Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Science 101: Different teaching fosters better comprehension, study finds

Date:
April 5, 2011
Source:
Concordia University
Summary:
Introductory science courses -- in biology, chemistry, math and physics -- can be challenging for first-year college and university students. Science 101 courses can make or break a student's decision to venture into a scientific field or even pursue higher education.

Calvin Kalman is principal of Concordia's Science College and a professor in the Department of Physics.
Credit: Concordia University

Introductory science courses - in biology, chemistry, math and physics - can be challenging for first-year college, CEGEP and university students. Science 101 courses can make or break a student's decision to venture into a scientific field or even pursue higher education.

Related Articles


"The language, fundamentals and scope of science gateway courses can be akin to a foreign culture," says Calvin Kalman, principal of Concordia's Science College and a professor in the Department of Physics. "Students can have great difficulty reading scientific texts - even when they are written in their native language - and they must also cope with complex knowledge taught by their professor."

Since 1995, Kalman has investigated new ways to ease this learning curve. "The main problem in teaching science is that its approach is not holistic," he explains, noting high school through university-level textbooks aren't necessarily consistent and don't employ user-friendly language. "They offer layers of scientific results, coming from competing interpretations, deposited during centuries."

Kalman's most recent paper, published in the journal Science & Education, followed CEGEP and university students over the course of a semester. He asked that they practice what he calls "reflective writing" - a process where students digest, analyze and pen their thoughts on assigned readings before classroom discussions. "It's a way of getting students to wrestle with materials and grasp their meaning, rather than just summarizing," he explains.

As part of his study, students were interviewed three times and asked to describe how reflective-writing helped their comprehension of course content. "They felt that they had to put the information into their own words, which really helped them refine key concepts," Kalman says. "Reflective writing gets students to initiate a self-dialogue about texts and ask: 'What do I understand?' and 'What do I not understand?'"

Kalman says teaching and learning is most successful when a student's outlook on a course is close to that of their professor. "Students are often looking for basics to pass courses, but that doesn't engage them," he says. "Unless they come to class prepared to ask questions, students end up serving time."

Kalman's solutions aren't radical: He encourages professors to go beyond PowerPoint presentations and lectures to promote critical thinking both inside and outside the classroom. His research has garnered collaborations with peers in Toronto, Vancouver and, internationally, in Portugal, Vietnam and China. Improving science education, Kalman says, is the only way for nations to remain at the forefront of the knowledge-based economy.

"Bolstering student understanding of basic science courses can improve retention rates in this field," he says. "But if students don't understand what they're learning they'll drop out and we'll lose ideas and people who will move their countries forward. What countries need are people who think critically - who are entrepreneurs - and that begins with how they're taught."

This work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Concordia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Calvin S. Kalman. Enhancing Students’ Conceptual Understanding by Engaging Science Text with Reflective Writing as a Hermeneutical Circle. Science & Education, 2010; 20 (2): 159 DOI: 10.1007/s11191-010-9298-z

Cite This Page:

Concordia University. "Science 101: Different teaching fosters better comprehension, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405113256.htm>.
Concordia University. (2011, April 5). Science 101: Different teaching fosters better comprehension, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405113256.htm
Concordia University. "Science 101: Different teaching fosters better comprehension, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405113256.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Studying Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

Studying Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is studying the popular Music and Memory program to see if music, which helps improve the mood of Alzheimer's patients, can also reduce the use of prescription drugs for those suffering from dementia. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) Moms and Dads get a more hands-on approach to parenting with tech-centric products for raising their little ones. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) Researchers have come up with another reason why dark chocolate is good for your health. A substance in the treat can reportedly help with memory. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

AFP (Oct. 27, 2014) Coding has become compulsory for children as young as five in schools across the UK. Making it the first major world economy to overhaul its IT teaching and put programming at its core. Duration: 02:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins