Category Archives: 3. Prof. Skills & Abilities

Scientific Literacy

Explanation of the concept of scientific literacy

Scientific Literacy is the knowledge and understanding of processes in science. It involves pupils being aware of and being able to identify skills and concepts associated with science which allows them to make informed decisions relating to science (National Science Educational Standards). It focuses on giving young people a wider variation of skills and knowledge whilst encouraging them to explore the question of ‘Why’ things happen.

Scientific literacy highlights ways in which we understand how to critically think of the modern world in a way which allows us to be creative whereas science literacy focuses more on embedding facts into pupils and the end result (Maienschein, 1998).

Within schools, scientific literacy is at the centre of the curriculum standards for science as it moves away from the standard science curriculum enhancing understanding and allows us to change the way in which we teach science and thus learn it. Smith (2011) highlight that often science is the first subject which people forget about when they leave school. It is hoped that the progression of scientific literacy will make learning science more interesting and will embed new knowledge and skill into young people so that they can carry on these skills to future learning.

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

Being scientifically illiterate can lead to inaccurate media reporting and have a severely negative effect on society. A famous example of this was Dr Andrew Wakefield’s research (1998) which claimed there was a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. His paper was retracted due to fixed and fraudulent results and other scientific papers have shown no link between the MMR vaccine and autism (Taylor et al., 1998). The supposed link with autism heavily influenced vaccination rates as between 1996 and 2004, rates fell from approximately 92% to 80% despite the target being 95% to stop the spreading of the disease (BBC, 2015). Due to the fall in numbers of people being vaccinated, there were a number of breakouts all over the country. The herd immunity effect was not in place, meaning that since a significant percentage of the population were not vaccinated, the chances of a non- immune individual coming into contact with an infectious individual were increased. This shows the importance of scientific literacy as it can affect society as a whole.

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

It is important to conduct fair tests as it is the essential part of doing a good scientifically valuable experiment, ensuring you only change one factor at a time while keeping the rest of the conditions the same (Science Buddies). This is important for us as teachers, that we ensure our pupils are shown the importance of fair testing, so it helps their understanding and development of science literature. Although it is not always the most interesting science experiments it covers the most important aspects of scientific literacy, it is important pupils are taught this to gain skills throughout experience (Fizzics Education). Fair testing gives children an opportunity to be taught in a way to give them a better understanding of what scientific literacy is. It is considered vital as it ultimately gives pupils a better understanding of what scientific literacy is hence why it is important the pupils learn about fair testing.

It is clear to see the importance of scientific literacy being taught through science experiments in school and that they are given a deeper understanding of what they are learning in terms of science. This will allow them to develop their skills and understanding of the basics so they can continue to enhance their understanding of science throughout their school lives. As shown above, if scientific literacy is not present, there can be serious misunderstandings which can cause issues to numerous people in terms of health or perhaps other issues. By teaching about fair testing to children at a young age, this will help them understand why we carry out certain experiments and what their purpose is thus showing us that scientific literacy is vital to a pupils understanding and should be a main focus in schools.

Anna Mcewan, Eilidh Purdie, Robyn Risbridger and Hazel Neill


BBC (2015) Childhood MMR vaccination rates fall. Available at: (Accessed: 09 February 2018)

Dhillon, A.P., Thomson, M.A., Harvey, P. and Valentine, A. (1998) ‘RETRACTED: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children’, The Lancet, Vol.351(9103), pp. 637-641.

Fizzics Education (no date) Available at:–fair-testing-teaching-the-heart-of-science-experiments-00085.html (Accessed: 11 February 2018).

Maienschein, J. (1998). ‘Scientific Literacy’, Science, pp.917. Available at: (Accessed: 4 February 2018).

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

Science Buddies (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2018).

Smith, K. (2011). Scientific Literacy Under the Microscope: A Whole School Approach to Science Teaching and Learning. Australia: Sense Publishers.

Taylor, B ; Miller, E ; Farrington, C P ; Petropoulos, M C ; Favot-Mayaud, I ; Li, J ; Waight, P A. (1999) ‘Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association’, Lancet, Vol.353(9169), pp.2026-9

Wakefield, A.J., Murch, S.H., Anthony, A., Linnell, J., Casson, D.M., Malik, M., Berelowitz, M.,


Understanding Ourselves Racism Input

Prior to this lecture I had watched the materials and in particular felt the TED talk about growing up black was very empowering. I had the stereotypical definitions of what race, ethnicity and discrimination were however I was shocked to find out just how much they influence people’s everyday lives in that lecture.

Originally I came up with the following definitions;

Race – A group of people linked by their skin colour or origins

Ethnicity – The group in society your culture and beliefs belong to

Discrimination – Purposely excluding people in society based on their ethnicity, race or lifestyle.

An example explained to us was the story of Emmett Till a 14 year old boy falsely accused of ‘hitting’ on a white shop owners wife. It was explained to us that Emmett had later on been shot, beaten and left to die in the middle of nowhere. I personally thought this was disgusting however we were then informed of what happened after. Emmett’s uncle fought for Justice only for the opposition to be excused of their crimes. Later on it was revealed that the white female had lied about Emmett and that it wasn’t true. I felt the injustice of this story as the way people thought it was appropriate to treat Emmett based on his skin colour is disgusting and is made worse by the fact that it was all a lie.

This story in particular highlighted to me the extent of racism and its consequences and made me wonder why it still in 2017 occurs. I was shocked by how predominant racism still is especially in the US with the recent events in Charlottesville showing hundreds of people walking through the streets with torches chanting extremely racist things and discriminating against those of ethnic minorities.

In terms of discrimination the Bristol Bus Boycott story highlights the horrendous treatment of a black immigrant who was trying to get a job but was unsuccessful because the employer said they didn’t employ black people.

Before this lecture I had a very utopian view on this situation as I was under the impression that racism and discrimination was slowly decreasing however the current US situation highlights that it actually could be on the rise. I think it is extremely important to learn and be informed about these kinds of situations as it is so important that as people who are going to work with children of all ethnic origins that we are accepting and understand the troubles they often face so that we can attempt to resolve them.

I have inserted the Charlottesville event I referred to in this blog: