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Improving the Scientific Literacy of All Students: Using Team-Taught Interdisciplinary lab courses Amy Jessen-Marshall, Ph.D. Department of Life Science Otterbein College, Westerville Ohio, USA. Goals:

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Improving the scientific literacy of all students using team taught interdisciplinary lab courses l.jpg

Improving the Scientific Literacy of All Students: Using Team-Taught Interdisciplinary lab courses

Amy Jessen-Marshall, Ph.D.

Department of Life Science

Otterbein College,

Westerville Ohio, USA.


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Goals:

It is increasingly important in today’s global society for all students, including non-science majors, to become scientifically literate and understand the processes and limitations of science. Models of General Education vary, often including introductory majors courses as options for non-majors to meet science requirements, however creative course models designed for all students with an emphasis on problem solving and scientific methodology are offered as a successful alternative.


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Goals:

This breakout session will discuss and share innovative practices and ideas to improve scientific literacy through team-taught interdisciplinary lab-based courses within an Integrative Studies core curriculum.


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Topics for discussion:

  • What models for course design are most successful in developing scientific literacy for non-science majors?


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Topics for discussion:

  • How can you organize general education science courses to meet the needs of majors and non-majors in science?


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Topics for discussion:

  • What themes or content areas are most important to develop scientifically literate citizens?


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Topics for discussion:

  • What are the pros and cons of team-teaching interdisciplinary science courses?


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First questions:

  • Is science literacy important for all students?

  • Why?

  • Educated society

  • Consumer issues

    • (quantitative literacy)

  • Journalism/news

    • (Critical evaluation)

  • Voters

    • (Support for science in politics)

    • (NSF funding)

  • Jury of peers

  • Science is COOL!


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    First questions:

    • Outcomes of science education different for major vs non-major?

    • What are the learning outcomes?

    • Basic content knowledge

    • Application of scientific method

    • Critical evaluation of data

    • Appreciation for science as

      a mode of inquiry?

    • Others?


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    • What models for course design are most successful in developing scientific literacy for non-science majors?

    • Existing models and curriculum

      • New?

      • Adaptations of existing curriculum?


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    Model 1:

    • Introductory majors courses

    • General Distribution requirement

      • Biology/ Chemistry/Physics/ Earth science

        • Content driven

        • One field of exposure

        • Message to non-majors?

      • Lab component

        • Positive!

        • Focus on method (hopefully)


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    Model 2:

    • Courses specifically designed for non-majors

      • Watered down majors courses?

      • Topical courses?

    • Majors exempt from these courses?

      • Value to majors as well as non-majors?


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    Framing:

    • Otterbein College- Westerville Ohio, Liberal Arts and Professional Programs- Comprehensive School.

    • Enrollment 2200 Undergraduates, 1200 Continuing Studies and Masters students

    • General Education Program: Integrative Studies. (Core curriculum)


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    General Education Models:

    • General Distribution requirement

      • Two Year

      • Four Year

    • Core curriculum model

      • Two year

      • Four year

      • Often thematic- goal is often more interdisciplinary

    • Otterbein: Integrative Core Curriculum


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    Otterbein’s Science Curriculum:

    Pre and Post revision

    • Ten “liberal arts” courses required through our

    • Integrative Studies program.

    • This includes two IS courses in the sciences.

    • Pre 2004

      • Traditionally taken in the junior and senior years.

      • Class size has averaged between 60-100 students

      • Taught by one professor, in a largely lecture format

      • No formal laboratory experience required.


    Otterbein s science curriculum pre and post revision l.jpg

    Otterbein’s Science Curriculum: Pre and Post revision

    The Science Division at Otterbein decided to reform

    our non-majors science curriculum within our

    general education program (Integrative studies) Post 2004

    We noticed a dichotomy in how we taught science.

    Department mission for Life Science:

    • Focus on scientific method.

    • Engage student in the process of science through active inquiry.

    • Create a community of scientists.

    • Create scientifically literate citizens.

      Why aren’t we applying this to all students?

      Why just our majors?

      Learning outcomes for majors and non-majors the same?


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    Where we started:

    Specific goals for new Integrative Studies science courses:

    Shared with Majors courses:

    • Focus on scientific method.

    • Engage student in the process of science through active inquiry.

    • Create a community of scientists.

    • Create scientifically literate citizens.

      Unique to Integrative Studies courses:

    • Reduce anxiety

    • Focus on science as a “way of knowing” (Mode of inquiry)

    • Team teach courses with an interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary

      focus.


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    Is science too hard?

    Rosalind Franklin

    Watson and Crick: Structure of DNA

    Not meant to be pedantic statement.

    (Common complaint of IS science courses

    And premise of Emerti chemistry professor)


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    Is science harder than other subjects to learn?


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    Where does the perception that science is “hard” come from?


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    Studies on science education date back as far as you care to look.

    As a group, you can’t deny that scientists like to gather information

    and make comparisons. We generate questions and test them.

    We have a tendency to “analyze” things.

    As a result, scientists, and science educators have studied and written

    a lot about why people outside of the sciences think

    Science is so “hard”.

    Louis Farian:NSF

    June 2002


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    But is it unlearnable and should we give up?

    What do we know?

    Students have anxiety/avoidance/phobia about science,

    particularly concerning math.

    Sheila Tobias has written since the 1980s about the impact

    of Math anxiety on students perceptions of science.

    Tobias, S. (1985) “Math anxiety and physics: Some thoughts on learning 'difficult'subjects”.

    Physics Today, Vol. 38 Issue 6, p60

    Tobias, S., (1990) “They're Not Dumb. They're Different”.

    Malcom, S. M., Ungar, H., Cross, K. P., Malcom, S., (eds). Change, Vol. 22 Issue 4, p11-30

    And to make matters worse, Bower in (2001) reported

    that Math fears can actually subtract from memory and learning.

    Bower, B. (2001) “Math fears subtract from memory, learning”. Science News, Vol. 159 Issue 26, p405


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    Educators in physics have studied anxiety related to this discipline

    and found math phobia a major indicator.

    Tuminaro, J., Redish, E.F., (2004) “Understanding students’ poor performance on mathematical problem

    solving in physics”. AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol. 720 Issue 1, p113-116

    Redish, E. F., Steinberg, R. N. (1999) “Teaching Physics: Figuring Out What Works”.

    Physics Today, Vol. 52 Issue 1, p24

    Laukenmann, M., Bleicher, M., Fub, S., Gláser-Zikuda, M., Mayoring, P., von Rhöneck, C., (2003)

    “An investigation of the influence of emotional factors on learning in physics instruction”.

    International Journal of Science Education, Vol. 25 Issue 4, p489

    Anxiety not as profound in Biology, but for non-majors

    certainly still a factor.

    Leonard, W.H., (2000). “How do College Students Best Learn Science?”

    Journcal of Computer Science and Technology . May pp. 385-388.

    Mallow, J.V. (1986) Science Anxiety, Fear of Science and How to Overcome It. FL, H and H Publishing.


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    • 2. Students bring misperceptions about science into the classroom.

    • Students tend to approach science as a fact based field that needs

      to be memorized, and the language is too foreign.

      Content, not process is stressed.

    “By stressing theprocess of scientific

    inquiry, labs impart the content of

    science in a manner that is relevant

    to students, increasing the probability

    that students will come to understand

    science as a way of knowing.”

    Carolyn Haynes, p187,

    Innovations in Interdisciplinary Teaching,

    2002, American Council on Education, Oryx Press


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    • Students tend to bring information from earlier experiences into

      the classroom, that is very difficult to “unlearn.” This sets up

      blocks to accepting different information.

    • Michael, J. (2002) “Misconceptions—What students think they know”.

    • Advances in Physiology Education, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p5-6

    • Modell, H., Michael, J., Wenderoth, M.P., (2005)

    • “Helping the Learner To Learn: The Role of Uncovering Misconceptions.”

    • American Biology Teacher, Jan2005, Vol. 67 Issue 1, p20-26

      Example: Evolution is defined as “Survival of the Fittest”

      The strongest, and fastest survive.

      True or False?


    Slide26 l.jpg

    False: Evolution is gradual change over time.

    The mechanism of evolution is Natural Selection.

    Natural selection shows that those individuals

    most capable of leaving offspring are the most

    “reproductively fit.” Not necessarily the strongest

    or fastest.


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    3. Students bring different skills and histories to the classroom.

    In Cross and Steadman’s “Classroom Research,”

    a discussion about students prerequisite knowledge and learning

    strategies points out that students may be quite successful

    in one discipline, yet not have the skills to cross that divide

    into a different discipline.

    Cross, K.P. and Steadman, M.H. (1996)

    Classroom Research, Implementing the Scholarship of Teaching, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.


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    • This raises the very important point, that it is not that general

    • concepts in Science are “Harder” than other subjects, it’s that

    • science is “Different” than other subjects.

    • Students may not have the skill set, or the mindset to see

    • that difference.

    • They get trapped in memorization of unrelated facts

    • They fear the use of math.

    • They set themselves up for frustration.


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    So… what can we do?


