Some Examples of Projects that have Improved CAT Scores
City University of New York (CUNY)
The CREATE Cornerstone course adapted the CREATE approach for first-year students with the goal of building transferable science learning skills and deepening students' understanding of the nature of science. Students gained in critical thinking and experimental design abilities, and also showed maturation of epistemological beliefs about science (Gottesman and Hoskins, 2013, http://www.lifescied.org/content/12/1/59.full).
This project involved the development of a new cell biology laboratory course that emphasized critical thinking, effective writing and communication, and ethical reasoning. The new course used an inquiry-based pedagogic strategy allowing students to design and perform experiments in the context of mini research projects. Students also gained experience in communicating their findings through poster/oral presentations and through the writing of manuscripts in standard journal format. As a part of the scientific inquiry and communication processes, students also engaged in the discussion of the ethics of scientific communication.
Application Based Service Learning (ABSL) is a pedagogy that we are developing to address the need for novel approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education at the undergraduate level. ABSL combines traditional service learning with novel undergraduate research on a community problem. For the service-learning portion of the class, students spend a set number of hours throughout the semester in a specific community environment so that they learn about and understand the community problem. In class, the students conduct novel research, using the scientific method, on various parts of the community problem and investigate solutions to the problem.
The goal of this project is to introduce freshmen biology majors to the culture of scientific discovery by engaging them in authentic research projects as part of their introductory biology curriculum. This is an alternative to the cookbook/practical skills introductory laboratory because it not only provides the students with needed basic laboratory skills, but also enhances their scientific understanding and communication skills. Emphasis was placed on the following objectives: (1) Students will demonstrate an understanding of the nature of science, (2) Students will be able to critically evaluate information and design experiments to test hypotheses, (3) Students will analyze and interpret their results and make inferences, and (4) Students will develop and improve their scientific communication skills in both written and oral formats.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
As part of this grant, RHIT teamed with industry to create a Mixed-Signal Test and Product Engineering course. In this course, students are required to use critical thinking skills to design tests that isolate the effect of multiple variables on the measurements of mixed-circuit integrated circuits and evaluate their measurements for sufficient accuracy while minimizing test time. The instructor models critical thinking skills early in the course and provides many opportunities for the students to practice them with problems of increasing difficulty on a system that provides immediate feedback.
Sam Houston State University
In the course, students critically evaluate a diversity of extraordinary and engaging claims (sometimes controversial), ranging from astrology to alternative medicines to the lost continent of Atlantis to help them understand the relevance of science in their daily lives. Students work in groups to discuss various Case Studies (many designed specifically for this course). The course emphasizes the way scientists·think critically about information and ideas more than the facts of science. The course also incorporates discussion of common logical fallacies, and other types of reasoning/perceptual biases that can mislead us. Students are introduced to the importance of sample size, double-blind clinical studies, and the placebo effect during our discussions of alternative medicines and alleged paranormal phenomena. Throughout the course, we try to help students understand that they can use what they learn about science and critical thinking to help them make better decisions for themselves, for their families, and for society.
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Excerpt from Course Description: This course is about how scientists figure things out. To put it more formally, it is about how people make sense of the natural world in the past, understand the present, and make predictions for the future. An integral (and interesting) part of this process is the different methods scientists use, the ways they work as a community, and how that community interacts and reflects the larger society... We will ask you to reflect upon your own learning process, and we will try to foster this through a variety of short assignments throughout the semester. Our hope is for you to reveal to us- and to yourself- what you learn over the course of the semester.