Meeting Abstract

P1.79  Wednesday, Jan. 4  Scientific process in practice, an activity based seminar for beginning science majors CHAN, K.Y.K.; Univ. of Washington, Seattle

The skills need to participate in the scientific process include making observations, inferences, predictions, and communicating effectively. Learning these skills not only helps students succeed in research, but also helps them improve their performance in rigorous college classes and in daily life when making critical decisions. However, these essentials skills are rarely taught explicitly. I developed and taught a weekly, 2-hour long activity-based seminar that complemented an existing, mandatory field course for junior-level oceanography majors. The learning goals were to 1) develop information literacy skills; 2) practice articulating testable hypotheses; and 3) hone scientific presentation skills. I assessed the effectiveness of the seminar qualitatively and quantitatively through minute papers, in-class observations and pre- and post-course surveys. Students were highly engaged in in-class activities and found them both fun and educational. An example of such activities was the statistics carousel: student worked in pairs, rotating around flipchart papers with case studies on data analysis every 3-5 minutes such that they collaboratively worked out the solutions. The seminar improved students’ self-efficacy towards conducting scientific research. Students who were enrolled in both the mandatory field course and complementary seminar showed significantly greater gain in the Student Understanding of Scientific Inquiry Survey than students who were enrolled only in the mandatory field course. Students who were enrolled in both courses responded more like experts by stating that science is a dynamic process rather than a single, step-by-step recipe. These results suggest that explicit, inquiry-based course focusing on scientific process skills can help improve students’ learning experience and understanding of science.