March 9, 2009

High school science classes get high marks

U.S. high school students who study fewer science topics, but study them in greater depth, may have greater success in college science classes.

University of Virginia Associate Professor Robert Tai, along with Professor Marc Schwartz of the University of Texas at Arlington and Philip Sadler and Gerhard Sonnert of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics conducted the study that related the amount of content covered on a particular topic in high school classes with students' performance in college-level science classes.

This study offers evidence that teaching fewer topics in greater depth is a better way to prepare students for success in college science, said Tai.

The 8,310 students in the study were enrolled in introductory biology, chemistry or physics in randomly selected four-year colleges and universities.

Those who spent one month or more studying one major topic in-depth in high school earned higher grades in college science than their peers who studied more topics during the same period of time, the researchers said.

The research is to appear in the July print edition of Science Education and is currently available at the journal's Web site.