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College students lack scientific literacy, study finds
Date:1/7/2011

s carbon dioxide and water.

Most students also incorrectly believe plants obtain their mass from the soil rather than primarily from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "When you see a tree growing," Anderson said, "it's a lot easier to believe that tree is somehow coming out of the soil rather than the scientific reality that it's coming out of the air."

The researchers say biology textbooks and high-school and college science instructors need to do a better job of teaching the fundamentals particularly how matter transforms from gaseous to solid states and vice-versa.

It won't be easy, Anderson said, because students' beliefs of the carbon cycle are deeply engrained (such as the misconception that plants get most of their nutrients from the soil). Instructors should help students understand that the use of such "everyday, informal reasoning" runs counter to true scientific literacy, he said.

The implications are great for a generation of citizens who will grapple with complicated environmental issues such as clean energy and carbon sequestration more than any generation in history, Anderson said.

"One of the things I'm interested in," he said, "is students' understanding of environmental problems. And probably the most important environmental problem is global climate change. And that's attributable to a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And understanding where that carbon dioxide is coming from and what you can do about it fundamentally involves understanding the scientific carbon cycle."


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Contact: Charles "Andy" Anderson
andya@msu.edu
517-432-4648
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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