The impact of an interdisciplinary learning community course on psuedoscientific reasoning in first-year science students

Timothy Franz, Kris Green


This case study examined the development and evaluation of an interdisciplinary first-year learning community designed to stimulate scientific reasoning. Designed to serve the needs of scholarship students majoring in mathematics and natural sciences, the six-credit learning community course was writing-intensive and emphasized general scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills. Success of the course was measured using a pretest-posttest design that assessed students’ paranormal beliefs. Outcomes of the study indicated students’ paranormal beliefs were significantly lower at the end of the semester than at the beginning, which was used as a surrogate measure of critical thinking that was also relevant to the course content. Supplementary analyses demonstrated that their (a) paranormal beliefs were significantly lower than other students and (b) students self-identified the importance of the scientific reasoning skills learned in the course without being prompted on their teacher-course evaluations. The results of this study can inform the design of interdisciplinary, scientific reasoning courses.


Critical thinking; learning community; scientific reasoning; first-year students

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