Science Literacy at WSU: 2016 Science Literacy Concept Inventory (SLCI) Results

As reported in the 2016 Science Literacy Concept Inventory Summary of Key Evidence for UCORE (PDF), assessment results indicated that, overall, WSU seniors scored higher than first year students on all twelve science literacy concepts (average +12%) related to citizen level understanding. Composite results from 2013-2016 also indicated that overall SLCI scores at WSU were similar to those of the National Study and increased with both class rank and the number of science courses taken.

Over the past three years, roughly 3,200 WSU students in 45 courses on the Pullman, Vancouver, and Tri-Cities campuses have participated in the SLCI as part of WSU’s assessment of science literacy. Overall, seniors have scored higher than first year students on all twelve science literacy concepts, a difference true of both science majors and non-majors. Additionally, scores on the twelve science literacy concepts increase with the number of science courses completed.

WSU piloted the use of the SLCI in the Academic Year 2013-14 to assess whether the curriculum as a whole is developing scientifically literate students. The SLCI is designed to gauge students’ grasp of science as a way of knowing and of the scientific processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic affairs, economic productivity and global stewardship. SLCI measures students understanding and misconceptions of twelve science literacy concepts (PDF). The SLCI was developed and validated by a multi-disciplinary team from four California State University campuses and five science disciplines (Nuhfer et al. 2016), and has been used at universities across the nation. It takes a multi-disciplinary approach rather than focusing on content from one discipline.

SLCI results also indicate the most common science misconceptions among WSU students. Top misconceptions were related to being unable to distinguish between science and technology and being unable to recognize basic tenets or assumptions of science. Understanding what misconceptions students hold helps WSU instructors know how to target instructional improvements.

For additional information, see Science Literacy Concept Inventory or contact the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning.