Guiding students to use evidence to support their scientific reasoning: Research Results

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Kathy Browne, Rider University
Gabriela Smalley, Rider University
Andrea Drewes, Rider University
Sage Lichtenwalner, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Scientific reasoning is complex and many of us have experienced our students struggling to excel in this skill. With NSF funding, we have been testing a strategy built into general education introductory oceanography courses that help students connect data literacy and reasoning skills to compose evidence-based scientific explanations. Through several exercises, students were guided to use interactive data visualizations and an instructional framework ("DCER") to describe data thoroughly (D), make a claim about the data and relevant phenomena (C), and support those claims with evidence (E) and scientific reasoning (R). Over six semesters, we compared sections of the introductory oceanography course where this framework was used (intervention group) to sections where it was not (comparison group). We assessed students' ability to compose evidence-based scientific explanations and conducted pre/post surveys measuring ocean content knowledge, data literacy, and scientific reasoning skills. Results show that students in intervention classes scored significantly higher on exam essay questions, most notably on their data description and scientific reasoning work when compared to students not exposed to the framework (t-tests, p<.001). In addition, intervention students also had a significantly larger increase in their ocean concept knowledge than those in the comparison group (2-way mixed ANOVA for effect of interaction between group and time, p=.017). Our work indicates that incorporation of targeted activities that center around data literacy and scientific reasoning skills can lead to significant gains not just in these targeted skills, but also in ocean content knowledge retention overall. While the topics and data in our exercises are related to ocean sciences, the approach would be relevant for any science topic and any level student group with adaptations made by participants for their student populations.