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Engaging Non-Science Majors in Authentic Research through Citizen Science: 1821319

Principal Investigator: Laura Trouille
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): David Meyer, Edward Prather, Alison Haupt, Molly Simon
Organization: Adler Planetarium

The nation’s welfare depends on the ability of people to understand scientific information and make sense of data. Introductory science courses are often the last formal science course taken by undergraduate students who are not majoring in science. In many of these introductory science courses, students gain little insight into what scientists do and how science works. It is therefore important for introductory courses to provide opportunities for students to better understand how science works, and to gain skills using and analyzing data. In this project, curricula will be developed and tested for introductory astronomy, biology, and geoscience courses to involve students in citizen science research projects. Students will actively participate in the online citizen science platform, Zooniverse, and conduct group research projects of their own design. The Zooniverse platform allows scientists to work with amateur volunteers on authentic research. It contains over 80 active citizen science projects on a variety of topics and provides quality curated data with user-friendly data analysis tools. This project aims to create opportunities for students to carry out work to support scientific discovery and reach evidence-based conclusions. Through these experiences, it is expected that students will improve their scientific knowledge and scientific thinking skills.

This project aims to develop, implement, and assess citizen science research experiences in introductory science courses for non-science majors. Curricular materials will be developed for introductory astronomy, biology, and geoscience courses at five different types of institutions. The proposed materials will engage students with in-class activities and group research projects. These activities will use the Zooniverse online platform to engage students in classifying data, assessing data reliability, and using scientific approaches to explore the data in a real-world context. Materials developed in this project will be informed by evidence-based practices associated with course based undergraduate research experiences. The effort will build on the project teams’ prior work to integrate Zooniverse-based research experiences in introductory astronomy courses. The team will assess ease of use and implementation of the research experiences across the disciplinary content, institutional contexts, and course structures. The impact on students’ learning and attitudinal gains will be assessed using pre/post surveys, coded assignments, interviews with students, and embedded assessments within the Zooniverse platform. The outcomes that will be assessed include changes in science self-efficacy, science identity, ability to make claims and reason with evidence, and potential for lifelong science engagement. Project results will be widely disseminated, and all materials will be publicly available via classroom.zooniverse.org.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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