Using Primary Literature to Teach Science Literacy to Introductory Biology Students
Undergraduate students struggle to read the scientific literature and educators have suggested that this may reflect deficiencies in their science literacy skills. In this two-year study we develop and test a strategy for using the scientific literature to teach science literacy skills to novice life science majors. The first year of the project served as a preliminary investigation in which we evaluated student science literacy skills, created a set of science literacy learning objectives aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy, and developed a set of homework assignments that used peer-reviewed articles to teach science literacy. In the second year of the project the effectiveness of the assignments and the learning objectives were evaluated. Summative student learning was evaluated in the second year on a final exam. The mean score was 83.5% (±20.3%) and there were significant learning gains (p < 0.05) in seven of nine of science literacy skills. Project data indicated that even though students achieved course-targeted lower-order science literacy objectives, many were deficient in higher-order literacy skills. Results of this project suggest that building scientific literacy is a continuing process which begins in first-year science courses with a set of fundamental skills that can serve the progressive development of literacy skills throughout the undergraduate curriculum.
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