Tag Archives: Sonia M. Underwood

For better science literacy change science education

Zahilyn D. Roche Allred’s July 12, 2022 essay for The Conversation (h/t July 13, 2022 news item on phys.org) suggests that even people with undergraduate science degrees have some issues with science literacy (Note: Links have been removed),

To graduate with a science major, college students must complete between 40 and 60 credit hours of science coursework. That means spending around 2,500 hours in the classroom throughout their undergraduate career.

However, research has shown that despite all that effort, most college science courses give students only a fragmented understanding of fundamental scientific concepts. The teaching method reinforces memorization of isolated facts, proceeding from one textbook chapter to the next without necessarily making connections between them, instead of learning how to use the information and connect those facts meaningfully.

The ability to make these connections is important beyond the classroom as well, because it’s the basis of science literacy: the ability to use scientific knowledge to accurately evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence.

As a chemistry education researcher, I have been working since 2019 with my colleague Sonia Underwood to learn more about how chemistry students integrate and apply their knowledge to other scientific disciplines.

A large body of research shows that traditional science education, for both science majors and non-majors, doesn’t do a good job of teaching science students how to apply their scientific knowledge and explain things that they may not have learned about directly.

With that in mind, we developed a series of cross-disciplinary activities guided by a framework called “three-dimensional learning.”

In short, three-dimensional learning, known as 3DL, emphasizes that the teaching, learning and assessing of college students should involve the use of fundamental ideas within a discipline. It should also involve tools and rules that support students in making connections within and between disciplines. Finally, it should engage students in the use of their knowledge. The framework was developed on the basis of how people learn as a way to help all students gain a deep understanding of science.

Allred goes on to describe a piece of previously published research. Here’s a link to and citation for that work

Students’ use of chemistry core ideas to explain the structure and stability of DNA by Zahilyn D. Roche Allred, Anthony J. Farias, Alex T. Kararo, Kristin N. Parent, Rebecca L. Matz, Sonia M. Underwood. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education Volume 49, Issue 1 (January/February 2021) Pages 55-68 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/bmb.21391 First published: 09 September 2020

This paper is behind a paywall.