Preprint peer review enhances undergraduate biology students’ disciplinary literacy and sense of belonging in STEM
Undergraduate education on science publishing and peer review is limited compared to the focus on experimental research. Since peer review is integral to the scientific process and central to the identity of a scientist, we envision a paradigm shift that makes teaching peer review integral to undergraduate science education, and hypothesize that this may facilitate the development of students’ scientific literacy and identity formation. To this end, we developed a curriculum for biology undergraduates to learn about the mechanisms of peer review, then write and publish their own peer reviews as a way to authentically join the scientific community of practice. The curriculum was implemented as a semester-long intervention in one class and as a module intervention embedded into a discipline-based class on vaccines. Before and after both interventions, we measured students’ scientific literacy, including peer review ability, using quantitative methods. We also carried out a longitudinal qualitative assessment of students’ perceptions of their scientific literacy and identity using thematic analysis of students’ writing. Here, we present data on the improvement in peer review ability of undergraduates in both classes, and data on the curriculum’s interrelated impact on students’ development of scientific literacy, identity, and belonging in academic and professional spaces. These data suggest that undergraduates can and should be trained in peer review to foster the interrelated development of their scientific literacy, scientific identity, and sense of belonging in science.
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Setting (and teaching) the right example at the right time: peer review classes at undergraduate level lead to increased scientific literacy and a heightened sense of belonging to the biological community.