Berri Jacques, Ph.D., with project evaluation results.
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Surprising Results Revealed…

“When are we going to use this stuff in real life?” That’s a common refrain from students memorizing math and science from textbooks and worksheets. Berri Jacque, Ph.D., realized that when it comes to science, there’s one application that couldn’t be more relevant: our own bodies.

Research and evaluations from “The Great Diseases: Bringing Biomedical Science to the High School Classroom,” (Great Diseases) project indicates that using health as the basis for a science curriculum is captivating for most students in science classrooms; While about 66% of science students value learning about science, almost all high school students, a surprising 98%, highly value learning about health in science classes.

Since its inception, the Great Diseases project has made great strides in bridging the gap between teachers and medical researchers, creating a high school level health-themed science curriculum that fills an entire school year. In addition to providing classroom ready resources, the project offers teachers around the country professional development and mentoring support by medical scientists as they bring health science to their classrooms. The project, begun in July 2015, has revealed some surprising results, which were revealed in a TEDx Beacon Street presentation filmed in Boston.

More than 1,500 students were asked, after completing six weeks of the Infectious Disease course, “What is the first word to come to mind when it comes to disease?” The most common response was that the students found it “interesting.” When teachers were asked about their experiences teaching the course, the common response was — students are so excited about the topics it’s hard to manage discussions. Evaluation results also revealed robust learning gains in a range of settings.

Even More Surprising Results
In the same study, more the students were asked about their confidence towards learning about health and diseases. Before the class, 819 students had very low confidence they could do it, 475 had low confidence, 111 had high confidence, and only 31 students had very high confidence about their own abilities. The classes included students from some of the most prestigious schools, clearly there is a confidence gap! (See charts above.) Just imagine the implications this might have on their health management and health literacy!

After taking the course, the results revealed that students’ confidence ratings had dramatically changed—for the better. The number of students with very low confidence in their ability to learn about health and diseases dropped from 819 to 342; those with low confidence went from 475 to 332. Additionally, the number of students with high confidence in their abilities jumped from 111 to 400; and the number of those with very high confidence moved up dramatically from 31 to 362. And the average student had a doubling in their belief that they can learn about health topics, and the increase was even greater in underperforming schools.

That’s impressive by any standard.

To view the TEDx Beacon Street presentation, visit the following Web page. 

OR .

Dr. Jacque’s research centers around understanding the relationship between scientific literacy, health education and health literacy. He is Director of the Center for Translational Science Education at Tufts University, and Clo-PI of this SEPA project. Co-Director of CTSE, Karina Meiri, Ph.D., is PI/Project Leader for this project.

This work is supported by SEPA grant R25OD020207.

Associated Project:
The Great Diseases: Bringing Biomedical Science to the High School Classroom