Spring 2015: Active engagement techniques

In the spring 2015 term of Science Literacy Teaching Journal Club, we explored a variety of active engagement techniques together.

Week 1 – April 2 and 3

For spring term, we took two weeks to explore each topic. Journal Club participants helped with planning and facilitation of the sessions. For week one, we read:

Greathouse, S.E. &  Rosen. L.H. (2015, March 20). The Best Post Wiki: A Tool for Promoting Collaborative Learning and Higher-Order Thinking [Faculty Focus Blog]. Retrieved from

Bart, M. (2009, June 17). Using Twitter to Facilitate Classroom Discussions. [Faculty Focus Blog]. Retrieved from

Graba, B. (2014, April). Using Twitter in the Science Classroom.  PowerPoint presentation at the meeting of the National Science Teachers Association National Conference in Boston, MA.

Anyone on Twitter was encouraged to browse #organellewars or @mr_graba.

Week 2 – April 9 and 10

For this week’s journal club we continued to explore using interactive and social media in college science classrooms. This week we simulated an out-of-class assignment. Participants’ job was to:

  1. Take a walk around campus (in our out of buildings) and find something with science in it,
  2. Take a picture of the object, action, place, etc.,
  3. Post that picture to the google doc accessible here,
  4. Write about the image, how it relates to science, and why you chose it, and
  5. Find and share resources for using interactive and social media resources in the classroom.
  6. (optional) If you are on Twitter or Facebook, post and tag @UOSciLit and #SLTJC or to the Science Literacy Program Facebook page.


Week 3 – April 16 and 17

For this week’s journal club we discussed using drawing to learn. We asked participants to bring a problem that involves generating a drawing, graph, or illustration of some sort. For Week 3, we read:

Quillin, K., & Thomas, S. (2015). Drawing-to-Learn: A Framework for Using Drawings to Promote Model-Based Reasoning in Biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 14(1), es2.

Week 4 – April 23 and 24

Thursday we were joined by Thomas Seager of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University who talked with us about using social media in his courses. To prepare we looked at his syllabus for a course on Engineering Business Practices and prepared questions about using social media to engage students.

Friday we explored a method for helping students engage with their readings. Before journal club, participants were asked to create a concept map about all the factors that contribute to or affect obesity and their connections. (Read about concept maps.)

Hoskins, S.G. (2010). “But if It’s in the Newspaper, Doesn’t That Mean It’s True?” Developing Critical Reading & Analysis Skills by Evaluating Newspaper Science with CREATE. The American Biology Teacher, 72(7), 415-420. Available from:

Rundle, R.L. (2005, October 6). Study links produce prices to obesity. The Wall Street Journal.

Week 5 – April 30 and May 1

We read the following to get us thinking about Mary Pat Wenderoth’s research prior to her visit on May 5. Homework for the week was to observe a class participants were taking, teaching or visiting and notice how frequently women and men participate in class discussion.

Eddy, S. L., Brownell, S. E., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Gender Gaps in Achievement and Participation in Multiple Introductory Biology Classrooms. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(3), 478-492.

Week 6 – May 7 and 8

For this week we read and watched the following about Reacting to the Past:
Toppo, G. 2014. Role-playing history game gets students jazzed. USA Today 28 March 2015

And looked through the Reacting to the Past STEM Games website:

Week 7 – May 14 and 15

This week the Science Literacy Program hosted a Communicating Science workshop run by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

For Thursday, we watched the Physics Slam Videos:

and read a piece about the Alda Center:
Chang, K. 2015 3 March. Attention, All Scientists: Do Improv, with Alan Alda’s Help. New York Times.

Week 8 – May 21 and 22

This week in journal club we will try a role-playing exercise about genetically modified organisms (GMO).

For the GMO debate, you each participant has a role and takes a side on the issue. Roles are assigned by the first letter of your last name—see below. Read the appropriate short articles for your role and come prepared to discuss your side of the issue.

Molecular Biologists (Last name A-B)
Fedoroff, N.V. 2011 August 18. Engineering Food for All. New York Times.

Casassus, B. 2013 November 29. Study Linking Genetically Modified Corn to Rat Tumors is Retracted. Scientific American.

Corporate Officials (Last name C-D)
Fraley, R.T. 2013 December 30. The Future of Agriculture Requires Dialogue. Huffington Post.

Fraley, R.T. 2014 May 6. To Deal With Climate Change, We Need Agricultural Innovation – Now. Huffington Post.

Economists  (Last name E-J)
Fields of Beaten Gold. 2013 December 7. The Economist

Monsanto: the parable of the sower. 2009 November 19. The Economist

Farmers  (Last name K-P)
Royte, E. 2013 December 6. The Post-GMO Economy. The Modern Farmer.

This Farmer’s Perspective on GMOs. 2011 November 19. Son of a Farmer Blog.

Ecologists & Conservationists  (Last name Q-S)

Achitoff, P. 2014 March 5. GMOs in Kauai: Not Just Another Day in Paradise. Huffington Post.

Benbrook, C.M. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24:24. (Just read the synopsis that comes up, not the full pdf.)

Genetic Engineering Risks and Impacts. Union of Concerned Scientists.

Public Interest Groups & Activists (Last name T-Z)

Tran, M. 2013 February 25. Vandana Shiva: ‘Seeds must be in the hands of farmers’. The Guardian.

Ho, M.W. 2014 February 4. GMO labeling: the tide is turning. Ecologist.

Week 9 – May 28 and 29

For the last two weeks of the term we focused on using games to teach science:
Samide, M. J., & Wilson, A. M. (2014). Games, Games, Games; Playing to Engage with Chemistry Concepts.

Gutierrez, A. F. (2014). Development and Effectiveness of an Educational Card Game as Supplementary Material in Understanding Selected Topics in Biology.CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(1), 76-82.

Week 10 – June 4 and 5

This week, in the final Journal Club meetings of the year, we played some science-related word games: Taboo and Balderdash.