Scientific literacy

Recently we were set a TDT for science which involved becoming part of a group and creating a shorter essay on scientific literacy.   I feel like this was a great opportunity to work with others who I may not have necessary gotten the opportunity to work with otherwise.  I felt like my whole group really done a fair share and therefore, thought putting our work up was necessary.

Scientific Literacy TDT

Adele Herron, Chloe Connor, Erin Mcglynn and Megan Shearer

Although the term ‘scientific literacy’ may seem quite simple, it has become evident through research and discussion that it much more than just having knowledge of a lot of science. Scientific literacy is the capacity to use scientific knowledge to identify questions and to draw evidence based conclusions.

John Durant believes there are three separate definitions for scientific literacy, however they each have the similar opinion that all non-scientists surrounded by some form of science or technology, which we all are today, should know something about science. Each of the three definitions emphasise important aspects of science – the first includes your scientific knowledge; the second highlights the importance of the scientific method or procedures, whether it be mental or physical procedures; and his final definition focusses on scientific culture. According to Miller (1996), we as people of a majority modern society live in this technological and scientific culture that was also mentioned by Durant and are therefore science significantly impacts us daily.

Hurd (1998) however bases his definition on seven different dimensions.

(1) Understand the nature of scientific knowledge

(2) Apply appropriate science concepts, principles, laws, and theories in interacting with his universe;

(3) Use the process of science in solving problems, making decisions, and furthering his own understanding of the universe;

(4) Interact with values that underlie science;

(5) Understand and appreciate the joint enterprises of science and technology and the interrelationship of these with each and with other aspects of society;

(6) Extend science education throughout his or her life;

(7) Develop numerous manipulative skills associated with science and technology.”

As demonstrated, there is no clear definition of the term scientific literacy, and has been and will continue to be interpreted in different ways.  However, what happens when there is a lack of scientific literacy? Take, for example, the controversy surrounding the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination in 1998. Dr Andrew Wakefield – a renowned gastroenterologist – released findings from his research that suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and problems with the bowels (Smith, 2010). Despite the fact his research involved only 12 children, his findings made front page news. This resulted in a decline in the uptake of the vaccine – dropping to under 80% nationally and in some areas dropping to 60% uptake (BBC, no date; Smith, 2010). Due to this, cases of Measles increased – Britain having its first death from measles in 14 years – and Mumps grew to epidemic level in 2005 (Smith, 2010). In June 2006, it was announced that Wakefield was under investigation from the General Medical Council for alleged misconduct (Smith, 2010). The Sunday Times, in 2009, revealed that Wakefield had been paid by lawyers to create findings which would go against the 3 in 1 vaccination and had changed some of the results of his tests (Deer, 2009; Deer, 2011). Wakefield had used his knowledge and scientific literacy in an unethical way and had caused many children in our population to become seriously unwell, because of his incorrect findings. In 2015, it had been reported that there was no link between the vaccination and autism in children, after a study on 95,000 children which discredited Wakefield’s research (Boseley, 2015).

How is teaching fair testing in school science linked to scientific literacy?

When carrying out an experiment in a science lesson it is important that it is a fair test. This has to be done to ensure that the experiment is reliable and therefore, has the ability to have conclusions drawn from it. In order to conduct a fair test it is important that only one factor (variable) is changed and that all other factors and conditions are kept the same and as identical as possible. An example of a test could be measuring the speed of toy cars when moving down a hill. In order for this to be considered a fair test all variables including the gradient of the hill, the time they cars are let go and the way in which they are let go should all remain the same, the only factor which should change should be the car itself. This ensures that your test is fair and reliable.

The topic of fair testing when teaching science is very important as, children must ensure that each experiment they carry out is fair. Fair testing is a basic area of knowledge within science that children must know about in order to continue and progress onto more challenging things within the curricular subject.

Scientific literacy is all about using scientific knowledge to draw evidence-based conclusions. Therefore, fair testing is very much a part of this process as it is a necessary procedure used when gathering information and evidence from experiments. Also the ability to carry out a fair test is very much a scientific skill in its self which is fundamental, in order to progress in the subject of science.



