Tuesday, September 29, 2015
The Need for Read(ing)
I was pretty pleased by what Buehl said about the different skills necessary for comprehension across disciplines. In high school, most of my reading came from literature or history classes, so a lot of the habits I formed weren't suited for non-fiction. I would look for plot, symbols, themes, and every other literary device we learned about, so when I got to reading my first scientific paper (in college!) I had no idea what to make of it. However, after some practice, I became a bit more acclimated the the very exact, quantitative language and rigid structure used in scientific papers. I think one important aspect students should know about is that they will not understand the whole paper in one read, or even in many readings. Another key skill would be the ability to glean relevant facts and conclusions from irrelevant parts of the paper. Sometimes in my research experience, I would be looking for a couple small pieces of data in some monster of a review. Obviously reading the whole thing wouldn't make sense, so I had to learn to sift through the mass of information to get what I needed. Another pretty obvious skill (but not nearly so common) is the ability to read and interpret charts and graphs, and being able to differentiate between a good figure and a bad figure. A lot of these skills have to be developed over the course of reading (and writing) scientific papers. I think it might be fun to have a sort of "journal club" type thing for the students, where they find and interpret a scientific paper possibly relevant to the current subject and briefly present it to the class. This discussion and student-led inquiry might lead to a deeper understanding and maybe even increased interest for some of the students.