Learning Science Facts Doesn't Boost Science Reasoning

Here is a "well, duh" moment: A study of college freshmen in the U.S. and China found that Chinese students know more science facts than their American counterparts -- but both groups are nearly identical when it comes to their ability, or lack of it, to do scientific reasoning. The study suggests that educators must go beyond teaching science facts if they hope to boost students' reasoning ability.

Am I being overly cynical here? This seems like it would be obvious to anyone who's sat in a science or engineering class. How many people did you know in school who seemed to know the material backwards and forwards but couldn't solve the problems on the exams?

Anyway, researchers figured this out after testing nearly 6,000 students majoring in science and engineering at seven universities -- four in the U.S. and three in China. Chinese students greatly outperformed American students on factual knowledge of physics -- averaging 90% on one test, versus the American students' 50%, for example.

But in a test of science reasoning, both groups averaged around 75% -- and this for students hoping to major in science or engineering. How much worse it is for non-science majors they don't say.

You can read the full release on this here:


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The Editor’s Desk focuses on the engineering profession and its impact on society, trends in engineering compensation, and the education of engineers.


Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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