BBC. (No date) Does the MMR Jab Cause Autism? Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2016)

Boseley, S. (2015) No link between MMR and autism, major study concludes. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2016)

Deer, B. (2009) MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2016)

Deer, B. (2011) The medical establishment shielded Andrew Wakefield from fraud claims. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2016)

Durant, J (1994). What is scientificc literacy?. European Review, 2, pp 83-89 doi:10.1017/S1062798700000922

IJESE, 2009 Scientific Literacy and Thailand Science Education (Accessed 13th February 2016)

Smith, R. (2010) Andrew Wakefield – the man behind the MMR controversy. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2016)



Placement Jitters

The idea of going on placement and getting fully involved with the primary setting is something which always excited me even before my start at university.  It was always something which I looked forward to.  I would not say that my excitement has dulled in anyway however, I would say that the nerves have began to creep in along side my excitement as the placement date becomes ever closer.  However, I feel that my observation day, last Tuesday has definitely put my nerves at ease.  I feel that getting to meet the class teacher, the class and other staff within the school has made me feel a lot more comfortable.  My teacher is very helpful and very open to me contributing as much as I can to the class, which I am very thankful for as I believe that with this support in place I can really achieve something and grow in my profession on my placement.  I really enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know the pupils in my class and finding out their personalities and interests, something which I wish to develop on when I start my placement.  At first when I found out I had a primary 7 class, I was quite apprehensive but since visiting the class I think I have began to embrace this.  I feel that some of the topics that are covered and the discussions which are held can be exceptionally interesting and detailed to a level that you could only get with a primary 7 class.  For example the class’s current theme is renewable energy something which I have limited knowledge on, therefore I had the chance of learning from the children.  This was an experience I very much enjoyed as I felt I had the opportunity to interact  while teaching the children and learning information for myself.  The width of knowledge in the classroom was astounding.  I can safely say that my observation day and helped to extinguish many of my pre-conceived nerves of placement and made me extremely excited to get involved and get started.

Photo from

Photo from


Myself and dancing! I don’t even know where to start on this topic.

Photo from morguefile,com

Photo from morguefile,com

It is safe to say that my experiences in dancing is very limited with my only experience being the compulsory week block of Scottish country dancing in primary school.  I feel that it was my lack of experience which initiated my lack of confidence in teaching dance, I believe this was because I was at a complete loss about what my lack of dancing ability could teach others.

However, after attending my dance input I have realised that it is very much focused on the individual areas which make up dance and not so much your ability to pull off a first class tango performance.  I feel that having the opportunity to take part in the dance input was a very valuable experience from which I believe I have gained a lot of confidence in the curricular area of dance.  I feel that by taking part in the input in the position of the children has given me an insight into how they would learn and what the best methods would be.  The input also allowed me to gain some ideas of warm up games, activities and group tasks which I can do with the children when I’m out on placement.  I found this incredibly helpful as I feel it gave me a starting point and gave me some information on the directions which I can take a dance lesson.

I feel that I am now a little more confident about teaching dance in the primary school and hope that it is a subject area which I can continue to develop my knowledge in.

Reflection on Examples

I put my hands up and admit that over the assignment and Christmas break period I started lagging behind on posting in my ePortfolio.  However, we were encouraged to read and reflect on our fellow students posts.  I feel like this really gave me the push of encouragement I needed to get back into the swing of posting, commenting and reflecting.  After reading my peers’ posts I noticed that each post was written in a way which provided a great amount of depth on the topic of the post.  In many cases the posts were written in such a detailed way that even as a reader you could get a vast amount of knowledge and information out of it.  On the more visual aspect, I noticed that a variety of media such as images, videos and hyperlinks had been used which I feel made the posts even more intriguing and interesting as it provided a visual aspect.  I feel that the hyperlinks were particularly helpful as they gave me the opportunity to read up further on the issues raised within the posts.

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Photo from

After reading everyone’s posts it as given me a lot of information on how I can improve my own posts and what I can add in to increase the interest of my posts.  I also noticed that a lot of the posts I read were on topics which the writer found interesting and relevant and were not necessarily TDT posts.  This has inspired me to put forward my own opinions on topical issues in my own blogposts.

Maths and Me

I recently attended my first couple of maths inputs and I would be completely lying if I said that the thought of them previously did not make me feel nervous, anxious and quite frankly down right scared.  My relationship with maths for as long as I can remember has never been great.  I just scraped by in maths and done what I had to do.  Without a doubt I was one of many that suffered with the notorious – maths anxiety.

Photo from

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I can trace my fear of maths all the way back to primary school and from then it has just continued to grow stronger, taking my confidence in maths and numeracy with it.  During my primary school days I can specifically remember never putting my hand up to answer a question, never getting involved in maths tasks and whenever I heard the words “we are playing around the world” I could instantly feel the lump in my throat.  My dislike of maths continued well into high school where I remained completely uninvolved and just done the bare minimum that was required.  As a result my attitude towards maths was always either “I don’t like it!” or “I cant do it!”.  However, looking back on this I now know that that wasn’t the case it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I didn’t want to try because I didn’t believe I was capable.

