanding of basic statistics concepts, and epistemic cognition. Formal learning experiences will include engagement in academic activities which are guided by university authorities. Informal learning experiences will include non-compulsory, self-guided learning experiences. Formal and informal experiences will be assessed with a newly developed survey. As dispositional predictors, students' need for cognition and self-efficacy in psychological science will be assessed. In a structural equation model, students' learning experiences and personal dispositions will be examined as predictors of their development of scientific thinking. Commonalities and differences in predictive weights across universities will be tested. The project is aimed at contributing information for designing university environments to optimize the development of students' scientific thinking.
Project description:Most research on people's conceptions regarding creativity has concerned informal beliefs instead of more complex belief systems represented in scholarly theories of creativity. The relevance of general theories of creativity to the creative domain of music may also be unclear because of the mixed responses these theories have received from music researchers. The aim of the present study was to gain a better comparative understanding of theories of creativity as accounts of musical creativity by allowing students to assess them from a musical perspective. In the study, higher-education music students rated 10 well-known theories of creativity as accounts of four musical target activities-composition, improvisation, performance, and ideation-and argued for the "best theoretical perspectives" in written essays. The results showed that students' theory appraisals were significantly affected by the target activities, but also by the participants' prior musical experiences. Students' argumentative strategies also differed between theories, especially regarding justifications by personal experiences and values. Moreover, theories were most typically problematized when discussing improvisation. The students most often chose to defend the Four-Stage Model, Divergent Thinking, and Systems Theory, while theories emphasizing strategic choices or Darwinian selection mechanisms were rarely found appealing. Overall, students tended toward moderate theory eclecticism, and their theory appraisals were seen to be pragmatic and example-based, instead of aiming for such virtues as broad scope or consistency. The theories were often used as definitions for identifying some phenomena of interest rather than for making stronger explanatory claims about such phenomena. Students' theory appraisals point to some challenges for creativity research, especially regarding the problems of accounting for improvisation, and concerning the significance of theories that find no support in these musically well-informed adults' reasoning.
Project description:Creativity is an essential cognitive ability linked to all areas of our everyday functioning. Thus, finding a way to enhance it is of broad interest. A large number of anecdotal reports suggest that the consumption of psychedelic drugs can enhance creative thinking; however, scientific evidence is lacking. Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design, we demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced a time- and construct-related differentiation of effects on creative thinking. Acutely, psilocybin increased ratings of (spontaneous) creative insights, while decreasing (deliberate) task-based creativity. Seven days after psilocybin, number of novel ideas increased. Furthermore, we utilized an ultrahigh field multimodal brain imaging approach, and found that acute and persisting effects were predicted by within- and between-network connectivity of the default mode network. Findings add some support to historical claims that psychedelics can influence aspects of the creative process, potentially indicating them as a tool to investigate creativity and subsequent underlying neural mechanisms. Trial NL6007; psilocybin as a tool for enhanced cognitive flexibility; https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/6007 .