In our science workshop we considered the concept of Science literacy and how it would impact our teaching of science throughout our profession. In doing so we looked at what science Literacy is, how a lack of it can result in inadequate media reporting and how it links to teaching fair testing in science.
Dunne and Peacock (2012) say science literacy may, mistakenly, be thought of as carrying out literacy in science when in fact it is about drawing reasonable conclusion through science. They also explain it can be regarded as a language of its own through which people communicate their ideas using scientific terminology. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) define science literacy as ‘the capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence-based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity’ (Dunne and Peacock, 2012:81). From this we learn that science literacy allows people to evaluate evidence, draw conclusions and communicate their ideas.
In regarding this explanation of science literacy we considered its importance and significance within our practice and within science as a whole, in doing we found many examples of situations where science literacy has not been effectively used resulting in certain consequences.
AC2 – Analysis of an example where a lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media reporting.
An example of where a lack of scientific literacy and research has led to inaccurate media reporting is Andrew Wakefield’s case in 1998. He published a case in The Lancet, which is the UK Medical Journal, which suggested that the MMR vaccine would make someone liable to develop autism later in their life. However, in his study, Wakefield had only used 12 children who had been referred to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead for gastrointestinal problems to study on. Out of these 12 children, only 8 parents reported that they had noticed behavioural differences within 2 weeks of them having the vaccine. This report was still published, and was spread wide across the UK due to its high level of controversy. This led to parents refraining from getting their children the MMR vaccination, which would then lead to these children being at a much higher risk of developing measles. Clearly, 12 children is not a high enough number to base a study on that would have so much impact on the public once published. Therefore, this case in a good example of where a lack of research has led to inaccurate media reporting.
http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0524/131382-wakefielda/ – this link leads to a video detailing the vaccination incident.
In relation to this we have recognised that there can be severe consequences to the misuse of scientific literacy especially in every day life where social media can influence the lives and decisions of others. Our duty as teachers of science is to use the effective language, communication and proper explanations of science and its terminology to teach children in order to allow them to build a basis of knowledge and understanding of science.
AC3- Discussion of how teaching fair testing in school science links to scientific literacy
It is important to teach children about the concept of fair testing from a young age to allow children to form an understanding of science and be able to apply their scientific knowledge. Fair testing ensures that scientific experiments are as reliable and accurate as possible by only changing one variable and keeping all other factors the same. To be scientifically literate means to have the ability to use scientific knowledge and to understand how to make informed decisions. To make informed decisions related to science, children must know about the importance of fair testing and how to use fair testing in practical experiments to ensure accurate results. Many science activities in the primary setting are practical experiments and in order for these to work properly and accurate results to be gathered, children must understand the process of fair testing. There is a strong link between teaching fair testing and scientific literacy as children need to have a brief understanding of fair testing in order to be scientifically literate.
Dunne M. & Peacock A. (2012). Primary Science (p 81). London: Sage Publications
RTE.(2010) MMR vaccine scare doctor struck off. Available at: http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0524/131325-wakefield (Accessed:9/2/17)
Natalie Mcghee, Beth Arbuckle, Rebecca McGeary,Teresa Wood