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Improving Quality of Science Teacher Training in European Cooperation

  Assessing Science for Understanding (CZ) Training Module Based on Socio-cognitive Constructivism (CY) European Dimension in Integrated Science Education (LT) Development Procedural Skills in Science Education (BG) Using Laboratory to Enhance Student Learning and Scientific Inquiry (TR)  
Unit 1 - Scientific and technology literacy. Components and level of scientific literacy Unit 2 - Constructivist approach in Science education Unit 3 - Building and developing process science skills
Unit 4 - Strategies for supporting process skills development and assessment Unit 5 - Plan, organize and deliver an active learning project  

Unit 1
Scientific and technology literacy. Components and level of scientific literacy

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Scientific and technology literacy. Components and level of scientific literacy


After working on this topic students will:
Training text (divided in parts)
Importance of scientific literacy

A person needs scientific literacy in order to understand articles in newspapers, to understand public debates, discussions on TV. A complete personality should be able to evaluate the world around him or her and to make a personal choice. That is related to understanding of natural laws and influence of science upon our life. In the era of scientific discoveries, scientific knowledge becomes part of our life and it has an impact on the intellectual atmosphere of this period.

Definition of scientific literacy

In literature there are different definitions of scientific literacy and there is a widely spread idea of the impossibility a single definition including all characteristics of the notion to be given.

According to Hazen [1] scientific literacy is a system of basic science knowledge, the way of its formation and development of ability for its creative use in daily round, for solving problems, related to improvement of life standard. Scientific literacy is based on acquisition of scientific knowledge and skills on intellectual, communicative, social, and interdisciplinary levels.

According to Holbrook [2]: Scientific literacy is much more than acquisition of a system of knowledge and knowledge about its formation. It presupposes knowing basic scientific principles and it is a blend of conceptions, history and philosophy. So an opportunity is given to a person with scientific literacy to answer certain questions, to understand the news in media to have a personal position in civil and cultural work, and such related to economic productivity. A person having scientific literacy is able to interpret and foresee natural phenomena.

Scientific literacy is not a specific and full of exotic phrases language used by experts. Having it students and all other people won’t necessary be able to make new medicine or to determine the orbit of a spaceship.

According to PISA “scientific literacy is the ability to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and make conclusions based on evidence, so as to understand and support decision making related to nature and human induced changes in it.” [3].

Prenzel (2001) and Fisher (1998)think scientific literacy is [4]:
Components and levels of scientific literacy

Analyzing the previously mentioned descriptions one could determine some of the components of scientific literacy:

Putting science into practice but not creating science is the core of scientific literacy. Some scientists and teachers think that science training aims at forming in students mathematical, scientifically exact and complex vocabulary. They want it to be a main task in the learning process at secondary school. This means assimilation of scientific knowledge on a deeper level, as all important aspects of scientific literacy are ignored. Efforts of creating science are different from putting science into practice, and scientific literacy is related only to the latter [5].

Some scientists focus their attention on working in their own professional field in such a way that, in fact, they do not have scientific literacy. Surprisingly, intensive learning of a specific science problem does not require scientific literacy. Research work done shows that actively working scientists are unacquainted with scientific themes beyond their own professional field. There is a study on the ability of physics and geology scientists to explain differences between DNA and RNA – notions of a modern sphere in contemporary biology. The result shows that the small numbers of scientists, who have given right answer, work in such a field where this knowledge is needed. Training of professional scientists is as strictly fixed as training of every other group of specialists. Ideas about scientific literacy concern scientists themselves to the same extent as any other people; these scientists out of their specific research work are like all the other people [5].

Bearing in mind what a scientific literacy is, it is useful for one to know what should not be considered as scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is often mistaken with technological literacy –a skill to work with common instruments, such as computer, etc. Technological literacy is truly important to contemporary society, but it is different from scientific literacy.

Students (common people) could be scientifically literate to a different extent. We know the following levels of scientific literacy [5]:

Scientific literacy based on science training is treated as part of education, it has social perspective, and its main principles are constructivist principles.

Criticism about the idea of scientific literacy

A scholar of didactics who criticizes educational objectives related to the idea of scientific literacy is the German scholar Shamos (1996) [6]. According to his opinion only good enough experts could share their viewpoint about matters of great importance to the whole society; and in this context formation of scientific literacy in young people is not necessary. Experts in public matters do not always take rationally scholars’ argument; that is why only a study group is obliged to give arguments in making important decisions. Common people could hardly estimate impartially and independently the significance of phenomena and facts. Scientific literacy does not give the competence which students need in life. It is enough for education to provide training of scientific specialists, and to build in them faith in scientific methods and scientific process.

Ways of acquisition of scientific literacy

Science teachers can provide different ways of building scientific literacy. They have a responsibility to give all adolescents general scientific knowledge and to help them in dealing with the unceasing change in life today; life which is strongly affected by science development and technology development. With their purposeful teaching activity science teachers should organize science training in such a way, that formation of scientific literacy in students to be an important and anticipated result.

