Document Type

Presentation - Oral - to academic peers, less than or equal to 1 hour

Title

The facts of the matter: Students' knowledge of Neuroscience

Department

Education & Psychology

Date of Activity

3-14-2013

Abstract

The brain is the body’s most complex organ and though it is the subject of both intensive and extensive scientific inquiry, many myths are strongly held (You only use 10% of your brain) even in the face of contradicting evidence. The purpose of this study was to measure college students’ knowledge of 10 basic facts of brain and behavior based on the Neuroscience Core Concepts Essential Principles. These comprise of eight fundamental principles about the brain and nervous system that the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has indicated that all American students should learn in their K-12 science curriculum. Two research questions directed this study: 1. Does direct instruction on the Core Concepts improve students’ ability to correctly identify facts about the brain and nervous system? 2. Does pointing students’ attention to the Core Concepts improve their ability to correctly identify facts about the brain and nervous system? Ninety-one undergraduate students enrolled in three sections of General Psychology participated in the study. The three sections were categorized as control, presented, and enhanced groups. All the students in the three sections received instruction on the chapter in the textbook that deals with the neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and behavior. The students in the presented section were introduced to the Core Concepts during class lecture. The enhanced group had the same class lecture on the Core Concepts and, in addition, spent time doing labs that were hands-on applications of specific Core Concepts. The control group was presented with neither the Core Concepts nor the application labs. At the end of the brain and behavior unit, students were tested on their ability to differentiate between myths and facts about the brain using the BFMS (Brain Myth and Facts Survey). This is a 30-item questionnaire (20 myths and 10 facts). The results show that students in the Enhanced Group performed the best (M = 17.17, SD = 3.37) followed by the Presented group (M = 16.74, SD = 3.16), and the Control group (M =16.65, SD = 4.40). These very small differences, even though in the direction of the hypothesis, were not statistically significant (.05). Direct instruction (Enhanced) did result in some improvement and pointing students’ attention (Presented) to the Core Concepts also helped. However, the differences between the groups were so minuscule that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the direct instruction and point attention strategies made a significant difference. This study raised questions that should be answered in subsequent studies that address issues of design, equivalence, larger sample sizes, and longer instruction times.

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