Scientific Literacy and education

AC1 – Explanation of the concept of scientific literacy

Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes. ‘Scientific literacy is the capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence-based conclusions’ (OECD, 2003). This means that a person can ask, find, or come to a conclusion on answers to questions that come from curiosity about everyday experiences relating to science. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict scientific occurrences. Scientific literacy includes the skill of being able to read, with understanding, articles about science in everyday reading such as articles on the internet and news stories. Scientific literacy also means that a person can identify scientific issues that impact national and local decisions. What is also achieved is the ability to express opinions that are scientifically informed. A scientifically literate individual should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information based on its source and the methods used to create it. (National Research Council, 1996, page 22)

AC2 – Analysis of an example where lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media reporting

In the 1990s the scare of vaccines and autism being related took off. Due to a report being realised about how the MMR vaccine was related to autism in children. This resulted in a massive scare and many parents did not want to take the risk of being the reason their child developed autism. Therefore, many children did not receive the vaccine putting them at risk of developing measles, mumps and rubella. The horrendous factor in this is that the researcher – Andrew Wakefield lied about some of the conditions of the children when he did his sample group and all the testing. The overall outcome of this paper being published with fake results has put many children and adults at risk of becoming seriously ill. Even with papers being published and doctors encouraging all children to get the vaccine there are still some parents who are scared so will not get the vaccine or allow their children to.

The major reason as to why the terror surrounding the MMR vaccine spread so quickly was down to the media coverage. There was a lack of understanding around the research Wakefield had conducted (Goldacre, 2009). Take the sample size Wakefield decided on – 12 children. Having a large sample size is important to have more reliable data and to include a variety of people to represent the population. Having 12 people is too small of a sample size to prove the idea that the MMR vaccine causes autism. However, this point was overlooked by the media who subsequently focused on the shocking nature of Wakefield’s research. The Mail as an example; “Scientists fear MMR link to autism” (Beck, 2006). By not focusing on the scientific aspect of Wakefield’s published research, the media helped create a false image of the vaccine and led to a severe decrease in people taking the vaccine.

AC3 – Discussion of how teaching fair testing in school science links to scientific literacy 

When teaching a science lesson, it is key that the children learn and understand the importance of fair testing. Fair testing can be conducted by ensuring that only one factor is changed while all other variables stay the same. Fair testing is one of the most important elements when carrying out an experiment. The reason for this is the fact it creates a scientifically valuable outcome allowing the children to draw reliable and accurate data from the results.

The exploration within the topic of fair testing can help children show a basic understanding of their scientific knowledge and literacy of scientific concepts. Giving children the opportunity to participate in science experiments that require the process of fair testing will allow them to explore and challenge their scientific literacy.



  • Beck, S. (2006) ‘Scientists fear MMR link to autism’, The Mail, Available at:


  • Goldacre, B. Bad Science (London: Fourth Estate, 2009)


  • National Research Council. 1996. National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


  • OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] (2003) The PISA 2003 Assessment Framework – Mathematics, Reading, Science and Problem-Solving Knowledge and Skills. Paris: OECD.


  • Science Buddies. (2018). Doing a Fair Test: Variables for Beginners. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9th Feb. 2018].

It’s Not All In Black and White

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Martin Luther King Jr

This week’s lecture with Derek was a surprise. At the beginning of the lecture we were asked to write down what we thought Race, Ethnicity and Discrimination were. I thought I would find it easy to write down what I thought each of these terms were, however when it got down to the nitty gritty of describing the difference between each one I found it difficult.

So when Derek asked us to write what we thought about each of these this is what I wrote:

Race: Where you are from and what your skin colour looks like.

Ethnicity: How you perceived yourself depending on your background.

Discrimination: isolating someone for race, age, gender and ability.

As someone who is white and from a privileged background I feel like I may turn a blind eye to some of the everyday racism that goes on.  An example of this would be when you’re with a group of people and they make racist jokes which are just classed as being funny when in reality they are being racist.  Throughout the lecture Derek spoke about different historical events one being the story of Emmett Till. Having never heard of Emmett Till and his story I found this very interesting.

Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy who lived in Chicago; he attended an all-black grammar school. In this part of America blacks were treated much more fairly. Emmett went to go visit his family in Mississippi during August 1955. After a day working in the cotton fields Emmett and his friends went to a local food store. The exact story as to what happened is unknown but what we do know is that Emmett was accused of whistling at the white female clerk (Carolyn Bryant) and touched her hand.  The female clerk was the wife of the store owner Roy Bryant. Four days later Emmett Till was brutally beaten up and shot in the head by Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam. After killing Emmett, Bryant and Milam took his body and dumped it in to the Tallahatchie River, he was only identified because of the ring he had on which had is dad’s initials on it. Emmett’s mum opted for an open casket so that people could see how brutally Emmett was beaten. Over the course of 5 days over 100,000 people went to Chicago to see Emmett’s body.  Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were put on trial in front of an all-white, all male jury. Even with the protests and out cries of people all over the country, the jury still let Bryant and Milam leave unscathed with the trial only lasting 67 minutes. At the beginning of 1956 Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam admitted to their crime by going to a magazine, they were protected by the double jeopardy laws which meant they didn’t get jail time and they got paid $4,000. The most shocking detail about this crime is in 2017 Carolyn Bryant admitted to making up the whole story. Emmett Tills death may have had an impact on the civil rights movement but like a lot of the people who died trying to fight for better lives, he died unnecessarily.

The quote at the beginning of my post is one of my favourites from Martin Luther King Jr.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Martin Luther King Jr

I remember learning about him in school. The quote is still so relevant as it doesn’t matter how hard we try to fight for equal rights people who are against it will pass down their views to their children. We are then forever stuck in this circle of hate.

Until the lecture I don’t think I realised how bad racism still is in today’s society. Derek showed us a video on a protest which took place in Charlottesville (USA) 2017. Throughout the video it shows racism that I honestly didn’t think still happened and even what seems to look like a hit and run. The thought that events like these are still happening around the world has really made me think about how little racism I thought was going on.

The lecture with Derek really has shown me that racism is a major issue in our society and no matter what we do unless we change our mind sets we can’t move forward and move on to a better way of life for everyone. Putting this in to practice as a teacher is going to be especially important to make sure all children have an equal opportunity.


Thinking Outside the Envelope

Resource Allocation Workshop – 19/09/17

After our first lecture on “Values: Self, Society and Professions” we were all intrigued to find out what our workshop would entail. As we arrived we were split into 5 different groups, I was in group 2, each group was given their own envelope.

My group’s envelope contained:

  • Coloured paper
  • Scissors
  • Sticky notes
  • Coloured pens
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Sellotape

You could tell from the size difference of the envelopes that some were different however I didn’t realise how different the packs all were from each other. To begin with we were asked to come up with a product that would be helpful to a new university student and present our idea to the rest of the group. My group decided to come up with a colour co-ordinated time table for your modules and elective. We decided on this because as a group we all found working the timetable very difficult to do. As well as the timetable we decided to make a hints and tips sheet for the new student on how to work “My Dundee”. Group 1 pitched their idea first and this is when we realised we all had pretty similar ideas.

As we were presenting our ideas to lecturer she was really interested in group 1 and 2. As the group went on she became less interested and seemed as if she wasn’t paying them any attention. As a group we picked up on this and we weren’t sure if it was part of the task or if she generally had lost interest.  Since we had never met the lecturer before it made it very difficult to judge her character.

To create our makeshift timetable we used one of the girls in my group’s actual timetable as a model. We colour co-ordinated each module and created a key to make it easy to use. Our hints and tips sheet for “My Dundee” was colourful as we felt this would make it more appealing to a new student.

Presenting our completed products to the rest of the class is when we realised that not everyone had a fair amount of resources. Again as we went around the groups the lecturer had a great interest for group 1 and 2’s products. Asking questions and giving praise. As we got to the last group it just seemed liked she really didn’t care and gave them no praise at all.

To finish off the task the lecturer gave us all a score on how good she thought our products were. Considering the groups all had similar ideas they were all scored differently; group one receiving the highest and group five receiving the lowest. The lecturer asked for feedback on what we felt about our scores. Groups one and two were pretty happy with their scores receiving 9/10 and 8/10. However groups four and five were not happy as they felt they had to be more creative and resourceful to create their products as they were given so little resources. They also felt that they should have been given more praise as they had to work a lot harder to come up with an idea as they didn’t have nearly as much help from the lecturer or the pack that they were given. The lecturer explained that the task was developed to show us the oppression that some children go through at school.

This then lead us on to a discussion about the differences in all children and how this can cause some to be treated differently.  This task has helped open my eyes to see that not everyone has the same, but when it comes to school everyone should be treated with kindness, fairness and respect. The background of a child should not implicate their education; they have the same rights as everyone else. This task has really opened my eyes as to how a teacher should be a constant figure to all children in their class.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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