Investigating Undergraduates' Perceptions of Science in Courses Taught Using the CREATE Strategy.
ABSTRACT: Many science educators agree that 21st century students need to develop mature scientific thinking skills. Unsurprisingly, students' and experts' perceptions about the nature of scientific knowledge differ. Moreover, students' naïve and entrenched epistemologies can preclude their development toward "thinking like scientists." Novel teaching approaches that guide students toward more mature perceptions may be needed to support their development of scientific thinking skills. To address such issues, physics educators developed the Colorado Learning Attitudes About Science Survey (CLASS), subsequently adapted for chemistry and biology. These surveys are "designed to compare novice and expert perceptions about the content and structure of a specific discipline; the source of knowledge about that discipline, including connection of the discipline to the real world; and problem-solving approaches" (Semsar et al., CBE Life Sci. Educ. 10:268-278; p 269). We used CLASS-Bio to track students' perceptions of science in separate first-year and upper-level CREATE (Consider, Read, Elucidate hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, Think of the next Experiment) electives, hypothesizing that perceptions would become significantly more expert-like across a semester. Both first-year and upper-level cohorts made significant expert-like shifts. Students also made significant critical thinking gains in CREATE courses. Our findings of more mature, expert-like perceptions of science post-course contrast with those of previous studies, where students' thinking became significantly less expert-like across a term of introductory instruction and changed little in upper-level biology electives. Augmenting traditional biology curricula with CREATE courses could be an economical way to help undergraduates develop more mature views of science.
Project description:The Consider, Read, Elucidate hypotheses, Analyze and interpret data, Think of the next Experiment (CREATE) strategy for teaching and learning uses intensive analysis of primary literature to improve students' critical-thinking and content integration abilities, as well as their self-rated science attitudes, understanding, and confidence. CREATE also supports maturation of undergraduates' epistemological beliefs about science. This approach, originally tested with upper-level students, has been adapted in Introduction to Scientific Thinking, a new course for freshmen. Results from this course's initial semesters indicate that freshmen in a one-semester introductory course that uses a narrowly focused set of readings to promote development of analytical skills made significant gains in critical-thinking and experimental design abilities. Students also reported significant gains in their ability to think scientifically and understand primary literature. Their perceptions and understanding of science improved, and multiple aspects of their epistemological beliefs about science gained sophistication. The course has no laboratory component, is relatively inexpensive to run, and could be adapted to any area of scientific study.
Project description:Students' academic experiences can influence their conceptualization of science. In contrast experts hold particular beliefs, perceptions, opinions, and attitudes about science that are often absent in first-year undergraduate students. Shifts toward more expert-like attitudes and views have been linked to improved student engagement, critical-thinking ability, conceptual understanding, and academic performance. In this study, we investigate shifts in attitudes and views toward science by students in four biology classes with differences in student enrollment, academic support, and instruction. We observe significant, positive effects of enrollment in a guided-inquiry lab course and academic performance on the percentage of expert-like student attitudes and views at the end of term. We also identify variation in two aspects of student attitudes and views: 1) confidence and interest and 2) understanding and acceptance. In particular, enrollment in the lab course boosts student confidence and interest in scientific inquiry in the short term, even for students with low academic performance or little English-language experience. Our results suggest that low-performing students in particular may require additional opportunities for experiential learning or greater academic support to develop expert-like perceptions of biology as a science.
Project description:This paper describes a newly adapted instrument for measuring novice-to-expert-like perceptions about biology: the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Biology (CLASS-Bio). Consisting of 31 Likert-scale statements, CLASS-Bio probes a range of perceptions that vary between experts and novices, including enjoyment of the discipline, propensity to make connections to the real world, recognition of conceptual connections underlying knowledge, and problem-solving strategies. CLASS-Bio has been tested for response validity with both undergraduate students and experts (biology PhDs), allowing student responses to be directly compared with a consensus expert response. Use of CLASS-Bio to date suggests that introductory biology courses have the same challenges as introductory physics and chemistry courses: namely, students shift toward more novice-like perceptions following instruction. However, students in upper-division biology courses do not show the same novice-like shifts. CLASS-Bio can also be paired with other assessments to: 1) examine how student perceptions impact learning and conceptual understanding of biology, and 2) assess and evaluate how pedagogical techniques help students develop both expertise in problem solving and an expert-like appreciation of the nature of biology.
Project description:Despite significant efforts to reform undergraduate science education, students often perform worse on assessments of perceptions of science after introductory courses, demonstrating a need for new educational interventions to reverse this trend. To address this need, we created An Inexplicable Disease, an engaging, active-learning case study that is unusual because it aims to simulate scientific inquiry by allowing students to iteratively investigate the Kuru epidemic of 1957 in a choose-your-own-experiment format in large lectures. The case emphasizes the importance of specialization and communication in science and is broadly applicable to courses of any size and sub-discipline of the life sciences.
