Scientific reasoning underlies all scientific disciplines. To become proficient in science requires that students develop the skills of
logic and reasoned thinking, which In turn allow them to be able to solve problems, formulate questions, design experiments and,
most importantly, criticize the interpretation of results. Although emphasis is often placed on the scientific method, there is no
formal curriculum in first year biology that we know of (in British Columbia) that is focused on informal logic or reasoning skills.
Skills in formal logical are relatively easily assessed and have received quite a bit of attention, but the ways in which people process
informal logical errors are still poorly understood. This is unfortunate because these skills help people to process and evaluate
claims made not only by scientists, but marketers and anyone else who is trying to sell something. (One of the reasons that scam
artists and purveyors of "snake oil" are so successful is that many people lack the skills required to see the errors in the sellers'
faulty logic.) The authors hypothesize that students with higher informal logical error identification skills and better scientific
reasoning skills will do better in science in general and in biology in particular. We further predict that students with better
reasoning skills are less likely to drop out of science programmes after first year because they will be better able to understand
some of the more difficult concepts which build on the scientific method and require students to use critical thinking skills like the
ability to recognize informal errors in logic. The second part of this study will help us determine whether or not there are any such
correlations by comparing the participants' levels of basic scientific reasoning skills to their ability recognize informal logical errors
and then compare those skills to student success rates. It may be possible that understanding any such correlations may benefit
curriculum design so as to address the large attrition rate between first and second year science at UBCO.
Scientific Reasoning Study