Impact

I do this course to make a difference. How do I know if I am? At the start of semester, I ran a survey to gauge the students’ attitudes to science. I ran the same survey last week so I could measure the impact of my course.

I made no impact. None. Zip. Denada. ZERO.

There must be something wrong with the survey.
For the record, after the course, the students agreed more forcefully with one of the 20 statements offered to them. Astute SC200 graduates will recognize 1/20 as the false positive rate expected by chance if in fact I made no difference.
[However, that particular statement concerned perhaps the key learning objective of the course, Feynman’s statement that ‘Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty – some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain’. I take a crumb of comfort from the possibility that students understood that better after a semester of my labors. And if that shift in attitude was in fact due to chance, how are we to know without repeating the experiment?]
The remaining questions:-
  • Scientists are curious about the world
  • I think about science in everyday life
  • Knowledge in science consists of many disconnected topics
  • To understand science, I sometimes think about my personal experiences
  • I take science credits because I want to make a contribution to society
  • It is important for the government to approve new scientific ideas
  • Learning about science changes my ideas about how the natural world works
  • Science has little relation to what I experience in the real world
  • There is usually only one correct approach to solving a science problem
  • Learning about science that is not relevant to human health is not worth my time
  • Mathematical skills are important for understanding the world
  • I enjoy explaining scientific idea that I learn about to my friends
  • The general public misunderstands many scientific ideas
  • For me, science is about learning known facts as opposed to investigating the unknown
  • Science is a civilizing enterprise that generates wonder and awe
  • I need experts to tell me what to think about a scientific claim
  • In my lifetime, science will change the way people will think about the human condition and humanity’s place in the universe
  • Well educated citizens need to know something of how science works
Students were asked if they strongly agreed, agreed, were neutral, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement. With perhaps the exception of the first question, where 82% of the students strongly agreed, less than 30% of students strongly agreed or strongly disagreed with any statement, and for the most part <10% strong agreed or strongly disagreed – in other words, if student attitudes had got stronger for or against any of those statements, there was plenty of room for the survey to have detected that. No such shifts occurred.
Return rates:- 84% at start of semester, 87% at end

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