ERIC Number: EJ1085731
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Points of View: Content versus Process--Is This a Fair Choice? Can Nonmajors Courses Lead to Biological Literacy? Do Majors Courses Do Any Better?
Klymkowsky, Michael W.
Cell Biology Education, v4 n3 p196-198 Fall 2005
"Points of View" addresses issues faced by many people within the life sciences educational realm. This issue addresses the question "What should a biology student know?" There has been a long, evolving, and often politically charged debate as to what the nonmajor student should know about science. In order to establish a basis for discussion regarding scientific literacy, this article defines scientific literacy as the ability to read and converse in the language of science. Is the language of science simply English or any other "common language," or is it more? The author argues the answer is clearly "it is more": it involves its own, often discipline-specific, vocabulary as well as common understanding of the nature of scientific experiment, argument, and proof. This article addresses the following: (1) the "reading level" required for biological literacy; (2) the best way to bring students to the desired biological literacy; and (3) the level of scientific literacy adequate for society. The goals for both biology majors and nonmajors courses need to be clarified and made explicit, tested to see whether they are attainable; and if not, either these goals must be revised (i.e., made more realistic), or more resources (e.g., student credit hours, alternative teaching strategies) need to be assigned toward their accomplishment. While it is possible to believe that biological vignettes presented in many nonmajors courses can be understood in a meaningful way without the rigor of a learned vocabulary and syntax, there is little or no objective evidence to support the claim. The author concludes that the failings of both majors and nonmajors courses can be recognized and eventually corrected only through the development and deployment of objective and validated instruments designed to measure whether course learning goals are actually achieved.
Descriptors: Nonmajors, Majors (Students), Scientific Literacy, Best Practices, Content Area Reading, Knowledge Level, Course Objectives, Course Content, Behavioral Objectives, Educational Needs
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A