What Science Literacy Really Means: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences

October 14, 2016 at 7:42 am 1 comment

I’ve only just started reading this new report from National Academies Press, but am finding it useful and interesting.  What do we mean when we say that we want people to be scientifically literate?  It’s an important question to ask when considering the goal of computational literacy.

Science is a way of knowing about the world. At once a process, a product, and an institution, science enables people to both engage in the construction of new knowledge as well as use information to achieve desired ends. Access to science—whether using knowledge or creating it—necessitates some level of familiarity with the enterprise and practice of science: we refer to this as science literacy.

Science literacy is desirable not only for individuals, but also for the health and well-being of communities and society. More than just basic knowledge of science facts, contemporary definitions of science literacy have expanded to include understandings of scientific processes and practices, familiarity with how science and scientists work, a capacity to weigh and evaluate the products of science, and an ability to engage in civic decisions about the value of science. Although science literacy has traditionally been seen as the responsibility of individuals, individuals are nested within communities that are nested within societies—and, as a result, individual science literacy is limited or enhanced by the circumstances of that nesting.

Science Literacy studies the role of science literacy in public support of science. This report synthesizes the available research literature on science literacy, makes recommendations on the need to improve the understanding of science and scientific research in the United States, and considers the relationship between scientific literacy and support for and use of science and research.

Source: Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences | The National Academies Press

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Research results: Where does Coding to Learn Belong in the K-12 Curriculum? Underrepresentation is more dangerous to US than to CS: Interview with Richard Tapia

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  October 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

    I just read this very disappointing effort and report. It achieves a kind of low pass filter — producing almost a dial tone — on what are extremely important issues.

    From some of the unfortunate howlers — such as a number of the Pew questions, including the “height” of a sound wave having something to do with loudness (nope, that’s the graph of the amplitude over time folks, not what’s going on in nature!) — to not being interested nearly enough in what -levels- of “scientific literacy” actually could make a difference — for example, they didn’t study people with degrees in science to see if there are interesting properties in comparison to the general population. Yikes!

    They appeared happy that the US “compares” with other industrial/scientific nations on answers to a really stupid test, but fail to get interested in just what those nations have been doing to the planet over the last 150 years. (And what have they been doing to their citizens and to other countries over that time?)

    This reminds me so much of the many studies of reading, that fail to ever look at what fluent readers can do, how they do it, and how they learned to do it.

    I’ve been on a number of these National Academies committees and boards, and this one — though not atypically bad — is in the lower quartile. By comparison, a fairly good one done by the NAE 20 years ago or so was “The Engineer in 2020” (and it’s not the only such worth reading).


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