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Ripped from the Headlines: Using Current Events and Deliberative Democracy to Improve Student Performance in and Perceptions of Nonmajors Biology Courses †

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Despite the importance of scientific literacy, many foundational science courses are plagued by low student engagement and performance. In an attempt to improve student outcomes, an introductory biology course for nonscience majors was redesigned to present the course content within the framework of current events and deliberative democratic exercises. During each instructional unit of the redesigned course, students were presented with a highly publicized policy question rooted in biological principles and currently facing lawmakers. Working in diverse groups, students sought out the information that was needed to reach an educated, rationalized decision. This approach models civic engagement and demonstrates the real-life importance of science to nonscience majors. The outcomes from two semesters in which the redesign were taught were compared with sections of the course taught using traditional pedagogies. When compared with other versions of the same course, presenting the course content within a deliberative democratic framework proved to be superior for increasing students’ knowledge gains and improving students’ perceptions of biology and its relevance to their everyday lives. These findings establish deliberative democracy as an effective pedagogical strategy for nonmajors biology.

No MeSH data available.


Flow chart depicting the general organization of each unit in the redesigned course. “n” refers to the number of class meetings in the unit. Examples of the Policy Introduction Worksheet and Final Policy Worksheet are available in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, respectively.
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f1-jmbe-17-380: Flow chart depicting the general organization of each unit in the redesigned course. “n” refers to the number of class meetings in the unit. Examples of the Policy Introduction Worksheet and Final Policy Worksheet are available in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, respectively.

Mentions: The redesigned sections of the course used the same instructional units and added a unit on human physiology, as described in Table 1. The greatest difference between the two versions of the course was how the material was presented. Rather than using a traditional lecture format, the redesigned course involved presenting the content within the framework of a DD exercise. Specifically, I opened each unit with a well-publicized question facing lawmakers and/or voters related to the scientific material to be covered during the unit. Table 1 includes a list of the questions that were used during the two semesters that the redesigned course was taught. I chose topics that received significant coverage in mainstream media within three months of beginning the unit. I divided each section of the course into six groups of five students. Groups were designed to optimize diversity with respect to age, gender, race/ethnicity, major, grade point average (GPA), and time since last completing a biology course. Each group was then tasked with identifying and seeking out the information necessary to reach an informed decision about the policy question that was posed. While students worked individually to gather information, they had to evaluate the validity and importance of the information as a group. Ultimately each group assimilated the thoughts and opinions of each member into a consensus statement that was turned in for grading and presented to the class at the end of the unit. The general organization of the DD exercises in each unit is depicted in Figure 1.


Ripped from the Headlines: Using Current Events and Deliberative Democracy to Improve Student Performance in and Perceptions of Nonmajors Biology Courses †
Flow chart depicting the general organization of each unit in the redesigned course. “n” refers to the number of class meetings in the unit. Examples of the Policy Introduction Worksheet and Final Policy Worksheet are available in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, respectively.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5134941&req=5

f1-jmbe-17-380: Flow chart depicting the general organization of each unit in the redesigned course. “n” refers to the number of class meetings in the unit. Examples of the Policy Introduction Worksheet and Final Policy Worksheet are available in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, respectively.
Mentions: The redesigned sections of the course used the same instructional units and added a unit on human physiology, as described in Table 1. The greatest difference between the two versions of the course was how the material was presented. Rather than using a traditional lecture format, the redesigned course involved presenting the content within the framework of a DD exercise. Specifically, I opened each unit with a well-publicized question facing lawmakers and/or voters related to the scientific material to be covered during the unit. Table 1 includes a list of the questions that were used during the two semesters that the redesigned course was taught. I chose topics that received significant coverage in mainstream media within three months of beginning the unit. I divided each section of the course into six groups of five students. Groups were designed to optimize diversity with respect to age, gender, race/ethnicity, major, grade point average (GPA), and time since last completing a biology course. Each group was then tasked with identifying and seeking out the information necessary to reach an informed decision about the policy question that was posed. While students worked individually to gather information, they had to evaluate the validity and importance of the information as a group. Ultimately each group assimilated the thoughts and opinions of each member into a consensus statement that was turned in for grading and presented to the class at the end of the unit. The general organization of the DD exercises in each unit is depicted in Figure 1.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Despite the importance of scientific literacy, many foundational science courses are plagued by low student engagement and performance. In an attempt to improve student outcomes, an introductory biology course for nonscience majors was redesigned to present the course content within the framework of current events and deliberative democratic exercises. During each instructional unit of the redesigned course, students were presented with a highly publicized policy question rooted in biological principles and currently facing lawmakers. Working in diverse groups, students sought out the information that was needed to reach an educated, rationalized decision. This approach models civic engagement and demonstrates the real-life importance of science to nonscience majors. The outcomes from two semesters in which the redesign were taught were compared with sections of the course taught using traditional pedagogies. When compared with other versions of the same course, presenting the course content within a deliberative democratic framework proved to be superior for increasing students’ knowledge gains and improving students’ perceptions of biology and its relevance to their everyday lives. These findings establish deliberative democracy as an effective pedagogical strategy for nonmajors biology.

No MeSH data available.