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Scientific Literacy

Man-is-good
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2/5/2012 9:15:01 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Scientific literacy is defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific principles....Oftentimes, as set by United States National Center for Education Statistics itself, it encompasses a set of abilities: understanding that experimentation AND reasoning (I place the "AND" to emphasize the fact that lack of direct observation or experimentation of a theory or process does not wholly disqualify it...) as basic tenets in science, ability to engage in conversations over scientific literature (although not in the cant one would expect that scientists speak) and so forth.

Recent surveys, one of which were shown in the following article, http://www.csa.com..., show the relatively lack of grasp of scientific literacy.....which is troubling considering the significance such literacy poses in the panoply of skills....There are, as argued by the writer of the author herself--numerous benefits: increasing dependence of the world on technology, with the science that enables it to occur and its role cemented, as well as benefits of a "civic scientific literacy" to enable a democracy to become efficient (given the public's role in legislative decisions, for example and how the recent debates on climate change, use of the country's supply of natural resources, and so forth), and especially in the maintenance of the economy. ("Another aspect of the importance of scientific literacy is strongly emphasized by the SEI 2006 report, which points out the importance of specialized knowledge in maintaining the U.S. economy and in enduring competition in the world market. For the past five decades the growth rate of Science and Technology (S&T) jobs in the U.S. has outpaced the rate of growth of citizens trained to fill these jobs.")

My question is how has the current education system, of the United States in particular (though not necessarily restricted to), has caused such a lack of scientific literacy to occur?

And, as a follow-up, what changes and reforms would be advisable to promote scientific literacy, given its importance?
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Man-is-good
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2/6/2012 11:43:28 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Response?
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Atheism
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2/6/2012 11:50:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Prevalence of preexisting bias against material taught stemming from indoctrination leads to not learning said material and thus failing, and lowering our collective standard of science.
Just yesterday I witnessed a girl rejecting the established age of the earth due to prior teachings by parents.
Solution?
Force people to have an open mind.
Possibility of this ocurring? Slim.
I miss the old members.
Logic_on_rails
Posts: 2,445
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2/7/2012 2:05:09 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
An interesting topic.

One of the thing that I think is critical is how science is taught. It's very heavy on content as opposed to concepts which serves as a deterrent to studying science for many students. Science is (for my year) perceived as the most difficult of tests due to the sheer amount of content. In your linked article it states:

"The project identified deficiencies in K-12 education, including curriculums attempting to cover too much information with too little depth, unsatisfactory text books, and methods of instruction that did not adequately promote the learning process (Nelson, 1999)"

The quote is very accurate. There is little depth and often what one perceives as the 'awe' of science is missing from the classroom. I've read physics books before in my spare time, but science at school can be boring and difficult. Coupled with irritating textbooks and problems occur. Obviously, fixing this has it's effects.

However, the main issue is the retention of knowledge. The current education system (US and other countries) has been tending towards more standardised tests (Want to know why this isn't great? Aacademic Yong Zhao is a great person to read) and such. In effect, a greater emphasis is being placed on tests themselves. The issue with this is that tests can't accurately measure understanding of a subject and rewards guessing and massed presentation. Guessing is countered by confidence assessment marking http://www.debate.org... (a debate of mine on the topic) .

Most important though is massed vs. spaced presentation which comes up in this debate of mine http://www.debate.org... . To put it simply, the spacing effect http://en.wikipedia.org... is critical. People remember things better when they study a few times over a long period of time vs. repeated study over a short period of time. However and this is key:

"Practically, this effect suggests that "cramming" (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals over a much longer span of time. However, the benefit of spaced presentations does not appear at short retention intervals; that is, at short retention intervals, massed presentations lead to better memory performance than spaced presentations."

(emphasis was mine)

Essentially, the design of tests and the fact that too much focus is placed on tests leads to a lessening in scientific literacy because content is not remembered and the literacy taught / focused on is only that which is sure to be on a test. So, I'd recommend confidence assessment marking and the promotion of spaced presentation (maybe through unknown examination dates; unsure) to help improve scientific literacy.

Scientific literacy is improving however, so we need not fear too much. Indeed, to be 'scientifically literate' in the modern age is likely tougher than in days gone by because there is so much more to know.

I admit that my solutions are limited in scope and don't address many issues like teacher quality and what should be taught in the science curriculum. My knowledge doesn't extend that far. MIG, what solutions would you have?
"Tis not in mortals to command success
But we"ll do more, Sempronius, we"ll deserve it
Man-is-good
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2/7/2012 3:42:17 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/7/2012 2:05:09 AM, Logic_on_rails wrote:
An interesting topic.

One of the thing that I think is critical is how science is taught. It's very heavy on content as opposed to concepts which serves as a deterrent to studying science for many students. Science is (for my year) perceived as the most difficult of tests due to the sheer amount of content. In your linked article it states:

"The project identified deficiencies in K-12 education, including curriculums attempting to cover too much information with too little depth, unsatisfactory text books, and methods of instruction that did not adequately promote the learning process (Nelson, 1999)"

Indeed. I have spent much time reading review-books but unfortunately, I am left with little grasp of the content: there are numerous concepts--net ionic equations, chemical formulas, bonding, but little depth--specifically the reason for such occurrence or even the true importance in terms of practicality or real life.

Scientific literacy focuses, as I wrote before, on the ability to place one's understanding of concepts (not mere memorization) in terms of everyday life or even in consideration of a certain argument. While it is important to KNOW the basic concepts themselves, it proves a bit frustrating that scientific learning--(judging from my own experience) has been restricted to do nows, lesson plans, lab sheets (which are too helpful) and so forth.

The quote is very accurate. There is little depth and often what one perceives as the 'awe' of science is missing from the classroom. I've read physics books before in my spare time, but science at school can be boring and difficult. Coupled with irritating textbooks and problems occur. Obviously, fixing this has it's effects.

However, the main issue is the retention of knowledge. The current education system (US and other countries) has been tending towards more standardised tests (Want to know why this isn't great? Aacademic Yong Zhao is a great person to read) and such. In effect, a greater emphasis is being placed on tests themselves. The issue with this is that tests can't accurately measure understanding of a subject and rewards guessing and massed presentation. Guessing is countered by confidence assessment marking http://www.debate.org... (a debate of mine on the topic) .

One of my main criticisms is that standardized tests often sterilize the field; it sets a strict curriculum and places pressure on teachers who, given the large panolpy of concepts, notions, and so forth to teach, are forced to cover such materials on only a superficial level.


Most important though is massed vs. spaced presentation which comes up in this debate of mine http://www.debate.org... . To put it simply, the spacing effect http://en.wikipedia.org... is critical. People remember things better when they study a few times over a long period of time vs. repeated study over a short period of time. However and this is key:

"Practically, this effect suggests that "cramming" (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals over a much longer span of time. However, the benefit of spaced presentations does not appear at short retention intervals; that is, at short retention intervals, massed presentations lead to better memory performance than spaced presentations."

(emphasis was mine)

Essentially, the design of tests and the fact that too much focus is placed on tests leads to a lessening in scientific literacy because content is not remembered and the literacy taught / focused on is only that which is sure to be on a test. So, I'd recommend confidence assessment marking and the promotion of spaced presentation (maybe through unknown examination dates; unsure) to help improve scientific literacy.

Scientific literacy is improving however, so we need not fear too much. Indeed, to be 'scientifically literate' in the modern age is likely tougher than in days gone by because there is so much more to know.

I admit that my solutions are limited in scope and don't address many issues like teacher quality and what should be taught in the science curriculum. My knowledge doesn't extend that far. MIG, what solutions would you have?

