SENCER E-Newsletter, November 2004, Volume 4, Issue 3
SENCER Students Show Significant Gain in Science Literacy
Results from Spring 2004 SALG - By: Tim Weston, University of Colorado-Boulder
During spring 2004, the SALG was completed by 32 courses and nearly 1400 students. Students enrolled in SENCER courses were majority female (62% to 38% male), mostly of traditional college age (61% between the ages of 18 and 21), majority white (80%) with 9% African American, 5% Hispanic and 3% Asian. Eighty-five (85%) percent were non-science majors, undecided or planning on becoming a non-science major.
Overall, SENCER students rated activities such as "Focus on addressing real world issues" and "Focus on science facts" the highest as course elements that helped them learn. Lecture was rated as the most helpful course activity. It was also the most frequently used in courses.
The largest gains from pre-post for SENCER students were on items asking about scientific literacy such as "I am confident I can determine the difference between science and pseudo-science," and "I am confident I can think critically about scientific readings in the media." Larger gains were also found for science interest items such as reading about science, and taking additional science classes.
All student responses to survey items were compared between SENCER courses and non-SENCER courses. The SENCER group had significantly higher pre/post gains on the five "scientific literacy" items about reading scientific literature, critical thinking and understanding the difference between science and pseudo-science than non-SENCER courses. They also showed greater gains on science interest items for discussing science with family or friends, reading articles about science and its relationship to civic issues, and reading about science in magazines and taking additional science courses. Additionally, SENCER students who reported never engaging in civic activities said they were more likely to engage in some activities after taking the course than Non-SENCER students. These activities included writing a letter to a public official about a civic issue, talking to a public official about a civic issue, debating or offer comment about a civic or scientific issue, and writing letters to the editor about civic or scientific issues.