Teaching How Scientific Consensus Is Developed Through Simplified Meta-analysis of Peer-Reviewed Literature

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Contribution to Books

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Publication Title

Learner Centered Teaching Activities for Environmental and Sustainability Studies


Students need to understand the diverse pathways to scientific knowledge and how scientists develop consensus about emerging questions. For students in environmental fields, it is especially important to learn how to reach consensus when not every study shows the same effect. To address these needs, this activity involves conducting a simplified, in-class meta-analysis. The approach is suitable for a variety of topics, and a case study is provided investigating the impact of global change on invasive plant success. After completing this activity, students should be able to (1) interpret and explain graphs in and extract major conclusions from a scientific peer-reviewed article, (2) identify the procedure of a meta-analysis and conduct a simplified meta-analysis, and (3) synthesize results of multiple studies to reach a general conclusion for a question.