Despite this, throughout the years of trying to overcome my case of maths anxiety, I cannot say I am completely over it.  However, I feel that the introductory maths input has really helped me to change my attitude as well as slightly boosted my confidence in teaching maths.  I think this is because it presented maths in a way in which I had never previously thought about.  A prime example of this is a quote by Ollerton (2003) mentions that “Mathematics is beautiful, intriguing, elegant, logical, amazing and mind-blowing; a language and a set of systems and structures used to make sense of and describe the physical and natural world”.  Originally I was completely shocked by this statement as I would never have personally described mathematics as intriguing, never mind beautiful or elegant.  However, after the input with Tara and after witnessing her enthusiasm for her subject I can quite happily say that my opinion of maths is slowly changing for the better and I can only hope that it will continue to do so until I feel a sense of complete confidence in my own ability and my teaching of mathematics!

How has education changed?

The process on which education has evolved is something which I have always had questions about.  It is now, with out a doubt very different to what it was previously with the introduction of new technology, new material and more recently a brand new curriculum.  However, in many classrooms the process of sitting and listening o the teacher talk or write something on the board is still very much present.  This brings about the question: how much has education really changed?

I think everyone has heard the stories from their grandparents or older relatives reminiscing back to their own school days.  I for one have heard the words “you wouldn’t get away with that when I was at school!” and “it used to get drilled into you until you knew it back to front!” far too many times from my grandparents.  I am aware that this was the way in which education was seen a few decades ago, but is this really the best way to go about education,  is “drilling” knowledge into the children of today really necessary?

My view on this is that times have changed and so has education.  It appears to have been a gradual change but a positive progression none the less.  Education is constantly evolving and growing into new things every year.  A prime example of this is the exam systems, fair enough this is more catered to secondary schools but I still feel it is important to look at.  The processes, levels, grades and material involved in the examination process is constantly changing and some would argue that the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), is one of the biggest and most dramatic changes yet.  Along with this even the way we treat behaviour in schools has been transformed in recent years.  You only have to look back to the 1987 Education Act, according to the Sunday Herald to see the abolishment of the belt in state schools.  Compare that with today where we have so many different support systems in place to help tackle disruptive behaviour in schools.  Graduating from physical punishment to behavioural support in just under 30 years appears to be a clear example of the development of education.  The use of technology in schools is another very new and constantly improving area of education.  Technology is rapidly, if not already becoming part of our everyday classrooms and in my opinion for very good reason.  If we adapt our curriculum to reflect the outside world it is therefore necessary to include technology as we are now living in a world surrounded by ICT and weird and wonderful computer creations.

Relating back to my previous point, in many classrooms we do still listen to the teacher talk and write things from the board but I think the main thing to mention is that this is not the only teaching method.  Many teachers take it upon themselves to create a much more interactive and fun learning environment for their pupils.  Therefore, I think this answers the question on how much education has changed.  It has obviously been revolutionised and modernised over that past few decades but some aspects do stay the same.  This doesn’t mean we are stuck in the past but this simply means, in my opinion that certain of these “old-fashioned” methods still work.  I speak from personal experience that I learn from someone speaking to me about the information, therefore the process of the teacher standing and delivering the material works for me.  I am aware that this is not the case for everyone and feel that the process and adaptation of education is something which will continue to evolve and will hopefully come up with a variety of processes to suit the learning styles of all young people.


Working Co-operatively

I was recently going through my online units and one involved having to think about the benefits and challenges on working co-operatively.  This is something which I enjoyed thinking about and therefore wanting to post on my e-portfolio.

Working co-operatively to me means working along side others in order to achieve a certain goal or to discuss a certain topic.

I believe that working co-operatively can produce many benefits for all involved. Firstly, I feel that by working with others it gives you the opportunities to learn from one another and discuss certain topics. Through this process of discussion very valuable information can be thought about and questioned which often leads to better understanding. In my personal experience I feel that by working co-operatively I have the opportunity to listen to other people’s thoughts and opinions and as a result of this I often end up thinking about things that had never previously crossed my mind. Therefore I feel that by working co-operatively you have the opportunity to learn completely new things. Besides the areas of gaining knowledge and taking part in discussion, I also feel that working co-operatively provides the opportunity to get to know others which I feel can be very beneficial later in life, especially within the teaching profession.

As with most things, there are always challenges to working co-operatively. I believe the main challenge when working with others are different levels of motivation and commitment. It is important that everyone in the group is committed and wants to be a part of the discussion because if not, this can often lead to people not contributing and being left out of the discussion. Also if someone is more focused in being the leader of the group this could lead to tension as they may begin to become dictating and controlling of the group.

Overall, I believe that working co-operatively provides many benefits and that these benefits definitely outweigh the challenges. Although, challenges are apparent within co-operative working I feel that as long as these are monitored they can be dealt with and not affect the overall benefits of co-operative working.