Educational reform in the field of science was significantly affected by the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Americans felt threatened by the technological advancements of the Soviet Union causing an outcry from the American people which led to a reformation of science education. The federal government responded and today the scientific community continues the effort to develop scientific literacy and an understanding of the nature of science for all citizens.
Scientific Literacy & Nature of Science
Many educators today strive to educate their students to be scientifically literate, a term introduced during the 1970s. The National Science Education Standards define scientific literacy as "the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity" (National Science Education Standard, 1996). To develop scientific literacy, students need to have an understanding of the "nature of science." Norman and Judith Lederman define the phrase "nature of science" as the "values and assumptions inherent to scientific knowledge and the development of scientific knowledge" (Lederman & Lederman, 2004).
My goal is to expose my students to the following components of "scientific literacy" and the "nature of science" during my unit:
- ask, find, or determine answers to questions about everyday experiences.
- describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena.
- pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and apply conclusions appropriately (National Science Education Standard, 1996).
- all scientific knowledge is based, at least partially, on and/ or derived from observation of the natural world.
- although scientific knowledge is empirically based, it nevertheless involves human imagination and creativity (Lederman & Lederman, 2004).
To develop these skills Bybee (1995) suggests replacing large amounts of information students are required to learn with key concepts that can be taught more in depth. He also proposes integrating earth science, biology, chemistry, physics and even technology, math, ethics and social situations. These ideas are crucial to developing students, who are scientifically literate.
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