“Science is largely about memorizing facts.” So wrong, so prevalent, so frustrating.
David Wittman teaches introductory astronomy at UC Davis, and he decided to see if his course affected attitudes like this. In a recent preprint he describes the results of a before and after survey covering a range of statements about how science works.
It’s not fully systematic, as he points out himself, but there are some interesting results that would be fascinating to see confirmed.
He gave the same survey at the beginning and end of the course, and measured the shift in responses. The biggest shift occurred in the question
A bit of information is considered scientific when: (a) it is supported by evidence; [or] (e) it is supported by eminent scientists.
However, there was no significant change in the responses to the statements
I want my tax money to help support science.
Science is fun.
The pattern seems to be — looking over the whole list — that students did in fact gain a better understanding of the mechanics of doing science, but that didn’t translate into more of a perceived importance of actually doing it. (The question that led off this post came in the middle of the pack — a just barely statistically significant shift toward the answer a scientist would give) Again, a more comprehensive study would need to be done to get a real picture of what’s happening.
My favorite part of his description, incidentally, was the little black boxes. He gave out a bunch of them — with holes and marbles to drop in — and let students play around and experiment to determine what was inside them. Then, at the end, he didn’t tell them the answer.
(Hat tip: Physics and Physicists.)