was team teaching; now FACTS?

David Hershey dh321 at excite.com
Tue Jul 13 17:44:06 EST 1999

Teaching undergraduate students to evaluate scientific articles is a
challenge for a number of reasons. The literature is intimidating for
undergraduates who are used to textbooks, and there is a myth that the
scientific literature is somehow written in stone because of peer
review. Therefore, students are hesitant to critically question it.
Also, to critically evaluate an article, you need to have some kind of a
background in the area because articles often abbreviate a lot of the
methods and don't provide much of a basic introduction. Even with a
graduate degree, you often have to read several of the citations from
the references section to get up to speed on the article topic.    

In graduate school, I took a course to read the current literature in
plant nutrition. Each student was assigned several journals, found plant
nutrition papers in recent issues and presented a summary/evaluation of
them to the class. It was an extremely useful course. Once students got
over their fears, they started to find major flaws in some articles. I
think the students lost a lot of their awe of the literature, which I'm
not sure is a always a good thing. Prestigious science journals don't
like it when people, especially lowly students, point out that "the
Emperor is naked".

David Hershey
dh321 at excite.com

Grant R. Cramer wrote:
> Bill,
> I agree with your comments. I would add one other factor that I feel is MOST
> important to teach my students and that is for them "to be able to
> critically evaluate information" or "to think for themselves". Surprisingly
> few are capable of doing this by the time they reach my class after 3 years
> of University education. In many cases, student entering my class have never
> read a scientific paper.
> --
> Grant R. Cramer
> Associate Professor
> Mail Stop 200
> Department of Biochemistry
> University of Nevada
> Reno, NV 89557
> phone: (775) 784-4204
> fax: (775) 784-1650
> email: cramer at med.unr.edu
> web page: http://BIOCHEM.MED.UNR.EDU/faculty/grant_c/

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