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    Goals of new science courses:

    Introduce science into the Integrative studies curriculum earlier.

    (Move one required course to the sophomore year.)

    Rationale: Reduce science anxiety by modeling that science is not

    so “Hard” that a student can’t handle learning college science until

    their upper level years.

    2. Introduce inquiry based labs into each course.

    Rationale: To refocus student learning from fact based science to the

    METHOD of science focusing on the principles of scientific inquiry


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    3. Team teach courses with faculty from different scientific disciplines.

    Rationale: Model how the scientific disciplines approach

    related problems from different perspectives and with different

    techniques. We want our students to discover that science method is

    universal, and that scientific theories are even stronger when

    evidence is available from several fields of study.


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    • Key point:

    • Non-majors won’t have the opportunity to experience multiple fields

    • of science if we are using Introductory Majors courses as the way to

    • fulfill science requirements.

    • Students end up with a small sampling of content in one

    • field, where the level of content is designed for majors.

    • Interdisciplinary courses-

      • Model how the scientific disciplines approach

    • related problems from different perspectives and with different

    • techniques.

      • Science method is universal

      • Scientific theories are even stronger when evidence is available

    • from several fields of study.


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    How can you organize general education science courses to meet the needs of majors and non-majors in science?


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    Value for Majors to experience this too?

    We think so-

    Integrative Studies science courses are also

    required for science majors.


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    Courses offered to date:

    • Origins (Paleontology/ Molecular Biology)

    • The Atom (Chemistry/ Physics)

    • Why sex? (Ecology/ Molecular Biology)

    • Exobiology (Physics/ Microbiology)

    • Water (Ecology/ Chemistry)

    • Faculty driven topics-

      • Content is not the driving goal!


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    What themes or content areas are most important to develop scientifically literate citizens?


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    Overall our goal is to alleviate science anxiety and increase scientific

    reasoning skills by building the courses around topics both

    students and faculty will find intriguing and relevant as well

    as by designing the courses for a sophomore level audience and in

    so doing better prepare our students for the second upper level

    science courses.


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    So… have we been successful?


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    What are the pros and cons of team-teaching interdisciplinary science courses?


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    Impact of team teaching on student learning:

    The rationale is that students working with faculty from

    two different scientific disciplines will get the opportunity

    to synthesis ideas and see how questions in science are

    addressed in many different ways.

    Carolyn Haynes, 2002, Chapter 2, Enhancing Interdisciplinary Through Team teaching.

    Chapter 9, Transforming Undergraduate Science through Interdisciplinary Inquiry.

    American Council on Education, ORYX Press

    The evidence for this success so far is qualitative. Students who

    participated in the team taught classes overwhelmingly report a

    positive experience. However, teasing apart team teaching successes

    and failures is more difficult, due to the nature of the team, and the

    specific topic of the class.


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    Team Teaching Experience related to Sex

    P value 0.009


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    Team Teaching Impact over time


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    • One of our main focuses has been impact on science anxiety.

    • A series of statistical comparisons were made to assess levels of

    • pre-existing Science anxiety in the populations, and to correlate

    • variables related to anxiety.

    • Of the students who responded,

    • 157 reported some level of science anxiety

    • 170 reported no significant anxiety


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    Variables considered to determine the underlying

    factors that correlate with anxiety.

    1. Current GPA

    2. Year in College

    3. Major (grouped by Academic Division)

    4. Previous High School experience in science courses.

    5. Gender


    Combined effect of sex and high school experience on science anxiety l.jpg

    Combined effect of sex and High School Experience on Science Anxiety

    P value= 0.0003


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    But did the students actually

    learn more about scientific method

    by doing lab activities?


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    To determine whether students had improved in their ability to

    identify the scientific method, I used a blinded coding scale.

    This was repeated by a second Coder and the range of improvement

    was averaged.

    For example.

    A student response of “Using science to answer questions”

    was given a score of (1) for limited knowledge.

    Other responses were given scores of (2)- (5) based on using code

    Words, including hypothesis, data, repeatability, controls, experiment.

    Pre and post test responses were randomized, scored and resorted

    to match students response and calculate the range of improvement.

    For example a student who made significant improvement in their

    definition would show a scoring range of 4.

    A student who showed, no improvement, or who was strong at the

    beginning, would have no range score difference.

    These ranges were then summarized for each class

    and statistical significance was evaluated.


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    Results of course comparison for the ability to define scientific method.


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    So what do we know?

    Summary:

    Gender is a strong predictor of science anxiety, and is closely

    tied to experience in High School science.

    Anxiety is difficult to alleviate, as evidenced by both versions

    of our non-majors science courses.

