One of the essential skills in the sciences field is to be able to critically read and assess scientific literature, including determining whether the data presented warrants the conclusions drawn. The Biology Department expects students to develop problem-solving skills applicable to the biological sciences, including how to critically analyze an article from the original scientific literature, accurately interpret data and design an experiment to address a specific hypothesis.
As part of the annual assessment of student learning, the department administers a senior assessment exam during the required senior seminar. Students are required to read a primary literature article and answer questions regarding the methodology, interpret the data, analyze the article and design a future experiment.
After the first assessment, the department modified the structure of senior seminar to provide students with more practice for each of these skills. When they repeated the assessment, 85 percent of the students met or exceeded expectations in all but one of the categories. The assessment results shed light on areas where the students needed more instruction on how to carefully read and interpret information in the scientific literature.
The department continues to look for additional places within the curriculum to teach these critical skills to provide students with more practice to prepare them as professional scientists.
Submitted by: Sara Morris, PhD, associate vice president, academic affairs