Teaching communication in undergraduate science: the current standard and best practice recommendations on how to improve.

Mercer-Mapstone, Lucy (2014). Teaching communication in undergraduate science: the current standard and best practice recommendations on how to improve. Honours Thesis, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Mercer-Mapstone, Lucy
Thesis Title Teaching communication in undergraduate science: the current standard and best practice recommendations on how to improve.
School, Centre or Institute School of Biological Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2014-11-01
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Louise Kuchel
Total pages 71
Language eng
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
060299 Ecology not elsewhere classified
Abstract/Summary There is an international push from many sectors of society to improve the effectiveness with which scientists communicate to non-scientific audiences. One approach to facilitating this change is to ensure science graduates are equipped with a relevant and developed communications skillset. This study used an evidence-based approach to explore ways to improve the teaching of non-technical communication skills to undergraduate science students at Australian research-intensive universities. A list of 12 ‘Key Elements of Effective Science Communication’ was developed based on a literature critique and validated through a survey of relevant experts. A detailed evidential baseline for not only what but how communication skills are being taught currently was established by quantifying which communication skills are taught explicitly, implicitly, or are absent in undergraduate science assessment tasks from a range of assessment tasks (n=35) at several universities (n = 4) around Australia. Results indicate that 10 of the 12 key elements were absent from more than 50 per cent of assessment tasks and 77.14% of all assessment tasks taught less than 5 key elements explicitly. Tasks aimed at non-scientific audiences were significantly more explicit in teaching communication than those aimed at scientific audiences. Innovative ‘template-style’ learning activities structured around selected key elements and aimed explicitly to develop student ability to communicate with non-scientific audiences were designed and implemented in three tertiary science courses. Triangulation of multiple data sources showed that students improved in both their understanding of, and ability to do, targeted communication. Academics reported improved learning of the science involved in the tasks and indicated the tasks would be sustainable and implemented in future years. This study indicates that important principles for effective communication to non-technical audiences generally are absent from science assessment tasks but that effective science communication skills can be integrated into existing science curricula successfully through the use of ‘template’ activities. Doing so can require little input from teaching academics and enhance student learning of both science and communication.
Keyword Science communication
Undergraduate skills
Novel teaching activities
Education
Learning gains

 
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Created: Fri, 06 Nov 2015, 20:55:00 EST by Lucy Mercer-mapstone on behalf of School of Biological Sciences