    2. The majority of students regardless of science background,

    see the value of learning about science in today’s society, and

    understand that participating in labs is a major part of learning.

    3. Focusing on science method and modeling its use

    through labs and team teaching does result in

    statistically significant improvement in the ability

    to define the process of science method.

    4. Team teaching is difficult to assess, although overall it has been

    reported as positive. Individual courses are more or less successful.

    small correlation that women are more critical of team teaching.

    All classes are effective at increasing student awareness and

    interest in science related current events.


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    Where do we go from here?

    Focus on upper level courses!

    Three years ago- Otterbein selected by

    American Association of Colleges and Universities

    to be one of sixteen schools in a joint project:

    “Shared Futures:

    General Education and Global Learning.”

    Piloting courses throughout our Core curriculum

    focused on Global Learning. (Not just science)


    Science global learning l.jpg

    Science & Global Learning:

    Definitions and Learning Objectives

    Current Working Definition:

    “To foster student understanding and appreciation of science and its cultural significance. To empower students to develop and apply scientific and analytical skills both in further understanding of themselves and human nature; and in an ethical context towards solving global, national and local problems.”


    Science l.jpg

    Science

    Definitions and Learning Objectives

    Two INST Science Courses: Developmental Model

    Lower level course: Fundamentals of scientific inquiry…

    Upper level course: The main theme of these courses is to show how science and scientific data are foundational to society, through the exploration of a current global issue. The courses will explore how science is applied to an issue, and how other influences also impact the issue.


    Science53 l.jpg

    Science

    Definitions and Learning Objectives

    • Common “Global” Objectives for the course:

    • Understanding of data as the foundation of course topic

    • Understanding of the active building of scientific body of knowledge:

    • new advances, future challenges

    • Understanding of how the issue affects parts of the world differently.

    • Understanding of how cultures react to the global issue differently.

    • Understanding of how student decisions/actions impact the issue (locally and globally).

    • Ethics and the possibility of addressing issue in a sustainable way.


    Science examples of specific syllabi objectives l.jpg

    ScienceExamples of Specific Syllabi objectives:

    INST350: Being in Nature- Plagues and Pestilence

    This course is focused on the global nature of infectious disease. Discovering how plagues and pandemics, both historical and emerging, impact human health and play a role in how societies are shaped is an important piece of understanding your role as a global citizen. Infectious disease does not recognize state or national boundaries, and the interconnected relationship between microbiology, virology, epidemiology, sociology, politics and history provide a framework for making decisions in today’s world. This course will engage you in issues that affect your personal health, the health of your community and the health of people across the planet, my goal is to help you find those connections.


    Science examples of specific syllabi objectives56 l.jpg

    ScienceExamples of Specific Syllabi objectives:

    • Learning Objectives:

    • By the time you complete this course you should be able to:

    • 1. identify and describe what types of microbes are considered pathogens.

      • 2. describe historical plagues and pandemics that shaped civilizations.

      • 3. identify key advances in medicine and technology that contain or prevent pandemics.

      • 4. describe the current state of newly emerging and reemerging infectious agents that influence current societies.

      • 5. compare historical events to current events and draw inferences for future pandemic risks.

      • 6. identify current challenges in human health care and treatment of infectious disease that impact future pandemic risks.

      • 7. consider how society and culture recognize and respond to pandemic threat, based on societal practices and resource availability.

      • 8. reflect on how your major and other courses integrate into these topics and what role you play in human health, personally and as a global citizen.


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    What themes or content areas are most important

    to develop scientifically literate citizens?


    Courses offered to date l.jpg

    Courses offered to date:

    IS350: Plagues and Pandemics

    IS400: Earth Science and Humankind-

    focus on Coral Reefs

    IS400: Earth Science and Humankind-

    focus on Sustainable energy usage

    IS360: Energy and Society (in development)

    Others-


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    Current Otterbein I.S. science curriculum

    • Lower level team-taught multidisciplinary course:

      • Model how the scientific disciplines approach

    • related problems from different perspectives and with different

    • techniques.

      • Science method is universal

      • Scientific theories are even stronger when evidence is available

    • from several fields of study.

    • Upper level course on application of science

    • to global issues


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    Acknowledgments:

    Otterbein College Science Division

    Department of Life Science

    Mary Gahbauer, Hal Lescinsky, Simon Lawrance,

    Sarah Bouchard, Dean Johnston and Dave Robertson

    The Integrative Studies Program

    Otterbein Center for Teaching and Learning

    Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens

    SoTL Professional Learning Community

    The McGregor Fund

    National Science Foundation Grant # 0536681

    AACU Shared Futures FIPSE Grant


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