A thorough critique of “Enhancing students’ scientific and quantitative literacies through an inquiry-based learning project on climate change” by Aaron M. McCright is the focus of this paper. It encompasses a summary of the study and findings as well as the ethical considerations and overall effectiveness of the article. The framework for critiquing a quantitative article served as a guide in the writing of this research critique, which emphasizes the significance of interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the higher learning context, particularly as it pertains to climate change and the environment. Integrating social science with natural science is one such example highlighted in the article under analysis.
Keywords: critique, quantitative, research, climate change, environment
The topic of concern for this article is related to climate change and how having quantitative and scientific literacy will equip STEM students/graduates to tackle the pressing issues related to the global environmental crisis. This is an important topic for research with the growing climate change issue that affects the human and animal species inhabiting planet Earth. Environmental change requires a joint effort on the part of everyone willing to do his or her part to mitigate the effects that our actions have had on the natural ecosystem and everything connected to it.
The researcher argues that the topic is worthwhile by articulating the salutary results predicted by participating in a sociological inquiry-based learning project in which STEM students obtain hands-on experience that allows them to integrate social and natural science all within the context of becoming more scientifically and quantitatively literate. Such beneficial results include ameliorated “knowledge of scientific and statistical processes and principles”, a “honing of scientific research skills” and “gaining respect for sociology specifically and social science more generally” (McCright, 2012, p. 86). It is hard to determine whether or not the seriousness of this study is supported by previous research on the topic as the article pointed out that there is a strong need for more “education research in social science, the call for more inquiry-based learning in social science, and the increasing importance of social science for understanding our complex environmental problems and their solutions” (McCright, 2012, p. 87).
The aim of this study is to ascertain “the role of social science in the education of students in the STEM disciplines. More specifically, can participation in a semester-long inquiry-based learning project that involves sociological research on climate change enhance the scientific and quantitative literacy of STEM students?” (McCright, 2012, p. 86). While addressing the intricate environmental problems is a major purpose for this study, the promotion of interdisciplinary pedagogy and scholarship on university campuses constitutes a secondary goal of this study in which it can be adapted to other curriculums by other educators desiring to integrate both the social and natural sciences.
Within a quantitative approach, this is a survey study as the students who conducted it, under the supervision and tutelage of their instructor, formulated, administered, analyzed and finalized a survey to their peers on campus in order to assess their beliefs, values and attitudes about climate change. This particular approach does seem suitable given the aim of the study, which is to examine the beliefs, values and attitudes of MSU’s college students toward climate change.
The research study appears to be ethical although it is unclear as to whether or not an ethics committee approved the study. No mention of receiving approval from an ethics committee was listed in Table 2 of the study, which methodically delineates the sequential list of tasks for completion for the inquiry-based learning project. Informed consent was gained but, once again, it is not clear if any mention of confidentiality was made. This study could potentially be classified as ethically rigorous, though there is reasonable doubt proving otherwise, given the aforementioned lack of ethical protocol evident in the article.
In their answer to their aim, the student researchers found that social science plays a crucial role in the education of students within STEM disciplines. Also, they found that “participation in a sociological inquiry-based learning project helped STEM students” to achieve the three forenamed benefits as listed in the Background section of this critique. It was advised in the article that additional studies be conducted to determine the strength of these findings. Therefore, as a result of evaluating the results of these studies, it may be discovered that such inquiry-based learning projects will consistently improve students’ scientific and qualitative acumen while also transforming their attitudes to cultivate an appreciation and respect for interdisciplinary college programs, to acquire an interdisciplinary internship or assistantship, and to gain entrance into an interdisciplinary graduate/professional program (McCright, 2012, p. 98). In conclusion, this research study holds promise in terms of serving as an efficacious model for other educators who wish to incorporate more pragmatic experiences into their social science curricula as pertinent to doing research on a broad scope of environmental subjects. The 21st century workforce has a robust need for the skills and attitudes that STEM graduates can contribute; ergo, inquiry-based and collaborative learning within the college realm is the proper training ground necessary for them to make those important contributions that will ultimately benefit society.
Overall Strengths & Limitations
The aspects of this study that did well were the fact that such an inquiry-based learning project supplied students with the cognitive and kinesthetic dexterity useful to their future professional goals in dealing with complex environmental issues. They were able to develop the quantitative and scientific literacy necessary for their successful work in this critical field. Conversely, the challenges were mainly associated with the fact that the study may have produced more accurate results had it been designed over a longer period of time. Perhaps a longitudinal survey would have yielded a better outcome? More strategic and logistical planning would or could have permitted “a truly randomized experimental design [as opposed to a quasi-experimental one] to more effectively determine the influence of participation in such an inquiry-based learning project” (McCright, 2012, p. 98). The limitations to the study require attention because they indicated that the results should be treated with caution and provide arteries for ongoing research.
Application to Practice
The results relate to practice because as revealed in the discussion section, graduates of STEM programs are expected to be prepared with the knowledge, skills and experiences to compete effectively in the New Millennium global workforce. And such inquiry-based learning is a feasible precursor to the work that these graduates may plan to do after college. Thus, it should become a priority of universities to provide in both quantity and quality more interdisciplinary programs that will enable students to glean practical experience in the fields of sociology and biology, combining the natural with the scientific. Such praxis can be attained through internships, conferences, team projects, and field trips to significant national organizations like NASA and the National Institutes of Health.