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ERIC Number: EJ1052362
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0263-5143
Teaching Scientific Literacy in an Introductory Women's Studies Course: A Case Study in Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Fuselier, Linda; Murphy, Claudia; Bender, Anita; Falcón, Kandace Creel
Research in Science & Technological Education, v33 n1 p38-60 2015
Background and purpose: The purpose of this exploratory case study is to describe how scholars negotiated disciplinary divides to develop and communicate to their students an understanding of the basic features of scientific knowledge. Our goals were to examine boundary crossing in interdisciplinary collaboration and to assess the efficacy of adding science content to an introductory Women's Studies course. Sample: We studied a collaboration between faculty in Biology and Women's Studies and evaluated science modules in a Women's Studies course at a regional four-year university in the Midwestern USA. The study included 186 student participants over three semesters and four faculty from Philosophy, Women's Studies and Biology. Design and method: Women's Studies and Biology faculty collaborated to design and implement science content learning modules that included the case of women and science in an introductory Women's Studies course. Qualitative data collected from faculty participants in the form of peer debrief sessions and narrative reflections were used to examine the process of interdisciplinary collaboration. Students exposed to curriculum changes were administered pre- and post-lesson surveys to evaluate their understanding of issues faced by women in science careers, the nature of science, and interest in science studies. Data from collaborators, student journal reflections, and pre-/post-lesson surveys were considered together in an evaluation of how knowledge of science was understood and taught in a Women's Studies course over a longitudinal study of three semesters. Results: We found evidence of discipline-based challenges to interdisciplinarity and disciplinary boundary crossing among collaborators. Three themes emerged from our collaboration: challenges posed by disciplinary differences, creation of a space for interdisciplinary work, and evidence of boundary crossing. Student participants exhibited more prior knowledge of Women's Studies content than nature of science but showed learning in the areas of scientific literacy and the understanding of issues related to women in science careers. Student understanding of science content was enhanced by the participation of a woman scientist in the learning module. Conclusion: This case study illustrates how creating an inclusive space for interdisciplinary collaboration led to successful curriculum transformation and academic boundary crossing by faculty participants. Success is evident in the legacy of interdisciplinarity in the curriculum and learning gains by students. Use of a feminist science studies framework was successful at helping students learn about the influence of values on science and the tentative nature of scientific conclusions. It was less successful in teaching the distinction between science and other ways of knowing and the conception that science is an evidence-based approach to understanding the natural world. This study highlights the importance of interdisciplinary teams of faculty members collaborating to help students learn about science by modeling that there are multiple ways of knowing.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A