Project description: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:Recent studies question the effectiveness of a traditional university curriculum in helping students improve their critical thinking and scientific literacy. We developed an introductory, general education (gen ed) science course to overcome both deficiencies. The course, titled Foundations of Science, differs from most gen ed science offerings in that it is interdisciplinary; emphasizes the nature of science along with, rather than primarily, the findings of science; incorporates case studies, such as the vaccine-autism controversy; teaches the basics of argumentation and logical fallacies; contrasts science with pseudoscience; and addresses psychological factors that might otherwise lead students to reject scientific ideas they find uncomfortable. Using a pretest versus posttest design, we show that students who completed the experimental course significantly improved their critical-thinking skills and were more willing to engage scientific theories the general public finds controversial (e.g., evolution), while students who completed a traditional gen ed science course did not. Our results demonstrate that a gen ed science course emphasizing the process and application of science rather than just scientific facts can lead to improved critical thinking and scientific literacy.
Project description:We redesigned the undergraduate introductory biology course by writing a new textbook (Integrating Concepts in Biology [ICB]) that follows first principles of learning. Our approach emphasizes primary data interpretation and the utility of mathematics in biology, while de-emphasizing memorization. This redesign divides biology into five big ideas (information, evolution, cells, emergent properties, homeostasis), addressing each at five levels of organization (molecules, cells, organisms, populations, ecological systems). We compared our course outcomes with two sections that used a traditional textbook and were taught by different instructors. On data interpretation assessments administered periodically during the semester, our students performed better than students in the traditional sections (p = 0.046) and exhibited greater improvement over the course of the semester (p = 0.015). On factual content assessments, our students performed similarly to students in the other sections (p = 0.737). Pre- and postsemester assessment of disciplinary perceptions and self-appraisal indicate that our students acquired a more accurate perception of biology as a discipline and may have developed a more realistic evaluation of their scientific abilities than did the control students (p < 0.05). We conclude that ICB improves critical thinking, metacognition, and disciplinary perceptions without compromising content knowledge in introductory biology.
Project description:Developing critical-thinking and scientific reasoning skills are core learning objectives of science education, but little empirical evidence exists regarding the interrelationships between these constructs. Writing effectively fosters students' development of these constructs, and it offers a unique window into studying how they relate. In this study of undergraduate thesis writing in biology at two universities, we examine how scientific reasoning exhibited in writing (assessed using the Biology Thesis Assessment Protocol) relates to general and specific critical-thinking skills (assessed using the California Critical Thinking Skills Test), and we consider implications for instruction. We find that scientific reasoning in writing is strongly related to inference, while other aspects of science reasoning that emerge in writing (epistemological considerations, writing conventions, etc.) are not significantly related to critical-thinking skills. Science reasoning in writing is not merely a proxy for critical thinking. In linking features of students' writing to their critical-thinking skills, this study 1) provides a bridge to prior work suggesting that engagement in science writing enhances critical thinking and 2) serves as a foundational step for subsequently determining whether instruction focused explicitly on developing critical-thinking skills (particularly inference) can actually improve students' scientific reasoning in their writing.
Project description:CREATE (Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, and Think of the next Experiment) is an innovative pedagogy for teaching science through the intensive analysis of scientific literature. Initiated at the City College of New York, a minority-serving institution, and regionally expanded in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, this methodology has had multiple positive impacts on faculty and students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses. To determine whether the CREATE strategy is effective at the community college (2-yr) level, we prepared 2-yr faculty to use CREATE methodologies and investigated CREATE implementation at community colleges in seven regions of the United States. We used outside evaluation combined with pre/postcourse assessments of students to test related hypotheses: 1) workshop-trained 2-yr faculty teach effectively with the CREATE strategy in their first attempt, and 2) 2-yr students in CREATE courses make cognitive and affective gains during their CREATE quarter or semester. Community college students demonstrated positive shifts in experimental design and critical-thinking ability concurrent with gains in attitudes/self-rated learning and maturation of epistemological beliefs about science.
Project description:The National Science Foundation estimates that 80% of the jobs available during the next decade will require math and science skills, dictating that programs in biochemistry and molecular biology must be transformative and use new pedagogical approaches and experiential learning for careers in industry, research, education, engineering, health-care professions, and other interdisciplinary fields. These efforts require an environment that values the individual student and integrates recent advances from the primary literature in the discipline, experimentally directed research, data collection and analysis, and scientific writing. Current trends shaping these efforts must include critical thinking, experimental testing, computational modeling, and inferential logic. In essence, modern biochemistry and molecular biology education must be informed by, and integrated with, cutting-edge research. This environment relies on sustained research support, commitment to providing the requisite mentoring, access to instrumentation, and state-of-the-art facilities. The academic environment must establish a culture of excellence and faculty engagement, leading to innovation in the classroom and laboratory. These efforts must not lose sight of the importance of multidimensional programs that enrich science literacy in all facets of the population, students and teachers in K-12 schools, nonbiochemistry and molecular biology students, and other stakeholders. As biochemistry and molecular biology educators, we have an obligation to provide students with the skills that allow them to be innovative and self-reliant. The next generation of biochemistry and molecular biology students must be taught proficiencies in scientific and technological literacy, the importance of the scientific discourse, and skills required for problem solvers of the 21st century.