Students' conceptions of evidence during a university introductory forensic science course
Yeshion, Theodore Elliot
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Students' Conceptions of Science, Scientific Evidence, and Forensic Evidence during a University Introductory Forensic Science Course This study was designed to examine and understand what conceptions undergraduate students taking an introductory forensic science course had about scientific evidence. Because the relationships between the nature of science, the nature of evidence, and the nature of forensic evidence are not well understood in the science education literature, this study sought to understand how these concepts interact and affect students' understanding of scientific evidence. Four participants were purposefully selected for this study from among 89 students enrolled in two sections of an introductory forensic science course taught during the fall 2005 semester. Of the 89 students, 84 were criminal justice majors with minimal science background and five were chemistry majors with academic backgrounds in the natural and physical sciences. All 89 students completed a biographical data sheet and a pre-instruction Likert scale survey consisting of twenty questions relating to the nature of scientific evidence. An evaluation of these two documents resulted in a purposeful selection of four varied student participants, each of whom was interviewed three times throughout the semester about the nature of science, the nature of evidence, and the nature of forensic evidence. The same survey was administered to the participants again at the end of the semester-long course. This study examined students' assumptions, prior knowledge, their understanding of scientific inference, scientific theory, and methodology. Examination of the data found few differences with regard to how the criminal justice majors and the chemistry majors responded to interview questions about forensic evidence. There were qualitative differences, however, when the same participants answered interview questions relating to traditional scientific evidence. Furthermore, suggestions are offered for undergraduate science teachers, science teaching programs, and future research.