A Comparison of Nonmajors' & Majors' Incoming Science Process Skills

Sadie Hebert, Sehoya Cotner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recommendations for undergraduate biology education include integration of research experiences into the curriculum, regardless of major. While non-biology majors and biology majors differ in affective characteristics, it is not clear if they differ in their incoming science process skills. We created a scenario-based assessment instrument - designed to gauge science process skills -that was accessible to nonmajors and majors. We evaluated nonmajors' and majors' open-ended responses using a rubric. We also assessed students' science identity, confidence, and attitudes with a pre-course survey. While affective differences between the populations are evident, we did not detect meaningful differences in science competency. These findings indicate that nonmajors and majors are skilled in the process of science and have the ability to engage in meaningful scientific inquiry, confirming our hypothesis that, in supporting a scientifically literate citizenry, educators must emphasize teaching strategies that target affective differences between nonmajors and majors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-560
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Biology Teacher
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Melissa Kruesel, Christine Lian, Clay Mazur, Julia Vanden-Boom, and Anna Wojcicki for helpful comments on the rubric and assistance collecting data; Jessamina Blum, Catherine Kirkpatrick, and Robin Wright for helpful comments on the SPS scenario; and Jonathan Andicoechea, Cissy Ballen, Hillary Barron, Connor Neill, Lori Patrick, Jake Peterson, and Seth Thompson for helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (NSF 1432414) awarded to Sehoya Cotner and Catherine Kirkpatrick.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved.


  • Science process skill
  • assessment
  • biology majors
  • nonmajors
  • undergraduate


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