Scaffolding Undergraduate Students in Intuitive Problem Solving Strategies for Designing Experiments in Biotechnology: an Evaluation Study
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One of the goals of science education is that students acquire the knowledge, skills and attitude to perform scientific research. However, current curricula in science education seem to fall short in reaching this goal. A previous explorative study aimed to learn about the characteristics and opportunities of an innovative educational approach to guide first year biology undergraduates in designing experiments in molecular biology (Postma, 2013). These findings resulted in a change in the curriculum of the first year biotechnology course of the bachelor’s study of biology at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, where an assignment was created by the course’s coordinator based on the findings of the previous study. In the current study it was evaluated whether this new assignment has led to students acquiring the metacognitive procedural- and conditional knowledge essential for experiment design. A small group of seven first-year biology students who were enrolled in the course participated in the evaluation. In the evaluation the students were tested on their knowledge on cognition by completing an assignment similar to that of the biotechnology course. Results showed that students acquired the necessary metacognitive procedural knowledge regarding experiment design. However, due to a lack of metacognitive conditional knowledge students were not able to apply their knowledge in new situations, rendering students unable to proficiently design experiments for the field of biotechnology. Therefore, it is recommended that changes are made in the current curricula that focus on teaching metacognitive conditional knowledge to students in order to reach the goals of science education that students acquire the knowledge, skills and attitude to perform scientific research.