Assessing students' ability to critically evaluate evidence in an inquiry-based undergraduate laboratory course

Colthorpe, Kay, Abraha, Hyab Mehari, Zimbardi, Kirsten, Ainscough, Louise, Spiers, Jereme G. , Chen, Hsiao-Jou and Lavidis, Nickolas A. (2017) Assessing students' ability to critically evaluate evidence in an inquiry-based undergraduate laboratory course. Advances in Physiology Education, 41 1: 154-162. doi:10.1152/advan.00118.2016

Author Colthorpe, Kay
Abraha, Hyab Mehari
Zimbardi, Kirsten
Ainscough, Louise
Spiers, Jereme G.
Chen, Hsiao-Jou
Lavidis, Nickolas A.
Title Assessing students' ability to critically evaluate evidence in an inquiry-based undergraduate laboratory course
Journal name Advances in Physiology Education   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1522-1229
Publication date 2017-03-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1152/advan.00118.2016
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 41
Issue 1
Start page 154
End page 162
Total pages 9
Place of publication Bethesda, MD, United States
Publisher American Physiological Society
Collection year 2018
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The ability to critically evaluate and use evidence from one's own work or from primary literature is invaluable to any researcher. These skills include the ability to identify strengths and weakness of primary literature, to gauge the impact of research findings on a field, to identify gaps in a field that require more research, and to contextualize findings within a field. This study developed a model to examine undergraduate science students' abilities to critically evaluate and use evidence through an analysis of laboratory reports from control and experimental groups in nonresearch- aligned and research-aligned inquiry-based laboratory classes, respectively, and contrasted these with published scientific research articles. The reports analyzed (n = 42) showed that students used evidence in a variety of ways, most often referring to literature indirectly, and least commonly highlighting limitations of literature. There were significant positive correlations between grade awarded and the use of references, evidence, and length, but there were no significant differences between control and experimental groups, so data were pooled. The use of evidence in scientific research articles (n = 7) was similar to student reports except that expert authors were more likely to refer to their own results and cite more references. Analysis showed that students, by the completion of the second year of their undergraduate degree, had expertise approaching that of published authors. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to provide valuable broad-scale undergraduate research experiences to all students in a cohort, giving them exposure to the methods and communication processes of research as well as an opportunity to hone their critical evaluation skills.
Keyword Epistemologies
Inquiry-based laboratory classes
Scientific communication
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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School of Biomedical Sciences Publications
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