Ideas for using primary literature in the classroom

SitC CREATE method
Posted by Lydia Kaprelian, August 16, 2019

There are many ways to introduce students to primary scientific literature, but we recognize that it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve heard from educators that say, “We’ve found your resource and we’d love to use it … but can you give me some ideas?”

Well, here are some ideas. We hope these help!

First, we recommend checking out the educator guide that accompanies each SitC paper. These have been curated and designed to benefit classroom instruction. We’ve taken care to align these suggestions with a variety of education frameworks and standards. With the redesign of our educator guides in 2017, we hope these documents are more helpful than ever. Each educator guide comes equipped with suggested activities and discussion questions, as well as an article overview for the educator.

Before tackling a primary scientific paper in its entirety, we encourage educators to find parts of the paper to dissect. Classes might benefit from only looking at the abstract, maybe a figure, or checking out the annotated reference list at the end of each SitC paper.

Former SitC Advisory Board member, Sally Hoskins, professor at City College of New York, co-developed the five-step C.R.E.A.T.E. method to guide educators in teaching their students to read primary literature. C.R.E.A.T.E. asks students to: Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, and Think of the next Experiment. There are a variety of techniques educators can use to C.R.E.A.T.E.

The C.R.E.A.T.E. toolbox includes concept mapping, cartooning, annotating figures, defining and identifying hypotheses, analyzing each figure and table, and designing follow-up studies. C.R.E.A.T.E. can weave in seamlessly with our pre-existing resources, creating what we dub the SitC-CREATE method.

SitC-CREATE method for classroom instruction

Notice that this potential workflow involves both in-class discussions and work for students to complete outside of class. Designing follow-up studies offer students to change to let curiosity drive the formation of their own research ideas. Grant panels can encourage students to think critically and consider real-world consequences of making choices with limited resources. With these activities, students should think about placing their science in a societal context through considering the ethics, relevancy, and benefits of their proposed research.

We encourage the results of these efforts to be shared. Many scientists are thrilled at the prospect of their work being used in the classroom, so we recommend that educator reach out. Having the class video conference or email scientists provides students with the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the scientific enterprise. Primary scientific literature offers the special advantage of students seeing the diversity and collaboration among scientists.

Primary literature can be daunting, but we hope these tips can help you bring our annotated primary literature into your classroom. We love hearing from educators about how they use SitC, so please don't hesitate to get in touch!