December 5, 2019

New Publication Alert!

Researchers have identified patterns of intuitive thinking that are commonly used to understand and reason about the biological world. These cognitive construals (anthropic, teleological, and essentialist thinking), while useful in everyday life, have also been associated with misconceptions about biological science. Although construal-based thinking is pervasive among students, we know little about the prevalence of construal-consistent language in the university science classroom. In the current research, we characterized the degree to which construal-consistent language is present in biology students’ learning environments. To do so, we coded transcripts of instructor’s speech in 90 undergraduate biology classes for the presence of construal-consistent language. Classes were drawn from two universities with very different student demographic profiles and represented 18 different courses aimed at nonmajors and lower- and upper-division biology majors. Results revealed construal-consistent language in all 90 sampled classes. Anthropic language was more frequent than teleological or essentialist language, and frequency of construal-consistent language was surprisingly consistent across instructor and course level. Moreover, results were surprisingly consistent across the two universities. These findings suggest that construal-consistent language is pervasive in the undergraduate classroom and highlight the need to understand how such language may facilitate and/or interfere with students learning biological science.

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Betz, Nicole, et al. “Cognitive Construal-Consistent Instructor Language in the Undergraduate Biology Classroom.” CBE—Life Sciences Education 18.4 (2019): ar63.

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