Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:40 AM


LIBARKIN, Julie, Geocognition Research Laboratory, 206 Natural Science, East Lansing, MI 48824, THOMAS, Stephen R., Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, 288 Farm Lane, 203 Natural Science Building, East Lansing, MI 48824 and MCCALLUM, Carmen, Center for Integrative Studies in General Science, Michigan State University, 100 North Kedzie, East Lansing, MI 48824,

Critical thinking is perhaps the most important concept we can teach students enrolled in entry-level science courses. In order to be effective citizens, everyone needs to be able to reason about claims and draw conclusions from evidence. Although most faculty recognize its value, very little understanding of how to teach critical thinking exists. An online course, hosting both for-credit and free-choice learners, was developed based on a face-to-face course taught by colleagues. The online curriculum development was funded by the Gates Foundation MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) initiative, and collaborative participation by 23 graduate students and multiple faculty. The resulting course consisted of a series of videos that encouraged learners to See, Talk, Think, and Act Like Scientists. This included a module specifically focused on geosciences. Student progress was measured through pre- and post-testing, as well as through analysis of discussion board posts. Results indicate that students experienced statistically significant increases in their critical thinking ability, as well as a decrease in their likelihood to accept pseudoscience. The change in critical thinking is attributed to better bias detection and an increase in evaluation and rejection of pseudoscientific claims. Students were also extremely positive in their reviews of the course. This study suggests that online instruction can successfully engender learning in both university students and the general public.