Scientific Literacy


Keynote speaker: Dr. Norman G. Lederman

Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry

We keep changing our mind about what it is we want students to know….

Goal = to be scientifically literate “The knowledge and understanding of scientific knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity ” (NRC 1996)

SCIENCE LITERACY We want the students to have conceptual knowledge and understanding. I.e. content on which to use as their premises or foundation for decision making.

SCIENTIFIC LITERACY We want our students to be able to make informed decisions. This does not mean they are necessary right or that all informed decisions will be congruent. This includes considerations other than science.

*Book – What is this thing called Science? A. Charmers

WHAT IS SCIENCE “Eternal guide to the truth” A.Boucot “Science is an internally consistent set of lies used to explain away the universe”


  • Have students learn science in the same way that scientists learn science. 
  • All investigations start with an questions, but not all starts have a hypothesis. 
  • There is not just one scientific method. 
  • Procedures are guided by the question. 
  • The same procedures can give different results. 
  • Scientifica data is not the same thing as evidence. 


Forms of inquiry: Descriptive, Correlational, Experimental

Question… Procedure…. Solution… The less given at the start the higher the level of inquiry.

Aspects of nature of science we can expect to teach:

  1. tentativeness
  2. creativity
  3. observations vs. inference
  4. subjectivity
  5. functions and relationships of theory and law (the hierarchy of credibility, laws are not ‘mature theories’)
  6. socially and culturally embedded
  7. empirically based 

Doing science does not mean you are becoming Scientifically literate. Scientific literacy needs to be explicitly taught through discussion and debate. “Students won’t learn what is not taught”

Sample activities : Click on Project ICAN, based on thousands of kids in Chicago.


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