Date of Award

Summer 2023

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

David E. Drew

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

DeLacy Ganley

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

June Hilton

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2023 Ewa Burchard


College readiness, Earth's Magnetism, Reading literacy, Reading media, Science literacy, Scientific Argument

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Higher Education | Science and Mathematics Education


This study focuses on undergraduates’ preparation for college level courses. In recent international PISA results United States students fall behind seventeen countries on the computer-based reading proficiency test. They have scored low for over a decade, in spite of spending more than one hundred-thousand dollars per student on education. This US score is similar to, or lower than, the scores of other countries where spending is lower. Considering reading performance statistics from the international PISA assessment and the inconclusive results from reading comprehension studies across media, the concern arose whether today’s high school students are well prepared for college level courses in STEM. In response to these concerns, we assessed students’ reading comprehension of a difficult scientific article. For that purpose, we investigated students understanding of text material on Earth’s magnetism, across media. The assessment included reading a published article and assessment of comprehension, content knowledge and scientific argument quality. Over a hundred undergraduates in one-hundred-level Earth science classes responded to 29 multiple choice questions, in a regular class setting. Thereafter, reading, and scientific literacy strategies--comprehension, knowledge, content, and sourcing qualities--were evaluated. Overall, participants performed similarly across media; however, several significant variations emerged between demographic groups. For example, females scored better than males on most strategies, and African American students outperformed Latinx students on most strategies. In general, students scored low on total understanding of the article, but higher on content knowledge than comprehension. Only 14 % of participants did well on understanding and argument quality, which coincided with higher familiarity with the topic (12% students) and higher interest (40% students), but the majority, overall, scored low on both familiarity and topic interest. Effective sourcing was correlated with high interest, understanding, and content knowledge. The qualitative findings, from interviews, indicated, conversely, that students felt well prepared for college courses. They reported proficiency in both English reading and writing. Moreover, they reported enjoyment of taking college level courses. This study suggests that it could be beneficial for students’ entering college to become involved in peer reflection activities that would promote their scientific literacy learning, the skills gained when collaborating with others providing the opportunity for both scientific debates and self-reflection. Improvement of scientific literacy skills can increase the readiness of American students for college level work, including students from under-represented groups.