Proposal Title

Strategies that Facilitate Biology Students’ Understanding of Primary Literature

Track

Research Proposal / Learning Theories and Pedagogy

Proposal Abstract

Reading the primary literature leads to many learning gains in biology undergraduates. But why can some students understand research articles more easily than others? We hypothesize that using a variety of metacognitive strategies while reading an article will increase student understanding. Think-aloud interviews of students reading an article were transcribed then coded using a taxonomy for metacognitive activities in text studying. Results suggest: 1) using more metacognitive strategies leads to greater understanding of the text, and 2) tools that aid in student understanding involve organizing thoughts and concepts in ways that go beyond restating the information found in the article.

Proposal Description

While the analysis of scientific literature by undergraduates results in learning gains, we have noticed that some students can understand the primary literature better than others. The research question of this study, which is currently in progress, is: Are there metacognitive strategies that can increase students’ understanding of the primary literature? Biology majors were asked to read aloud a primary research article while voicing all thoughts. To measure student comprehension and enrich our analysis, students answered questions at the end of each article section. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded using a taxonomy for metacognitive activities for text studying. We grouped upperclass and underclass students into “high-performers” (answered at least six out of seven questions correctly) and “low-performers” (answered 5 or less questions correctly). Our results show that high-performers used a wider variety of metacognitive activities more often. High performers activated their prior knowledge more often during the interview than low-performers, suggesting that high performers had more prior knowledge to apply to the information found in the article. High-performers also organized their thoughts and synthesized information into their own words more frequently than low-performers (codes “organizing thought by questioning oneself”, “paraphrasing, summarizing what was read”, and “explaining strategy, justifying”). The frequency of these codes suggests that high performing students engage more often in the planning, evaluation, and elaboration components of metacognition, and that these specific components facilitate understanding of primary literature by undergraduates. Our results suggest that teaching interventions that develop metacognitive planning, evaluation and elaboration in undergraduates will enhance their ability to understand research articles.

When presenting, we will: 1) set the stage for our research, 2) talk about our research question, hypothesis and methods, and 3) describe our results and the implications of our findings. We will ask the audience for questions or comments throughout our presentation.

Session Format

Poster Session

Publication Type and Release Option

Event

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Mar 30th, 9:00 AM Mar 30th, 9:45 AM

Strategies that Facilitate Biology Students’ Understanding of Primary Literature

Reading the primary literature leads to many learning gains in biology undergraduates. But why can some students understand research articles more easily than others? We hypothesize that using a variety of metacognitive strategies while reading an article will increase student understanding. Think-aloud interviews of students reading an article were transcribed then coded using a taxonomy for metacognitive activities in text studying. Results suggest: 1) using more metacognitive strategies leads to greater understanding of the text, and 2) tools that aid in student understanding involve organizing thoughts and concepts in ways that go beyond restating the information found in the article.