College Students' Conceptions of Stem Cells, Stem Cell Research, and Cloning

Kristy L. Halverson, University of Southern Mississippi


In this study, we examined 96 undergraduate non-science majors' conceptions of stem cells, stem cell research, and cloning. This study was performed at a large, Midwest, research extensive university. Participants in the study were asked to answer 23 questions relating to stem cells, stem cell research, and cloning in an on-line assessment before and after instruction. Two goals of the instruction were to: (1) help students construct accurate scientific ideas, and (2) enhance their reasoning about socioscientific issues. The course structure included interactive lectures, case discussions, hands-on activities, and independent projects. Overall, students' understandings of stem cells, stem cell research, and cloning increased from pre-test to post-test. For example, on the post-test, students gained knowledge concerning the age of an organism related to the type of stem cell it possesses. However, we found that some incorrect ideas that were evident on the pre-test persisted after instruction. For example, before and after instruction several students maintained the idea that stem cells can currently be used to produce organs.