About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2047-2056
Publication year: 2013
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079

Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain

ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO TAKE A STAND: USING PRIMARY LITERATURE TO SUPPORT SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENTS

F.M. Yeong

National University of Singapore (SINGAPORE)
The establishment of a scientific idea as an accepted paradigm in specific fields of science requires the rigours of experimentation and scrutiny by both proponents and opponents of the idea. This often involves the proposal of a working hypothesis, experimentation, analysis of data by the researchers, arguments in support of a hypothesis based on the data and submission of the arguments in the form of a manuscript for peer-review in scientific journals. After the necessary examination and queries by reviewers, the researchers might need to argue for acceptance in the journal by supporting their hypothesis with more experimental data and answering queries from the reviewers. For a piece of scientific work to gain acceptance in a journal or in the field of study requires arguments based on data between researchers and reviewers or opponents of the work. This is crucial for scientific research, as it is through evidence-based arguments that better ideas emerge that are supported by rigorous testing and examination of data for and against the ideas.
Interestingly, there appears to be a distinct lack of argument during formal teaching of science in lectures that is at odds with the actual practice of science by researchers. Indeed, most students are presented with a list of facts and knowledge during lectures that the students are expected to learn. Students faced with a high quantity of information tend accept what has been provided without much questioning or argument. They then learn by memorization. In my module on the Molecular Basis of Cancer Biology, I attempted to encourage student to learn to make their arguments for a stand that they take on a particular issue related to a tumour suppressor gene. By this method, I hoped to promote critical thinking and writing skills.
In the exercise, students were provided a list of 6 published scientific articles on Chfr, a relatively new gene product that has been characterized at the molecular and functional level to be involved in the regulation of mitotic entry. In the 6 articles, studies attempted to implicate the loss-of¬-function of Chfr in colon cancers were reported. However, as the correlation between the loss of a gene and cancer incidences were not always clear and unambiguous. Students had to read 4 of the 6 the articles and answer the question as to whether they thought there was sufficient data to support the claim that a loss of function of Chfr is correlated with colon cancers and whether Chfr is a tumour suppressor gene. They had to analyze the data provided in the primary literature and make their arguments based on the data whether they thought there was sufficient evidence to their claims about Chfr.
Through this exercise, as the students had to argue one way or another, using data in the articles, they were forced to think critically about the data they were given. Using the data to substantiate their stnd, they then had to present their ideas in the form of a graded essay. A survey showed that most students had not made scientific arguments before. Several students reflected that such an exercise could be useful to encourage students to examine scientific data critically.
@InProceedings{YEONG2013ENC,
author = {Yeong, F.M.},
title = {ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO TAKE A STAND: USING PRIMARY LITERATURE TO SUPPORT SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENTS},
series = {7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2013 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-2661-8},
issn = {2340-1079},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {4-5 March, 2013},
year = {2013},
pages = {2047-2056}}
TY - CONF
AU - F.M. Yeong
TI - ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO TAKE A STAND: USING PRIMARY LITERATURE TO SUPPORT SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENTS
SN - 978-84-616-2661-8/2340-1079
PY - 2013
Y1 - 4-5 March, 2013
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2013 Proceedings
SP - 2047
EP - 2056
ER -
F.M. Yeong (2013) ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO TAKE A STAND: USING PRIMARY LITERATURE TO SUPPORT SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENTS, INTED2013 Proceedings, pp. 2047-2056.
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