The questionnaires

Our findings of students' scientific literacy skills relate to comparison of the total average scores in the pre-questionnaires to those in the post-questionnaires for the three different skills – question posing, identifying the article structure, and experiment design. The students' total scientific literacy average scores were calculated as the sum of these skills. For each skill, we compared students' average scores for the following students' groups: (1) The students who took the course From Cell to Tissue, (2) the students who took the course Tissue Engineering, (3) the students who took the course Tissue Engineering after taking the course From Cell to Tissue.

Total Scientific Literacy

Findings related to the students' total average scores of scientific literacy are presented in Table 5.

Table 5. Students' total scientific literacy average scores sorted by type of course*

Post

Pre

N

Course

SD

M

SD

M

1.70

6.17

1.69

4.74

26

One Course - From Cell to Tissue

1.23

5.99

1.52

4.55

26

One Course - Tissue Engineering

1.06

6.70

1.58

5.33

13

Two Consecutive Courses - Tissue Engineering

* The total scientific average scores was calculated according to four skills, and includes the graphic skill that we will not focus in this article.

When we examined the total average scores of all the three scientific literacy skills, we found that for all three groups the gain is positive, and it was noticeable for the group of students who studied both courses.

Statistical Analysis

The assumption that reading science articles improves students' set of inquiry skills was examined by a repeated measures test. We analyzed the data from the evaluation of two variables: group (first course – From Cell to Tissue, second course – Tissue or Engineering, and two consecutive courses – From cell to Tissue and Tissue Engineering), and time? (pre or post). We used the repeated measures test with one within-subjects independent variable (time) and one between-subjects independent variable (group). The dependent variable was students' total average scores. Paired samples t-test served as our post-hoc tests.

In line with our assumption, there was a significant main effect for time (F(1,62) = 32.32, p<0.001), indicating that students' total average score in the post-questionnaires (M =6.39, SD =0.19) was higher than students' total average scores in the pre-questionnaires (M= 4.88; SD= 0.21). Likewise, there was a significant main effect for group (F(2,62) =2.88, p<0.05). Moreover, students who studied both-courses (M= 6.18, SD= 0.32) had significantly higher total average scores (p<0.05) than students who learned one course, Tissue Engineering (M= 5.27, SD= 0.22). No significant interaction effect was found between time and group (F(2, 62) =0.06, n.s.). Continued paired sampled t-tests were used to find the differences between the total average scores of the pre-, compared to the post-questionnaires in each group. The students' total average scores for each group was significantly higher for the post-questionnaires: For students who sstudied the course From Cell to Tissue, the total average score of the post (M=6.17, SD=1.70) was higher (t(25) =3.30, p<0.05)  than that of the pre- (M= 4.74, SD= 1.69). For students who studied the course Tissue Engineering, the total average score of the post (M=5.99, SD=1.23)  was higher (t(25) =3.70, p<0.01) than that of the pre (M= 4.55, SD= 1.52); and for students who learned in both courses, the total average scores of the post (M=6.70, SD=1.06) was higher (t(12) =3.61, p<0.01) than the pre- (M= 5.33, SD= 1.58).

Question Posing

Findings related to the students' question posing skill are presented in Table 6.

Table 6.  Students' average score in students' question posing skill

Post

Pre

N

Course

SD

M

SD

M

1.72

5.95

1.86

5.66

27

One Course - From Cell to Tissue

2.20

5.09

2.04

4.40

25

One Course - Tissue Engineering

2.48

5.97

2.19

4.90

14

Two Consecutive Courses - Tissue Engineering

The gain for all three groups is positive; students achieved higher average scores in the question posing skill in the post-questionnaire.  

Statistical analysis

The assumption that reading science articles improve students' posing question skill was examined by two repeated measures tests. We analyzed the data from the evaluation of the two variables: group (one course – From Cell to Tissue, one course – Tissue or Engineering or two courses – From cell to Tissue and Tissue Engineering), and time (pre or post). One repeated measures test was done with one within-subjects independent variable (time) and another was done with another between-subjects independent variable (group). The dependent variable was students' average scores. Paired samples t-test served as our post-hoc tests.

In line with our assumption, there was a borderline significant main effect for time (F(1,63) =3.79, p =0.056), indicating that students' total average scores in the post-questionnaires (M =5.67, SD =0.27) was higher than students' average scores in the pre-questionnaires (M =5.00, SD =0.26). Likewise, there was a significant main effect for group (F(2,63) =3.24, p<0.05). Students who learned in one course, From Cell to Tissue had significantly higher (p<0.05) total average score (M =5.81, SD =0.29) than students who learned in the other course, Tissue Engineering (M =4.74, SD = 0.30). No significant interaction effect was found between time and group (F(2, 63) =0.06, p= n.s.). No significant differences were found in the continued paired sampled t-tests between the average scores of the pre compared to the post for each research group.

Identifying the Article Structure Skill

Average scores for identifying the article structure are presented in Table 7.

Table 7. Students' average scores in identifying the article structure skill

Post

Pre

N

Course

SD

M

SD

M

2.67

6.10

2.63

5.33

39

One Course - From Cell to Tissue

3.23

6.27

2.58

3.67

30

One Course - Tissue Engineering

2.91

7.29

2.78

6.12

17

Two Consecutive Courses - Tissue Engineering

The gain for all three groups is positive, and it is noticeable for the group of students who studied Tissue Engineering.  Students who took the two courses achieved, in the post-questionnaire, the highest average score in the skill of identifying article structure.

Statistical analysis

The assumption that reading science articles improves students' skills in identifying the canonical article structure was examined by a repeated measures test. We analyzed the data from the evaluation of the two variables: group (one course – From Cell to Tissue, one course – Tissue or Engineering, and two-courses – From cell to Tissue and Tissue Engineering), and time (pre or post). We used repeated measures test with one within-subjects independent variable (time) and one between-subjects independent variable (group). The dependent variable was the students' average scores. Paired samples t-test served as our post-hoc tests. According to our assumption, there was a significant main effect for time (F(1,83) =12.86, p<0.001), indicating that students' average scores in the post-questionnaires (M =6.55, SD =0.33) was higher than students' average scores in the pre-questionnaires (M =5.04; SD =0.302). Likewise, there was a significant main effect for group (F(2,83) =3.81, p<0.05). Students who learned in both courses (M =6.07, SD =0.51) had significantly higher average scores (p<0.01) than students who only studied in the course Tissue Engineering (M =4.97, SD =0.38). No significant interaction effect was found between time and group (F(2, 83) =2.16, n.s.). Continued paired sampled t-tests were used to find the differences between the total average scores of the pre- compared to the post in each group. We found that the students' average score for students who studied the course Tissue Engineering was significantly higher (t(30) =3.67, p<0.01) in the post questionnaire (M =7.29, SD =2.91) than in the pre questionnaire (M =6.12, SD =2.78). 

Experiment Design

Table 8 presents the total average scores for the experiment design skill in the pre- and post-questionnaire, in the three compared groups.

Table 8. Students' average scores in the experiment design skill

Post

Pre

N

Course

SD

M

SD

M

2.10

6.18

2.94

4.87

19

One Course - From Cell to Tissue

3.20

5.68

2.84

5.45

22

One Course - Tissue Engineering

2.18

7.05

2.58

6.14

11

Two Consecutive Courses - Tissue Engineering

The gain for all three groups is positive (examined by repeated measures test), and it is noticeable for the group of students who took the course From Cell to Tissue.  Students who took the two courses achieved in the post-questionnaire the highest average score in the skill of identifying the article structure skill.               

Statistical analysis

The assumption that reading scientific articles improves students' skills regarding  experiment design was examined by a repeated measures test. We analyzed the data from the evaluation of two variables: (1) group (one course - From Cell to Tissue, one course - Tissue Engineering, or two consecutive courses - From cell to Tissue and Tissue Engineering), and (2) time (pre or post). Using repeated measures test with one within-subjects independent variable (time) and one between-subjects independent variable (group). The dependent variable was the students' average score. In line with our assumption, there was no significant main effect for time (F(1,49) =2.03, n.s.). There was no significant main effect for group (F(2,49) =1.32, n.s.), and no significant interaction effect was found between time and group (F(2, 49) =0.39, n.s.).

