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Research shows how to improve students' critical thinking about scientific evidence

Professor Carl Wieman co-authored a study about improving critical thinking skills through introductory lab course activities.

A person swinging a rock pendulum.

Introductory lab courses are ubiquitous in science education, but there has been little evidence of how or whether they contribute to learning. They are often seen as primarily "cookbook" exercises in which students simply follow instructions to confirm results given in their textbooks, while learning little.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from Stanford and the University of British Columbia show that guiding students to autonomous, iterative decision-making while carrying out common physics lab course experiments can significantly improve students' critical thinking skills.

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