First Advisor

Erin E. Shortlidge

Term of Graduation

Spring 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology






Deliberative democracy -- Longitudinal studies, Science -- Study and teaching (Higher), Biology -- Study and teaching (Higher), College students -- Attitudes, Undergraduates -- Attitudes



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 117 pages)


There have been multiple national calls for curricular reform in college-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including a need to instill democratic skills in students. Democratic skill building can be embedded in STEM classrooms through intentional "deliberative pedagogies" which include skills in: communication, collaboration, and application. We developed and implemented a deliberative pedagogy, Deliberative Democracy (DD), across introductory majors and non-majors biology courses and a majors chemistry course. In two separate studies, I took a longitudinal, qualitative research approach to understand introductory biology and chemistry students' experiences and perceptions of DD. For the first study, I tracked a cohort of majors and non-majors introductory biology students over two academic years (2016-17 and 2017-18). Via online surveys, I asked students to respond to open-ended prompts about their experiences and perceptions of DD modules used in their courses. A follow-up online survey was sent to the same cohort of biology students one year after their course. I also recruited a subset of students for semi-structured interviews with the intent to gather additional qualitative data. I found that students' perceptions of DD were lasting and generally positive. Positive perception themes included: awareness of "real-world applications of science" and increased "scientific literacy". The negative perceptions of DD predominantly had to do with "group dynamics" and "class time use". I detected a few significant differences between student perceptions in the majors and non-majors courses, including "scientific literacy" and how "class time" was used. For the second study, I tracked an additional cohort of introductory biology and chemistry students over one academic year (2017-18). Via online surveys, I asked students to respond to open-ended prompts about their experiences and perceptions of DD modules used in their courses. These prompts asked students to reflect on their beliefs regarding why their instructor chose to use DD in their course, their views on applying science to the real-world, and their confidence in applying science to the real world, and in communicating with their peers. The top two reasons students believed their instructor was using DD was 1) to introduce real-world applications of science--especially if it was tied to course content and 2) to build community in the classroom with peer interaction and discussions. Overall, students reported that DD had positively impacted their views of real-world applications and had increased their scientific literacy, among other important skills (e.g., critical thinking). DD was described by many students as an opportunity to build their own discourse skills, an experience that may otherwise not arise during an introductory STEM lecture course. Additionally, I wanted to examine what led to a successful DD module being implemented, as determined by student perceptions. What made a DD module successful was that the course content and DD topic presented must be closely aligned. Lastly, providing the students a chance to have an open forum to talk about the DD topics in small groups and collectively as a class, was a memorable aspect of the student experience. I believe that other instructors can implement DD modules in their own introductory STEM courses with a relatively low barrier to adoption and see positive impacts of the pedagogy.


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