Category Archives: 2.1 Curriculum

Going down under!

For the past few years, the idea of going off to Australia has been one which seemed highly desirable, yet extremely unlikely. It was only when given the opportunity of choosing the International Baccalaureate module at University that it appeared this could my opportunity – study abroad, gain experience in an international school and receive an insight into the different culture in which so many people love!

Since arriving on Friday 10th March, the experience has already been incredible. The first trip prior to starting placement of course had to involve being a complete tourist: a visit to see the awesome Australian animals – and of course getting photographs and selfies with them too!

Monday 13th March brought about my first day of my 2nd year placement at Somerset College in Mudgereeba, a private college located in Queensland, Australia for both myself and my fellow student, Lauren. This college caters for over 1500 students, all the way from pre-prep up to senior school. The college has a huge emphasis on students actively participating in extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, technology and art.

One day has been enough to show the visible differences in the school environment, from which I have been used to in Scotland. From the readily available classroom teaching assistants to the variety of specialist teachers, it is a completely different environment in which to be working in – it’s almost a dream place, with plenty of time for personal planning!

As the end of our first day approached, the Junior School congregated together in the Great Hall to have an assembly – this was chaired by the Head of Junior School (HoJS), the school Headmaster and also the school captains, who had a extremely active role in the assembly and were constantly given the opportunity to lead the assembly, and give the HoJS a back seat to enjoy the assembly being student led. Lauren and I were both welcomed to the students and staff by being introduced, and it has given a great first impression for the next 8 weeks which we will be lucky enough to complete our placement (or ‘prac’ as it is known here!) and hopefully bring over a huge new approach to our teaching styles back in Scotland.


What is Science Literacy?

As Science is a major part of the curriculum, the tutor directed task we were set was to find out what exactly science literacy is, within approximately 600 words. Many people, if asked, would be able to tell you exactly what is meant by being ‘literate’, so it was interesting to know what the difference would be in being ‘science literate’?

To find out, the class was split into small groups of 4 to be able to do collaborative working. There were 3 sections within the criteria, which were:

  1. What is the concept of science literacy?
  2. What examples are there of a lack of understanding about scientific literacy has meant inaccurate media reporting?
  3. How does teaching fair testing in school science lessons links to scientific literacy?

The following paper was composed by Danielle Mackay, Rachel Billes, Shaun Finnigan and myself.

16720760-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Scientific-literacy-with-related-tags-and-terms-Stock-PhotoWhat is Scientific Literacy?

The term ‘Scientific Literacy’ is one that can often be heard in academic conversation but what does it actually mean? To be literate is having the “ability to read and write” (Oxford Dictionary, no date), therefore it would be assumed that being ‘scientifically literate’ is about having the knowledge to be able to understand different scientific concepts. However, scientific literacy is not just about knowing how to carry out a range of different experiments. It refers to having a knowledge of scientific concepts and being able to apply what we know to decisions that we make throughout our daily lives, regarding “personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity” (, no date). This entails that being scientifically literate gives you the proficiency to be able to “ask (about), find and determine” (NSES, no date) scientific experiments, and establish whether information that has been shared is of a reliable background. From this we can use individual methods to judge and evaluate the experiments, resulting in conclusions which have come from personal knowledge and research.

The best and most well-known example of scientific literacy, or a lack of scientific literacy- leading to inaccurate reporting- is the MMR vaccine scare. This started when a paper was published in 1998 and reported that twelve children had been found to have bowel syndrome and signs of autism after receiving the vaccine. However, the report provided no hard evidence to support the argument that there was any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The main author of the report, Dr Andrew Wakefield, initially stated at a press conference that parents should avoid the MMR vaccine. It was later found that the author of the report did not have the medical qualifications to assess the risk of the MMR vaccine, and he was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty. These events had a major effect on public confidence in the MMR vaccine. Vaccination rates continued to fall, even after there were many reports showing that there was no link between the vaccine and autism. When it was found that Wakefield had actually been funded by a lawyer firm that wanted litigation against MMR, confidence eventually returned but a combination of poor scientific practice and lack of scientific literacy led to inaccurate reporting in the media for several years.

In terms of scientific literacy in the classroom, the process of fair testing is an important part to any science-based activity that you may be conducting with your pupils. Therefore, it is vital that you teach them just how important this element is. Fair testing means that only one factor is changed at any one time ensuring that all the other conditions are left the same throughout. In scientific terms, changing a factor is known as changing a variable. It is essential that children understand the effects that changing one or more variables has in order to fully understand the experiments you teach them. But how does teaching fair testing link to scientific literacy? By making your children aware of fair testing, you are stating that an experiment will have no deliberate advantages or disadvantages as they follow a procedure that will provide a legitimate outcome. Through this, students will then be able to “identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions”. Fair testing ensures that there is less of a bias within the experiment. Scientific literacy is linked to fair testing through the fact that it is “evidence-based” and not simply an answer that people are to believe. Fair testing helps to reduce this idea of “bad science” in schools. It will help your pupils to progress within their scientific literacy and encourage them to become more questioning, providing results that have evidence to back up the findings.