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Reading scientific literature is a critical science competency that proves difficult to “teach.” Students enter our classes with varying science vocabularies, and many suffer imposter syndrome when reading technical reports because they do not yet identify as capable scientists. The “Science Literacy” assignment guides students to develop and expand strategies to read science articles. Over the semester, students read 5 to 6 articles ranging from peer-reviewed manuscripts to popular science magazines to science blogs about sequencing Ozzy Osbourne's DNA. In Canvas Discussion boards, they a guiding set of questions and then respond to their peers. This assignment is a low-stakes pathway for students to build skills to approach and analyze scientific articles thus putting the intimidation behind them. Pre- and post-assignment survey data from Fall 2020 show that this semester-long science literacy assignment increased the number of students with strategies for reading scientific literature. In addition, the percent of students feeling uncomfortable reading scientific articles began at 16% and dropped to 3% by the end of the term. The skills learned in “How to Implement Effective Discussions,“ a 2-week workshop hosted by the UNLV Office of Online Education allowed me to launch this assignment effectively in Canvas Discussions. I also consulted UNLV Librarians to ensure that the assignment aligned to best practices in building science literacy for undergraduate students.

Publisher Location

Las Vegas (Nev.)

Publication Date



UNLV Office of Faculty Affairs




Science literacy; Peer discussion; Primary research articles; Science literature; online learning ; Discussion boards; Scientific articles; Teaching and learning online; Hybrid classroom ideas; Reading literature


Biology | Education | Higher Education | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

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607 KB


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Toward Building Science Literacy