Science Literacy

I have been reading a book (review forthcoming) and it has me thinking a lot about what “scientific literacy” means, and how we as science teachers can teach guide our students to become more scientifically literate. In particular, I have been thinking about the context of my conceptual chemistry class, which is designed for students who need to complete their required full-year science course after 10th grade biology. Many of these students are not looking to go to college, and chances are this will be the last science class they ever take. I have dedicated a lot of thinking time to how I can better prepare them to be citizen scientists; using their scientific literacy productively in their lives outside of the classroom (and hopefully continuing to use it into the future).

There are two questions in particular that I have been pondering, and I was hoping to get some feedback from some other science teachers:

1. What does science literacy look like?

My initial thoughts:

  • Being familiar with scientific experiments; their design, drawing conclusions, interpreting data, etc.
  • Understanding the relationship between science and our society
  • Approaching things with a skeptical mindset (especially the “too-good-to-be-true”), BUT ALSO
  • Being open-minded to new ideas that have sufficient supporting evidence
  • Being critical of the source and reliability of information (especially related to science)
  • Understand that there is not always a “right” answer, but that science is always seeking the best answer possible

2. What do citizen scientists do? 

  • Evaluate scientific information and sources
  • Review evidence for scientific claims, especially ones that challenge their status quo
  • Make informed  scientific decisions (everything from food to politics)
  • Interpret scientific data and evaluate others’ conclusions about the same data

What do you think? What else should be added to these lists? Any thoughts in the comments are greatly appreciated.