Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Jason R. Wiles
Biology, Evolution, Genetically Modified Organisms, Global Climate Change, Nature of Science, Primary Literature
Chapter1: Numerous anti-science bills introduced into state legislatures reference the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific subjects, but the subjects they target, most commonly evolution and global climate change, are not topics of contention within the scientific community. This brief work provides a researched rebuttal to the notion that evolution and climate change have strengths and weaknesses of the form implied by anti-science legislation while providing examples of actual scientific disagreement about these subjects. The disagreement is not, of course, about whether or not evolution or climate change are factual occurrences, but rather over ideas such as the finer points of evolutionary mechanisms or providing physical evidence that support theoretical ideas produced by mathematical models.
Chapter 2: The HungerU campaign of the Farm Journal Foundation includes a mobile, informal education exhibit centered on raising college students' awareness of hunger in the US and abroad, as well as the role of modern agriculture in solving hunger-related problems. This study evaluated changes in students' understandings of hunger as a cause of mortality before and after participating in the HungerU exhibit, as well as concurrent changes in their attitudes toward bioengineered or genetically modified foods. Students showed a significant increase in their understanding of hunger as the leading cause of mortality world-wide as well as a significant increase in their level of concern about hunger. Although there was no explicit instruction on GM foods, there were simultaneous significant increases in these students' opinions that farmers should be allowed to use bioengineered crops in food production and that GMOs are a good option for solving issues related to world hunger. We posit that becoming more aware of and concerned about issues related to hunger may have allowed students to become more open minded to technologies to which they were previously ideologically opposed.
Chapter 3: Given the high availability of different media sources to students today, it stands to reason that some media sources would be of greater quality than others when communicating particular subjects to students. Previous findings have shown viewers of comedy news shows (the type of news show most frequently watched by younger viewers) to be better informed on some issues than viewers of other news outlets such as Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC. We sought to compare the effects of two different sets of videos, one comedic and one authoritative scientific, on students' knowledge of and attitudes towards climate change as well as how the two sets of videos were received by students. Surprisingly, we found no difference is effects on students' knowledge of or attitudes towards climate change. We did find however, that students generally felt that the authoritative videos were more likely to influence the way someone might vote, and that liberal students felt both videos were slightly more likely to influence voting than conservative students. We then make suggestions for future studies on media related to climate change, and for climate change educators.
Chapter 4: This qualitative study explores the experiences of six students enrolled in a special topics biology class that exclusively used primary literature as course content material. NOS conceptions have been linked to students' attitudes toward scientific subjects, but there has not been research specifically exploring the effects of primary literature use on NOS conceptions. Results, based both upon written responses to an established and validated NOS survey (VNOS-C) taken at the beginning and end of the course and upon reflective essays in which students described in detail their experiences with using primary literature, indicate positive gains in various aspects of NOS conceptions as well as increased confidence with approaching original research. We conclude by suggesting the expanded use of primary literature in biology education.
Carter, Benjamin Elijah, "Students' Attitudes towards Socially--but Not Scientifically--Controversial Subjects: Evaluating Ways in which These Attitudes May Be Shifted" (2015). Dissertations - ALL. 341.