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Achieving Harmony: Tuning into Practice
Wednesday, June 17 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
POSTER.19 - Barriers faced by undergraduate students when reading primary literature

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This investigation uncovers student attitudes and approaches to reading life sciences primary literature. Personal, anecdotal (Spiegelberg, 2014), and systematic (van Lacum, Ossevoort, Buikema & Goedhart, 2012) observations suggest that undergraduate students follow a text-based reading strategy, and avoid making independent conclusions based on results and methodology. While the student process of deep vs. surface learning has been examined for several decades (Marton & Säljö, 1976), it needs more investigation into student practices of interpreting biomedical literature (van Lacum, et al.). In this inquiry, students enrolled in a 1st year general biology course (HSCI100 – Human Biology), or a 4th year seminar course (HSCI477 – Senior Seminar in Vaccine Immunology) were assigned a primary literature article, and their reading strategies were assessed by survey. In both classes, we found that students rated the methods section as the least important for helping them understand the paper. Fourth year students spent more time reading the results section than first year students, however, they emphasized text rather than interpretation of figures. Given these observations, activities and assessments should cultivate student appreciation of methodology and direct students into reading practices that emphasize independent interpretation of results. These findings will be used as a basis for further inquiry into individual student reading strategies. Ultimately, these data will inform the design of layered assessments that build student skills in this practice from first year to fourth year.

Reference List:

Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning. I. Outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4-11. 

Spiegelberg, B.D. (2014). A focused assignment encouraging deep reading in undergraduate biochemistry. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 42(1), 1-5. 

van Lacum, E., Ossevoort, M., Buikema, H. & Goedhart, M. (2012). First experiences with reading primary literature by undergraduate life science students. International Journal of Science Education, 34(12), 1795-1821.


Wednesday June 17, 2015 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Bayshore Foyer

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