into their extracurricular interests. Similarly, transforming a non-majors neuroscience course by using course materials at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences (e.g., books by Oliver
Sacks and V. S. Ramachandran) led to increased student motivation to take additional science courses and, for some students, a
decision to major in science (McFarlane & Richeimer, 2015).
Another course, entitled “Issues in Biology” and taught in a con-text-based, inquiry-driven manner, shows promise for increasing
positive perceptions of biology as a discipline; students saw biology as more relevant, worthwhile, and meaningful at the course’s
end than they had before it began (Gardner et al., 2016). Finally,
the most popular lab activity in the nonmajors course described
here studies human evolution by focusing on sperm competition
in humans – an appealing topic by nature of being somewhat subversive and controversial (Cotner & Gallup, 2011).
We see a positive message in our findings – that nonmajors have
the ability to do science, as recommended by AAAS (2011) and others
(Nelson, 1999; Handelsman et al., 2007), a finding that reduces instructional barriers to implementing flipped classrooms (Herreid & Schiller,
2013), inquiry (Gormally et al., 2009), and course-based undergraduate
research experiences (CUREs; Auchincloss et al., 2014) in courses that
include nonmajors. The greater challenge is appealing to these students’
motivation, interest, and confidence. Doing so, by learning from some
of the examples cited above, may represent a shift in instructor perceptions, from strictly focusing on skills and content to considering students’ affective characteristics. In conclusion, we encourage our peers
in STEM to share successes in the domain of teaching to motivate, interest, and inspire confidence, with the goal of promoting a scientifically
We thank Melissa Kruesel, Christine Lian, Clay Mazur, Julia Vanden-Boom, and Anna Wojcicki for helpful comments on the rubric and
assistance collecting data; Jessamina Blum, Catherine Kirkpatrick,
and Robin Wright for helpful comments on the SPS scenario; and
Jonathan Andicoechea, Cissy Ballen, Hillary Barron, Connor Neill,
Lori Patrick, Jake Peterson, and Seth Thompson for helpful comments
on the manuscript. This work was supported by a National Science
Foundation grant (NSF 1432414) awarded to Sehoya Cotner and
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