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J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2016 Mar 1;17(1):156-62. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1011. eCollection 2016 Mar.

Citizen Science: The Small World Initiative Improved Lecture Grades and California Critical Thinking Skills Test Scores of Nonscience Major Students at Florida Atlantic University.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431.


Course-based undergraduate research is known to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics student achievement. We tested "The Small World Initiative, a Citizen-Science Project to Crowdsource Novel Antibiotic Discovery" to see if it also improved student performance and the critical thinking of non-science majors in Introductory Biology at Florida Atlantic University (a large, public, minority-dominant institution) in academic year 2014-15. California Critical Thinking Skills Test pre- and posttests were offered to both Small World Initiative (SWI) and control lab students for formative amounts of extra credit. SWI lab students earned significantly higher lecture grades than control lab students, had significantly fewer lecture grades of D+ or lower, and had significantly higher critical thinking posttest total scores than control students. Lastly, more SWI students were engaged while taking critical thinking tests. These results support the hypothesis that utilizing independent course-based undergraduate science research improves student achievement even in nonscience students.

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