Forum discourse

We will introduce representative examples from the qualitative analysis of the mentor students' questions, followed by the answers, from the asynchronous forums discourses in the course From Cell to Tissue. Discourse content was analyzed according to the following categories: Interdisciplinary level, content level (Colleagues and Author, 2012), organization level (Knipples, 2002), and thinking level (Yang, Richardson, French, Lehman, 2011). All the categories were coded on a scale of 0-3. Each question or answer will be followed by a rubric, which will demonstrate the analysis of the example. We present the students’ questions and answers along with a detailed analysis of the thinking and organization levels [in brackets], to clarify the categories and their levels.

The first examples are from the beginning of the course, namely the establishment of the discourse in the asynchronous forums. The next examples are taken from forum No.1 of group No.1:

Question 1, Forum No.1 , Group No.1

"Explain a possible mechanism [Mechanism level] which connects between a lack of dystrophyn in the cell and high levels of calcium in times of rest [Cell and Molecular levels][Seeking information and Describing], therefore an ununited activation of the muscle fibers. Why calcium which gets in from inner cell reserves does not cause such an effect?" [Seeking information and Describing].

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

(0-3)

Dimension

6

1+1

2

1

1

Grading

 

Seeking information and Describing

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer to the question is provided in the text

Two disciplines, Chemistry and Biology.

Justification

Answer 1, Forum No.1 , Group No.1

"The main function of dystrophyn, according to the article, is in stabilizing the sarcolemma. In the article a hypothesis is being raised that there is a relationship between high levels of dystrophyn [Molecular level] in the cell, and the lack of dystrophyn, and that when there is a lack of dystrophyn, tears are being created in the sarcolemma, through them outer calcium is getting in. In contrary the cell controls the inter-calcium secretion [Cell level]. The increase in the amount of calcium in the cell is a kind of signal to the cell to contract. Therefore, a growth in the level of outer calcium causes an unregulated activation of the muscle cell [Mechanism level], [Seeking information and Describing]. 

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

 (0-3)

Dimension

 

4

1

2

1

0

Grading

 

Seeking information and describing

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer is provided in the text

Only biology.

Justification

 

As can be seen, both the question as well as the accompanying answer is at a low level of scientific literacy, in terms of the thinking, content and organization level. We will now introduce another answer, given by another student participant, which also accompanied the first peer-tutors' question:

Answer 2, Forum No.1 , Group No.1

"A lack of dystrophyn causes tears in the cell membrane, therefore calcium outside the cell can enter [cell level], the calcium inside the cell is no longer regulated which causes an ununited activation of the muscle cell [Molecular and mechanism levels].   Calcium from inner cell does not cause such an effect since this calcium is being regulated [Seeking information and Describing]."

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

 

(0-3)

Dimension

4

1

2

1

0

Grading

 

Seeking information and describing

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer is provided in the text

Only  Biology

Justification

Following introducing an original question being raised, and two examples of accompanied answers; we will now introduce a concatenation question, which evolved in the thread from the original question the peer-tutor students' raised. The next derived question was also raised by the peer-tutor students in the first week of the course, Forum No. 1 in Group No.1, in order to promote the discourse in the asynchronous forum in the course website:

A derived question 1a, Forum No.1 , Group No.1

"How exactly does dystrophyn prevent damage in the muscle cell fibers? [Analysis] How a lack of dystrophn leads to tears in the sarcolemma [Molecular and mechanism levels], when we know that the membrane can keep its structure due to its fluid structure [Cell level]. Raise hypotheses and use sources in the article [Analysis]."

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

(0-3)

Dimension

12

3+3

2

3

1

Grading

 

 

Analysis

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer to the question is not provided explicitly in the text, and is in the form of a research question

Biology and Chemistry

Justification

In consequence, here are the two accompanied answers of the presented derived question:

Answer 3, Forum No.1 , Group No.1

"In relation to the question of how the Dystrophyn protein prevents tears in the muscle cell fibers, I used a reference which appeared in the article. McNeil PL, Steinhardt RA. Plasma membrane disruption repair, prevention, and adaptation. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol, 19, 697–731, 2003. According to this paper [Seeking information and Describing] the fusion mechanism of the membrane is complex and it is not caused only by the hydrophobic effect, but also from the process of exocytose, when vesicles, contained the sufficient materials fused on the damaged region in the membrane and fix the damage [Molecular and mechanism level]. This mechanism, as other processes in the cell [Cell level], is mediated by many enzymes and factors.  Therefore my hypothesis is that the dystrophyn protein has a critical role in the chain of reactions of the membrane fusion, and due to its lack the fusion of the vesicles does not carried out properly, therefore calcium from outside can enter inside the cell.[Analysis and drawing conclusions].   

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

 

 (0-3)

Dimension

9

1+3

2

2

1

Grading

 

Analysis and drawing conclusions

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer is based on information in the original text, also on added source.

Biology and Chemistry

Justification

As can be seen clearly, the derived question, as well as the accompanying answer, are at a higher level of scientific literacy than the beginning questions and answers, expressed mostly in the content and the thinking level dimensions. We will now present another answer to the derived question, which also reflects the same trend, an increase in the level of scientific literacy:

Answer 4, Forum No.1 , Group No.1

"According to our paper, the assumptions concerning the Dystrophyn function are based upon its location in the cell. According to the paper, the Dystrophyn is connected from one side to the sarlecomma, and from the other side to an actin fiber in the costomer. In the paper of Rybakova IN, Patel JR, Ervasti JM, The dystrophin complex forms a mechanically strong link between the sarcolemma and costameric actin, they stress that dystrophyn has an important function in the connection between inner and out of the cell, and a role in the disarming of stress in the muscle [Cell level], [Seeking information and Describing]. Therefore, I tend to agree with my friend who answers before, that in the lack of Dystrophyn, the muscle does not comprehend with the pressures, and tears are formed in the cell membrane [Mechanism level]. Due to the tears, calcium is entering the cell in an unregulated way, which accelerates the erosion of the cell [Molecular and mechanism levels], [Analysis and drawing conclusions]"  

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

(0-3)

Dimension

9

1+3

2

2

1

Grading

 

Analysis and drawing conclusions

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer is based on information in the original text, also on added source.

Biology and Chemistry

Justification

After presenting examples of raised questions and accompanied answers from the first forum discussions, we would like now to introduce more representative examples of original questions accompanied with two answers, as well as derived questions accompanied by two answers, this time from the last forum in the course:

Question 2, Forum No.12 , Group No.2

"The paper presents the concept 'remodeling', which relates to two types of cells. Describe this process. Relate in your answers to the importance of equilibrium in the remodeling process [Molecular and mechanism levels]. Refer to the third type of cells which are also involved in this process [Cell and mechanism levels], [Seeking information and Describing]

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

 

 (0-3)

Dimension

4

1

2

1

0

Grading

 

Seeking information and describing

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer is in the text.

Only Biology

Justification

As can be seen, also as in the case of the beginning question in Forum No.1, the first question in the thread is low in terms of scientific literacy, mostly in the terms of the content and thinking level. This tendency is also reflected in the accompanied answers to this question: 

Answer 5, Forum No.12 , Group No.2

"The process of remodeling involves two types of cells [Cell level]: Osteoblasts, which shape the bone, and Osteoclasts, which decompose the bone. The decomposition occurs when the osteoclasts connect to the bone and release enzymes which decompose the bone by creating holes from which calcium is getting out.  The restructure of the bone is created by the secretion of matrix by the Osteoblasts, which together with calcium Collagen and other minerals create Hydroxyapatite [Molecular level]. When there is equilibrium between the formation of the bone and the decomposition of the bone, the bone mass will be strong and stable [Mechanism level] [Seeking information and Describing]. "

Total

Thinking levels

 (0-3)

Organization levels

 (0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdiscip-linary

 

 (0-3)

Dimension

5

1

2

1

1

Grading

 

Seeking information and describing. 

