between these two groups. Significantly fewer nonmajors than
majors reported taking advanced high school science classes (37%
vs. 100%, P < 0.001).
Nonmajors Differ from Majors in Science Identity,
Confidence & Attitudes Toward Science
Affective differences between the nonmajors and majors samples
mirrored those observed by Cotner et al. (2017). Nonmajors were
less likely to describe themselves as “a science person,” were less
confident in their ability to “do” science, and had less interest in
science than majors.
Nonmajors & Majors Demonstrated Science
When asking questions and proposing hypotheses, nonmajors and
majors performed similarly. All nonmajors (100%) and majors
(100%) asked testable questions and proposed testable hypotheses
or predictions, and most nonmajors (97%) and majors (96%) proposed a hypothesis or prediction that was aligned with their question.
Questions, hypotheses, or predictions were considered testable if they
were about the natural world (i.e., data to test the hypothesis are
Nonmajors and majors performed similarly for most aspects of
designing an experiment. All nonmajors’ (100%) and most majors’
(96%) experiments were aligned with the scientists’ hypothesis.
Most nonmajors (90%) and majors (96%) included a control group.
Most nonmajors (97%) and majors (88%) included more than one
subject per control or experimental group. Likewise, nonmajors performed as well as majors when identifying strengths and weaknesses
of the scientists’ experiment. For example, 17% of nonmajors and
16% of majors identified participant randomization as a strength,
and 27% of nonmajors and 28% of majors recognized that using
only patients’ self-reported outcomes was a weakness. One difference between nonmajors and majors was the level of detail in their
experiment, with nonmajors providing fewer details than majors
(Figure 3). An experiment was categorized as “a detailed experiment”
if it included at least seven of the eight detailed procedure items
listed in Figure 2, “a few details missing” if it included four to six
items, and “most details missing” if it included fewer than four items.
None of the nonmajors (0%) provided a detailed experiment, while
16% of the majors did; 53% of nonmajors’ experiments were missing
a few details, compared to 80% of majors’; and 47% of nonmajors
provided an experiment that was missing most details, compared to
4% of majors.
Figure 2. Science process skills rubric.