Bearing in mind the fundamental role of National Education Standards, Content Standard Categories, first in them should be laid an accent on acquisition of scientific literacy [7, 8]. In them there should be ideas, related to nature of science, and there should be requirements for knowing the methods and specific ways for building scientific knowledge-observation, thinking, experimentation, demonstration, and practice. These methods for acquisition of scientific knowledge differ from other methods of knowledge (humanitarian, for example).

Building a scientific outlook through offering proper study content is another basic idea for formation of scientific literacy. Some of the characteristics of scientific outlook are related to the understanding that events in the Universe happen in a steady order and they are comparable to one another, and are harmonious, and can be examined carefully and systematically. Scientists believe that through using the intellect as an instrument widening people’s sensuousness, nature could be studied; i.e. the world could be understood.

In science it is accepted that the Universe is one whole system and knowledge about a definite part of it could refer to another part of it. For example, the law that explains the motion of objects falling to the ground is the same that explains the motion of planets. The same principles are valid also for forces having another character – the motion of nuclear particles, massive stars, ships, and sunbeams.

Scientific ideas are liable to change and development. Development of scientific knowledge is inevitable, because every new observation could change the established theory. No matter how well a theory explains given facts, it is possible another theory to change it and to improve it. Denying and building theories is typical for the whole historical development of science, and at the same time scientific knowledge is steady and their putting into practice has certain limits.

An important component of scientific literacy is finding the way to scientific knowledge, and structure, and character of science. In the content of physics subject for secondary education there is a considerable number of themes that offer opportunities for description of the following characteristics of science: Science is searching for evidence, it is a blend of logic and imagination, in science there are explanations and predictions. Science does not obey to dictators, it is not dictatorial. It is a complex of social activities. It is organized in subjects and it is related to different research institutes. There are some basic ethical principles in science, and one of them is public problems to be solved by scientists together with common people.

The relation of Science literacy with the National Educational Standards for teaching content

What opportunities National Education Standards (2000) give for building scientific literacy in students at Bulgarian secondary school?

We will consider part of National Education Standards about physics learning in 8th class (15 year-old students) at Bulgarian school [9].

Here are placed the three components of scientific literacy:

The planned in National Education Standard knowledge about ecological problems has a great impact on society and it is basic for building an active civil position. The requirement for formation of ethical behavior towards common activities and discipline for work safety correspond to realizing the character of science – team-work is basic for creating science and, so is the respect for moral standards.

The review done on National Education Standards (to be exact-on those related to 8th class at Bulgarian school) shows that in the essence of the document there are ideas for building scientific literacy in Bulgarian students. The expression and development of these ideas in the content of physics at school, combined with the active and purposeful activity of a teacher in physics, is a condition for the successful realization of the ideas.

Tasks (assignments)

Case study

During the studies students answer the questions following the texts. They also discuss National Education Standards related to 9th and 10th class, considering the opportunities the standards give for building scientific literacy.

Questions to Case Study


Scientific literacy is an ability scientific knowledge to be used for putting questions and drawing conclusions based on evidence in order the problems to be understood; and making decisions, related to nature and the changes which human activity causes to it, to be made easier. Scientific literacy has the following levels: normal scientific literacy, structural scientific literacy, and a scientific literacy with many factors. Scientific literacy includes three components: general scientific notions, ideas, and conceptions which are important to the outlook; knowledge related to the way of scientific knowledge; and knowledge related to realizing the role of science, its character, and the relationship between science, technology, and society. Formation of scientific literacy at school is related to a proper choice of physics content and to a teacher’s will for organizing the learning process, in such a way that the ideas important to the world outlook to be highlighted, and the role and significance of science to be presented.

Frequently Asked Questions

Next Reading




  1. Hazen R., Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
  2. Holbrook J., Rannikmae M., STL Guidebook, Introducing a Philosophy and Teaching Approach for Science Education, 2000
  3. The Programme for International Student Assessment – PISA (01.12.2008)
  4. Draxler D., Aufgabendesign und Basismodellorientier Physikunterrichten, Dissertation, 2005, Universitat Duisburg-Essen
  5. A developing-world take on science literacy, Bruce Lewenstein, 8 January 2003,: SciDev.Net
  6. Shamos M., The Myth of Scientific Literacy, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1996
  7. Laherty J, Promoting Information Literacy for Science Education Programs: Correlating the National Science Education Content Standards with the Associati
  8. Laherty J, Promoting Information Literacy for Science Education Programs: Correlating the National Science Education Content Standards with the Association of College and Research Libraries Information Competency Standards for Higher Education, California State University, Hayward
  9. Oliver J., David F. Jackson, A. Kemp, Sajin Chun and etc., The Concept of Scientific Literacy, a view of the Current Debate as on Outgrowth of the Past Two Centuries, University of Georgia,
  10. Учебна програма по физика и астрономия за 8-ми клас – http://www.minedu.government.bg/opencms/opencms/left_menu/documents/educational_programs/ (01.12.12008)