Scientific Memes: Using the Language of Social Media to Improve Scientific Literacy and Communication in Lifespan Development

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Psychology Learning and Teaching



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application, nondisposable assignments, scientific literacy, social media, writing assignments


© The Author(s) 2020. Social media is riddled with memes (i.e., captioned images intended to convey cultural ideas or beliefs) that often promote maladaptive and unsupported beliefs about human development and parenting. This paper presents a scientific writing assignment designed to help spread accurate information on human development beyond the classroom through creation and sharing of original material on social media. Students were tasked with identifying applicable themes of the course, transforming these themes into scientific memes with supporting research articles, posting these materials to social media, and reflecting on their experiences. This assignment helps students develop critical thinking and scientific literacy, as well as their ability to apply course concepts to everyday life and share those applications with others. Student outcomes from several sections of Lifespan Development—those with the scientific meme assignment versus those with a traditional writing assignment—were analyzed for differences in quantitative measures of student success (i.e., grades). Students’ written reflections were also assessed for common themes. Findings suggest advantages of social media assignments with regard to students’ sense of purpose, experience with scholarly discourse, and student growth, and may inspire creation of additional innovative assignments that promote student learning and application.

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