Date of Award

Summer 8-13-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)




Sarah Nelson

Second Committee Member

Katharine Ruskin

Third Committee Member

Janet Fairman


Educators are expected to instill a variety of skills in their students that are necessary to be competent citizens of society. One such set of skills, science literacy skills, broadly encompass the ability of an individual to evaluate reliability of data and information and critically analyze and interpret them (Gormally Brickman, Hallar, & Armstrong, 2009). These skills are utilized in everyday decision-making and given their pertinence, there is a need for citizens to be scientifically literate. Thus, educators need tools and assessments to help students develop these skills and analyze their science literacy. The aim of this study was to develop science literacy interventions that could be easily incorporated into college curricula, providing instructors with exemplars of classroom interventions with the intent to improve students’ science literacy skills. Therefore, the broad research question for this investigation was: How do science literacy interventions impact student proficiency in science literacy skills in college general education courses? I measured effectiveness of the interventions using the Test of Science Literacy Skills (TOSLS, Gormally Brickman, & Lutz, 2012) pre- and post-survey scores, as well as student feedback from pre- and post-survey, follow-up interviews. The TOSLS surveys were given as part of a participation grade to students in a general education undergraduate college course (n = 148). A subset of students volunteered to be interviewed regarding specific questions from the TOSLS survey, after both the pre-survey (n = 12) and the post-survey (n = 5), to further investigate student understanding and interpretation. Interventions were designed by modifying previous assignments from earlier years’ offerings of the class and were conducted both during class and outside of class as homework extensions. These interventions were created by evaluating scores and interviews on the TOSLS survey deployed as a pilot study in a previous semester of the undergraduate course. Based on these pilot data, four survey questions encompassing different science literacy skills of particular difficulty were targeted for intervention. The interventions were: (1) An interactive clicker-based lesson involving graph selection methods; (2) Data summits involving graph interpretation and source evaluation; and (3) A role-play after which students discussed sources of bias.

Although the results indicated no statistically significant changes in the average scores between the pre-survey and post-survey (t test, p = 0.82, α = 0.05), interviewed students recalled participating in the interventions and found them useful. Pre-survey scores ranged from 18%-96% correct with a mean score of 59%. Post-surveys had a slightly smaller range of 21%-96% with a mean of 60% correct. Based on these results, more work is necessary to provide instructors with course interventions that incorporate science literacy activities that target specific components of science literacy skills. Assessments, like TOSLS, are tools that can measure science literacy skills broadly across various science courses and provide a good overview of student science literacy. By broadening the use of a single tool, measurements can be compared between classrooms to produce interventions that do not have to heavily impact curriculum pacing, yet will provide students with the tools and skills necessary to be more scientifically literate citizens.