The art of talking about science: Beginning to teach physiology students how to communicate with nonscientists

Andrew M. Petzold, Robert L. Dunbar

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The ability to clearly disseminate scientific knowledge is a skill that is necessary for any undergraduate student within the sciences. Traditionally, this is accomplished through the instruction of scientific presentation or writing with a focus on peer-to-peer communication at the expense of teaching communication aimed at a nonscientific audience. One of the ramifications of focusing on peerto- peer communication has presented itself as an apprehension toward scientific knowledge within the general populace. This apprehension can be seen in a variety of venues, including the traditional media, popular culture, and education, which generally paint scientists as aloof and with an inability to discuss scientific issues to anyone other than other scientists. This paper describes a curriculum designed to teach Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology students the tools necessary for communicating complex concepts that were covered during the semester using approachable language. Students were assessed on their word usage in associated writing activities, the student's ability to reduce complexity of their statements, and performance in an informal scientific presentation to a lay audience. Results showed that this pedagogical approach has increased students' ability to reduce the complexity of their language in both a written and oral format. This, in turn, led to evaluators reporting greater levels of understanding of the topic presented following the presentation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)225-231
    Number of pages7
    JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


    • Communication
    • Outreach
    • Pedagogy
    • Public understanding of science
    • Undergraduate education

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