Cordilleran Section - 115th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 35-3
Presentation Time: 8:40 AM


COLLINS, Larry, Department of Education/School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99163

Critical realism is an aspect of the philosophy of science that posits the idea that we should focus on mechanisms that generate specific events rather than the products of the events themselves (Collier, 1994). One such mechanism (peer review) is a critical component to the scientific process and is influenced by one’s views of the empirical nature of science. Understanding how engagement in peer review can shape these views of science is critical to the intellectual growth of scientists. Therefore, this study draws on cognitive mapping theory (Goldwater & Schalk, 2016) to understand how engagement in three rounds of peer critique of argumentative essays shapes student views of the nature of scientific knowledge. In this study, we use an adaptation of an argumentative writing rubric (Schunn, 2016) to structure peer review for students on argumentative essays and a sort task that was developed to assess student views of scientific knowledge. Students were given a sort task at the beginning of the study to pre-assess the views that they hold about the nature of scientific knowledge (simplicity, structure, and uncertainty) and at the end of the study to measure how these views developed over time. Between the pre and post sort assessments, we engaged students in two rounds of peer critique for each of their three argumentative essays. Our purposeful sample of freshmen students from a second semester majors course (N=147) were able to demonstrate growth in the quality of feedback that they were providing over the semester from (M=2.47, SD=1.17) to (M=4.59, SD=1.47) and in their understanding of the aspects of the nature of scientific knowledge that were targeted in the sort task. Development of student views of science was correlated to engagement in peer critique, r=0.84, p<.05. However, a secondary qualitative analysis of reasoning from our sort task illustrated one central theme of students focusing on the products of scientific knowledge and very little emphasis on the process of scientific inquiry. Given our focus on peer critique, this is another piece of evidence highlighting the need for critical realism in GER. Future research should also examine what specific aspects of peer review will drive shifts in how students think about science as a process of inquiry.