To Tell Them or Show Them? How to Improve Science Students’ Skills of Critical Reading.

Emma Gyuris, Laura Castell


Short sessions are commonly offered to improve specific learning skills of tertiary students, but their effectiveness is seldom assessed. We tested the effectiveness of a short session (1-2 hours duration) demonstrating how to critically read a journal article to improve the critical reading and writing skills of postgraduate science students. The effectiveness of this intervention was then measured by students’ performance of critiquing scientific journal articles. Students critiqued one article before and one following the training session in a crossed, before-after-treatment design, with half the students writing a critique of Article A first and the other half writing a critique of Article B first. Following the teaching intervention students switched articles for the second critique. Two markers carried out scoring of critiques, each blind to the identity of students and whether the work was completed before or after the intervention. Thirteen (Marker 1) and 12 (Marker 2) of the 18 students scored higher for the second critique. Students with the lowest initial grades showed the greatest improvement. Our results show that a one-off, short skills intervention, can improve critical reading skills when compared to the more common practice of providing written instructions or guidance.

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