Molecular, cell and mechanism levels.

The answer is in the text.

Biology

Justification

As can be seen, as in forum No.1, a low level question in terms of scientific literacy is accompanied by a low level answer, on the same rubrics. This trend is continued in another answer to the same question:

Answer 6, Forum No.12 , Group No.2

"Since people have already answered concerning Osteoblasts and Osteoclasts, I would like to expand concerning the Octeocytes. These are the mature bone cells, which secrete different materials and form the matrix [Mechanism level] the matrix contains organic materials as well as inorganic salts as well as water [Molecular level]. The cells are separated unevenly inside this matrix [Cell level], [Seeking information and Describing]. "

Total

Thinking levels

 (0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

 

(0-3)

Dimension

4

1

1

1

1

Grading

 

Seeking information and Describing

Molecular and cell levels.

The answer is in the text.

Chemistry and Biology

Justification

 

Following presenting a question being raised in the beginning by the peer-tutor students, and its accompanied answers, we would like now to present the derived question in the thread:

Question 2a, Forum No.12 , Group No.2

"The paper presents synthetic estrogen estern. How or in what way the researchers have tested estern that is different in its function than the estrogen hormone? [Molecular level][Seeking information and Describing]. What do you think about this study's ability to convince that synthetic estrogen is not as dangerous as estrogen?[Organism level], [Analysis and drawing conclusions] "

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdisciplinary

 

(0-3)

Dimension

9

1+3

1

2

2

Grading

 

Analysis and drawing conclusions

Molecular and organism levels.

The answer does not appear explicitly   in the text.

Chemistry, Biology and Medicine.

Justification

As can be noticed this question is at a much higher level of scientific literacy than the beginning questions in both forums No.1 and No.12. Also, this question is at a higher level of scientific literacy than the beginning question in this forum. We will now see the level of scientific literacy in the accompanied answers to this derived question:

Answer 7, Forum No.12 , Group No.2

"The researchers have shown that estern is different from estrogen [Molecular level] by showing in mousses [Organism level] that were treated with estren there was no growth in the weight of the uterus or the spread blister. In that way, the researchers have shown that estern has no effect on tissues of the productive system [Tissue level][Seeking information ans Describing]. Still, in my opinion, this study does not convince that estren is not dangerous as estrogen due to several reasons:

*The effect on humans can differ from the effect in mice.

*The time period in which the effects of the estern were tested was not mentioned. It could be that the side effects evolve after a while. In addition, a paper published in 2006 has shown that the productive organs in mice [Organism level] have growth, contradictory to the findings in this paper [Analysis and drawing conclusions]".  

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdiscip-linary

 

(0-3)

Dimension

9

1+3

2

2

1

Grading

 

Analysis and drawing conclusions

Molecular organism and tissue levels.

The answer does not appear explicitly   in the text, and is based on additional sources or previous knowledge

Biology and Science in general.

Justification

This trend is continued in another answer to the same derived question:

Answer 8, Forum No.12 , Group No.2

"In order to show that synthetic estrogen is different in its hormonal effects than estrogen, the researchers used female mice [Organism level] and were looking for hormonal effects [Molecular level] such as differences in the weight of the uterus [Organ level][Seeking information and Describing]. Therefore, in my opinion this study does give an answer to the question, does estrogen affect the productive system, but it does not answer the question whether estren causes the damages such as using estrogen, or does it affect selectively [Analysis and drawing conclusions]  . Attached is a link to another paper which shows that estern works as a weak estrogen [Seeking information]: http://endo.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/147/5/2203 .

The name of the paper: 'Estren Behaves as a Weak Estrogen Rather than a Nongenomic Selective Activator in the Mouse Uterus' "

Total

Thinking levels

(0-3)

Organization levels

(0-3)

Content

 

(0-3)

Interdis-ciplinary

 

(0-3)

Dimension

10

1+3+1

1

2

2

Grading

 

Analysis and drawing conclusions/

Molecular, organism and organ levels.

The answer does not appear explicitly   in the text, and is based on additional sources or previous knowledge

Biology and Science in general.

Justification