Science educators' competing views on the goal of scientific literacy
Kemp, Andrew Carl
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This interpretive research study compares nine university science educators’ views on the goal of scientific literacy, the aim that currently predominates much of science education in the United States. Personal interview data are analyzed using the constant comparative method of grounded theory research. A matrix-style model is derived to classify the participants’ views on scientific literacy. Along one axis of the model lies the Conceptual, Procedural, and Affective elements or attributes that participants believe are necessary in scientifically literate people. Along another axis lies the rationales or purposes that participants espouse for the goal, which vary according the scale to which they are to be applied, and the extent to which they apply to practical uses for scientific literacy. I show that by simultaneously examining the rationales and elements, the participants’ views can be classified into three separate groups, which I call the ‘Practical,’ ‘Personal,’ and ‘Formal’ views of scientific literacy. The main conclusion of the study is that these three views on scientific literacy have implications for competing policies, programs, and practices in science education. If this diversity of views on scientific literacy exists more widely among science educators, then it is potentially hindering efforts to improve the teaching and learning of science in the United States.
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