Advancing Scientific Literacy

Erin O'Mara and Tracy Butler incorporated an experiential learning program into their PSY 341-H and PSY 480 courses that focuses on advancing scientific literacy. For students in psychology courses, one of the most relevant experiential components of their learning revolves around research and scientific literacy. This experiential learning program consisted of a series of modules that focused on developing the skills necessary to advance scientific literacy. O’Mara and Butler focused on the the scientific integrity regarding the reporting of psychological research popular press articles versus how the same work is reported in the primary source. In order to make students good consumers of science, developing the scientific literacy skills to disentangle accurate versus inaccurately reported psychological research is critical as these students are better consumers of scientific information. After working to develop their own skills associated with accurately reporting scientific information in the popular press with the in-class modules, a popular press writer was invited to speak to the class about their experience with writing about science for a general audience. This provided students the opportunity to interact with someone who does this for a living and learn first-hand of the complexities of reporting scientific findings for the popular press.

Experiential learning philosophies also identified guided activity/immersion as a component of experiential learning. O’Mara and Butler created e a course-specific packet of popular press articles accompanied by the primary source(s) featured in that article. They guided the students through in-class activities and assignments that critically evaluated each article and incorporated the relevant material from the text as well as engaged in active reflection on the activities/immersion with the students before, during, and after each assignment or guest speaker. To do this, students completed reflection assignments during and after each module. In the final assignment, students applied their knowledge of scientific literacy by writing a popular press style article based on findings from a recently published peer reviewed article related to the course’s area of psychology. The first learning outcome included being able to accurately evaluate the scientific merit of popular press articles reporting scientific (i.e., psychological) results. The second learning outcome was increasing the students’ ability to read primary sources and synthesize the results of the work. The third learning outcome was being able to accurately report scientific results in a popular press style article.

The mini-grant requested benefitted the program by inviting a speaker who writes about science for the popular press to come to the classes and speak with the students about the writing process. By inviting a speaker to discuss the complexities of writing about science for the popular press, what they look for in a scientific finding to turn into a story, and essentially the process from the early stages of researching the story until it is in press will provide the students with a more thorough understanding of the portrayal of science in the popular press. Further, it gave the students opportunities to ask questions about the process from someone who does this as their career.

Name & Title

Erin O'Mara

Associate Professor; Director of Graduate Program in General Psychology


Email: Erin O'Mara

Phone: 937-229-2161

Full-Time Faculty
College of Arts and Sciences: Psychology

Tracy Butler

Assistant Professor


Email: Tracy Butler

Phone: 937-229-2640

Full-Time Faculty
College of Arts and Sciences: Psychology

Contact Us

Office of Experiential Learning

Roesch Library 034 
300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469