Archive for the ‘SR Research’ Category

Learning and Scientific Reasoning

The development of general scientific abilities is critical to enable students of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to successfully handle open-ended real-world tasks in future careers (1–6). Teaching goals in STEM education include fostering content knowledge and developing general scientific abilities. One such ability, scientific reasoning (7–9), is related to cognitive abilities such as critical thinking and reasoning (10–14). Scientific-reasoning skills can be developed through training and can be transferred (7, 13). Training in scientific reasoning may also have a long-term impact on student academic achievement (7). The STEM education community considers that transferable general abilities are at least as important for students to learn as is the STEM content knowledge (1–4). Parents consider science and mathematics to be important in developing reasoning skills (15).

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Pre-Service Teacher Scientific Reasoning Abilities

Development of a scientifically literate citizenry has become a national focus and highlights the need for K-12 students to develop a solid foundation of scientific reasoning abilities and an understanding of nature of science, along with appropriate content knowledge. This implies that teachers must also be competent in these areas; but assessment of students in our teacher preparation program indicated they were not developing necessary scientific reasoning abilities or a sophisticated understanding of nature of science. As a result, explicit scientific reasoning-oriented training modules and reflective nature of science activities were integrated into the program's science foundations course. Significant gains were observed in each. These findings highlight the need and motivation for teacher preparation programs to incorporate coursework that promotes the development of scientific reasoning and a more contemporary view of the nature of science. In addition, this study provides a framework for the modification of existing teacher preparation courses to meet these needs. (Contains 4 tables.)

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Learning of content knowledge and development of scientific reasoning ability

We report the results of our study of the connections between students’ learning of physics content knowledge and the development of general scientific reasoning abilities. In particular, we seek to determine whether and to what extent content learning affects the development of general reasoning abilities. Pre-college-instruction data of first-year college students in the United States and China were collected using the FCI, BEMA, and Lawson’s classroom test of scientific reasoning. We find that the rigorous learning of physics knowledge in middle and high schools has made a significant impact on the ability of students in China to solve physics problems, but this knowledge does not seem to have a direct effect on their general scientific reasoning ability, which is determined to be at the same level as that of the students in the United States.

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Scientific Thought and Methods Course

Retention of majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a national problem that continues to be the focus of bridging and first-year experience programs. This article presents an innovative course, Scientific Thought and Methods, that targets students with low math placement scores. These students are not eligible for the introductory science courses in their major until late freshmen or early sophomore year. Course topics focus on development of scientific reasoning and the ability to engage effectively in all aspects of the scientific investigation process, including writing coherent lab reports that are based on experimental evidence. Significantly higher STEM retention rates were observed for students who completed the course compared with students of similar math placements who didn't enroll in the course. Assessment of student writing and reasoning skills, along with course evaluations, are provided. We believe that various attributes of the course, as discussed in the article, are essential for setting students up for success early on in their undergraduate programs. (Contains 2 figures and 3 tables.)

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