|dc.description.abstract||Undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education has been receiving a great deal of attention. Stakeholders in government as well as academic institutions recognize the significance of educational reform in STEM fields to improve student engagement, retention and proficiency. Boston University, through partnership with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), offers graduate students the opportunity to perform an educational research project in a STEM course in the Teaching-as-Research (TAR) Fellowship. The main goal of a TAR project is to identify educational interventions that improve student outcomes. This study, being a TAR project, examines how scientific literacy of undergraduates enrolled in Introduction to Neuroscience (NE 101) at Boston University changes over the course of a semester in response to a three-skill intervention.
Scientific literacy, broadly defined as the ability to leverage evidence and data to interpret scientific research and evaluate the significance of conclusions, has been promoted by academic institutions by some time. Be that as it may, best practices for teaching scientific literacy and standardized methods of measurement have yet to be explicitly outlined. There are, however, validated paradigms that are gaining momentum: The integrated STEM education model and the Test of Scientific Literacy Skills (TOSLS). Integrated STEM education incorporates multiple academic disciplines (within and outside STEM fields) and promotes application of knowledge to solving real-world problems. The TOSLS is an assessment tool in sync with this educational model; its purpose is to gauge students’ proficiency in nine key skills of scientific literacy by posing questions that require students to implement these skills in meaningful scenarios.
In this study, I used a subset of the scientific literacy skills outlined in the TOSLS to design curriculum for the discussion component of NE 101. I also used pre- and post-intervention adaptations of the TOSLS for measuring students’ achievement of scientific literacy in addition to weekly quiz questions. However, another focus of this study was to highlight changes in students’ motivation and attitudes toward scientific inquiry pre- to post-intervention. Research conducted by Carberry et al. suggests that employing a variety of quantitative and qualitative measurements provides a more holistic picture of students’ learning. To this end, two focus groups were held and a post-course discussion survey was deployed at the end of the course.
The quantitative and qualitative data collected from these instruments indicate vital points for STEM educators to consider when designing and implementing course curriculum, especially those courses oriented toward promoting scientific literacy in their student population. Major considerations include:
1. Design problem-based activities that integrate multiple scientific literacy skills
2. Incorporate scientific literature from non-primary sources and that is representative of students’ interests
3. Develop students’ competency in reading primary scientific literature by gradually increasing the difficulty of material
4. Provide students with an intuitive and explicit framework for deciphering primary scientific literature
5. Use formative assessment to identify students’ strengths and challenges; leverage strengths to improve upon areas of difficulty||en_US