Title: Extraordinary Claims: An Innovative Approach to Engage Student Interest and Enhance Critical Thinking Skills in General Education Science Courses
Url: http://www.ableweb.org/volumes/vol-33/v33reprint.php?ch=34
Author: Todd Primm
Matthew Rowe
Marcus Gillespie
Lori Ann Rose
Li-Jen Shannon
Author's Address: Sam Houston State University, Department of Biological Sciences, TX
Email Address: bio_lah@shsu.edu
Description: Most university degrees require completion of at least two general education science courses. Yet, 93% of American adults, including 78% of college graduates, remain scientifically illiterate. This suggests current core-curriculum science instruction fails the American public. Valuable resources are spent emphasizing soon forgotten vocabulary and seemingly disconnected facts of scientific disciplines. Tragically, the broader significance of those facts related to the nature and logic of scientific reasoning is routinely ignored. Students remain fundamentally unable to value and understand empiricism or apply critical thinking skills. Thus, they are susceptible to bogus, often harmful pseudoscientific claims. Clearly, new approaches to teaching science are sorely needed, approaches focusing less on "memorization" and more on "science as a way of knowing." To meet this need, we developed, as the centerpiece of Sam Houston State’s QEP/SACS re-accreditation, the Foundations of Science (FoS) course. FoS engages students by focusing on extraordinary claims such as alien abductions, Bigfoot, alternative medicines, and the current pop-culture controversy regarding vaccinations. Students are empowered to evaluate such claims using logic and knowledge from multiple scientific disciplines. Our presentation introduces the rationale for the course, topics covered, and pedagogy, which includes case studies and cooperative learning in closely coordinated lab and lecture components. FoS effectiveness has been assessed using a Critical thinking Assessment Test (CAT) developed by Tennessee Tech University in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (http://www.tntech.edu/cat/home) and an internally developed Foundations of Science Exam (FSE), both implemented in a pre- vs. post-course design using non-FoS general education science courses as the control. Results demonstrate highly significant improvements in students’ critical thinking skills (Fig. 1) and general science content scores (Fig. 2) associated with our new approach.
Keywords: science literacy
extraordinary claims
critical thinking abilities
case studies
Topic: Teaching Tools and Techniques
BEN Subject/Discipline Taxonomy: Teaching Tools and Techniques
Learning Resource Type: Laboratory exercise (DCMI Type Vocabulary)
Context: Undergraduate lower division 13-14
Format: pdf
Access Rights: This resource is for ABLE members only.
Rights: http://www.ableweb.org/volumes/copyright.htm
Conference Location & Year: New Mexico State University (2011)
Cumulative Rating: NOT YET RATED
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