Initial Publication Date: November 20, 2008

Finding meaning in the introductory science course

Developed by: Karl Wirth, Peter Lea, Suzanne O'Connell, Ji-Sook Han, Dave Gosselin, John Ottenhoff
Developed at the 2008 workshop, The Role of Metacognition in Teaching Geoscience.

For population: non-majors in an introductory science course

Description of the tactic:
We're interested in assessing students' valuing of science and their ability to make meaning within the field of science. The tactic would involve having 'wrappers' around various concepts and activities--reflective writing that calls for students (1)to first assess their knowledge and interest relating to a scientific problem or phenomenon (prior knowledge) and (2)to re-assess their understanding, interest, and connections at the end of the content unit. The goal is to help students think about their motivations, goals, and values in learning in this course.

How and why this tactic is particularly useful for the given population:
One of the biggest challenges is to get non-science majors to find authentic engagement and meaning in required science courses. This tactic not only helps students engage--and think about their levels of engagement--but provides a strong foundation for future science courses. This tactic helps move science from the theoretical to the personal.

Example of how the population would use this tactic:
Start a unit on water resources by asking for reflective writing focused on the student's interest in the Platte River and knowledge of issues related to the topic. Follow the unit with reflective writing on the same questions. Our assessment would depend upon some kind of rubric for recognizing features such as 'valuing,' appropriately citing authority, connecting external authorities with personal knowledge and beliefs; in short, we want to see evidence of meaning making in each unit and to track gains in meaning making over the course. We would hope to see, for example, that a student could move from writing that the Platte River is of little concern because he/she is from California, to understanding how water resources affect everyone.

See more examples of strategies for teaching metacognition