Last month, CORE Lab, and the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory (SEPAL) at San Francisco State University were granted funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF), under the EHR Core Research (ECR) program, on their collaborative project on studying anthropocentric thinking and its influence on undergraduate biology education.


Intuitive thinking is systematic and influential in how we understand and misunderstand academic concepts. Anthropocentric thinking is one particular kind of intuitive thinking that heavily impacts our understanding of the biological world from the human perspective, which previous NSF-sponsored studies have shown to be significant.


This project focuses on studying anthropocentric thinking in biology learning and aims to answer three questions. First, although anthropocentric thinking and misconceptions have been shown to vary in students from different backgrounds, the project would like to further explore the interrelation between anthropocentric conceptions and biological knowledge in students from rural surroundings. We suspect that students from rural backgrounds may be less susceptible to anthropocentric thinking due to their more extensive experiences with nature. Second, to further investigate the impacts of anthropocentric thinking on learning, the project finds it important to understand how certain framing of anthropocentric language in biology explanation could foster learning or induce misconceptions. Third, in addition to the evidence-based observation of faculties using anthropocentric language in their lectures, this project would further pursue the question of the degree of faculties’ intent in using such language at their biology teaching. 


Through conducting basic research, CORE Lab and SEPAL hope to answer the question of how intuitive biology knowledge and anthropocentric teaching could help or hinder students in learning biological concepts in STEM education; hence, contribute to improving the efficacy and quality of the nation’s undergraduate biology learning and pedagogical practices.