Deepening our understanding: Science Literacy

Richard Holme organised; Lauren Summers, Amy Turner, Hannah Stillwell and myself into a group to work on a mini assignment exploring our knowledge of science literacy.  During this TDT I researched more into science literacy which deepened my knowledge of it, as did reading what the others had researched about it. Working together gave us the opportunity to hear different individuals opinions which may have led to discussions about the topic. Richard split up the work for this TDT into sections of which we then took the responsibility of one each:

  1. What is Scientific Literacy? – Lauren Summers
  2. An example of inaccurate media reporting. – Amy Turner
  3. Fair testing. – Myself
  4. Proof Reading and Referencing. – Hannah Stillwell

Scientific Literacy.

Scientific literacy is the theory of scientific approaches and developments which uses written, numerical and digital literacy in order to help people gain a better understanding of science. It has begun to be viewed as the primary goal of school science and can be described as ‘what the general public ought to know about science’ (Durant, 1993, p.129).

Jenkins (1994) talks about ‘Scientific Literacy’ as implying ‘an appreciation of the nature, aims and general limitations of science, coupled with some understanding of the more important scientific ideas” (p.5345). Through using scientific literacy people are now being able to question, discover and calculate the answers to queries that have come about as a result of people’s interest in everyday experiences.

‘A scientifically literate student is able to apply their knowledge of scientific concepts and processes to the evaluation of issues and problems that may arise and to the decisions that they make in their daily life, about the natural world and changes made to it through human activity’ (NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2011)

There have been many different news articles that have incorrectly reported ‘discoveries in scientific research’. One of the most recent examples is of a ‘new planet’ that was supposedly discovered in our solar system.

Amanda Watts (2016) reported that ‘Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found evidence in the outer solar system of an object that could be a real ninth planet.’ This article strongly implied that a new planet had been discovered arousing much excitement in the scientific community.

A reporter for the Daily Mirror, Jasper Hamill (2016), then refuted this claim by quoting NASA’s director of planetary science, Jim Green, as having said that although this was ‘the start of a process that could lead to an exciting result it is not, however, the detection of a new planet.’

This goes to show that what we read in the media may not always be firmly backed up by scientific research. This once again highlights the importance of one’s own scientific literacy in being able to compare sources and not just belief the incorrectly reported scientific discoveries that the media portray as being fact.

As previously mentioned, scientific literacy is when an individual has the capacity to use their own scientific knowledge to identify queries which arise in everyday life and to relate these to their own experiences allowing them to come to a sound conclusion.

A fair test is when an experiment is carried out in a controlled manner with each variable being strictly monitored.  Within a fair test only one variable must change whilst everything else about the experiment stays the same.  In order to know which variable must change and which variables must be constant one requires a level of scientific literacy.

To know how and why the variables must be kept the same also requires a person to be scientifically literate as they must understand the theory behind the experiment.

Scientific literacy also allows an individual to form a hypothesis for their experiment by drawing on their own experience and by researching and problem solving for themselves.


Dunne, M. and Peacock, A. (2011) Primary Science: A guide to Teaching Practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Durant, J.R, 1993. ‘What is Scientific Literacy?’  Science and culture in Europe, Edited by: Durant, J.R and Gregory, J. 129-137. London: Science Museum.

Hamill, Jasper. (2016) NASA speaks out about ‘Planet 9′ discovery – and it’s bad news for everyone. Available at: (Accessed: 1/2/2016).

Jenekins, E.W. 1994. ‘Scientific Literacy.’ The International Encyclopaedia of Education, 2nd ed. Edited by: Hunsen, T. and Postlethwaite, T.N. Vol.9, 5345-5350. London: Pergamon.

National Science and Education Standards (1996) Scientific Literacy. Available at: (Accessed on: 11/02/2016)

NSW Department of Education and Communities. (2011) What is Scientific Literacy? Available at: (Accessed on: 11/02/2016)

Science Buddies (2016) Variables for Beginners. Available at: on: 11/02/2016)

Watts, Amanda. (2016) Ninth planet may have been discovered, researchers say. Available at: (Accessed: 1/2/2016).

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