I would say perhaps, in response to your rather well-written discussion (to which I cannot modify or add to), I'd ask for:

1. the Regents examination to be FULLY eliminated and set curriculums generalized
2. teachers to rely less on using textbooks and emphasize more creativity and stimulate flexibility of view

as well as for the division of science courses over four years instead of merely one....
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Logic_on_rails
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2/8/2012 1:38:41 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/7/2012 3:42:17 PM, Man-is-good wrote:


Indeed. I have spent much time reading review-books but unfortunately, I am left with little grasp of the content: there are numerous concepts--net ionic equations, chemical formulas, bonding, but little depth--specifically the reason for such occurrence or even the true importance in terms of practicality or real life.

We seem to agree on this topic a lot! The lack of a relation to the application of scientific knowledge lessens the incentive to remember something, hence students don't see value in remembering science. They say in the humanities subjects to link to the question; science teaching doesn't link to any question normally.

Scientific literacy focuses, as I wrote before, on the ability to place one's understanding of concepts (not mere memorization) in terms of everyday life or even in consideration of a certain argument. While it is important to KNOW the basic concepts themselves, it proves a bit frustrating that scientific learning--(judging from my own experience) has been restricted to do nows, lesson plans, lab sheets (which are too helpful) and so forth.



I would say perhaps, in response to your rather well-written discussion (to which I cannot modify or add to), I'd ask for:

1. the Regents examination to be FULLY eliminated and set curriculums generalized

Just checked up what the heck the Regents examination was (I'm from Australia) . Curriculums should be generalised I agree. I however think that the Regents examination would do well to be kept to test the absolute essentials. The problem with the examination (and with education) is that minimum standards are set so high as to hinder learning of any other kind outside what is covered under said standards. If the standards are lowered sufficiently the problem should be adequately resolved.

2. teachers to rely less on using textbooks and emphasize more creativity and stimulate flexibility of view

Definitely. Also, liberty for students in how they learn if they can make some form of case for how they learn effectively.

as well as for the division of science courses over four years instead of merely one....

HSC courses in my state divide sciences for 2 years (prior to that you are forced to be at school and there's no division) . I like this idea immensely though.

Sidenote: MIG, over time I've seen that you're quite well versed on educational issues (ie. the world history textbook review document) . Are there any places to read up on the articles you seem to find? I'd be interested in having such discussions.
"Tis not in mortals to command success
But we"ll do more, Sempronius, we"ll deserve it
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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2/8/2012 7:14:32 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
No one is really interested in scientific literacy. I fancy most find it intimidating. Try engaging people in conversation about it, and theyre resistant. What makes you think they'd go through the trouble of studying it?

I used to blame the American education system, but now, I just blame Americans. They just sit inside all day and do nothing but play with their toys, then have the gall to call the reality they know nothing about boring.
kogline
Posts: 134
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2/9/2012 8:31:42 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/5/2012 9:15:01 PM, Man-is-good wrote:
Scientific literacy is defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific principles....Oftentimes, as set by United States National Center for Education Statistics itself, it encompasses a set of abilities: understanding that experimentation AND reasoning (I place the "AND" to emphasize the fact that lack of direct observation or experimentation of a theory or process does not wholly disqualify it...) as basic tenets in science, ability to engage in conversations over scientific literature (although not in the cant one would expect that scientists speak) and so forth.

Recent surveys, one of which were shown in the following article, http://www.csa.com..., show the relatively lack of grasp of scientific literacy.....which is troubling considering the significance such literacy poses in the panoply of skills....There are, as argued by the writer of the author herself--numerous benefits: increasing dependence of the world on technology, with the science that enables it to occur and its role cemented,

so we need to know every circuit in our computers, every piece of our cars engine, how all the plumbing works, all the optic laws that allow our glasses to work, what makes the refrigerator work, how hydrocarbons potential energy is harnessed to heat our homes and cook our foods, and so many many other things that we use every day. not only is it unnecessary, it is impractical to try to understand how every thing you use works. what is the point?

as well as benefits of a "civic scientific literacy" to enable a democracy to become efficient (given the public's role in legislative decisions, for example and how the recent debates on climate change, use of the country's supply of natural resources, and so forth), and especially in the maintenance of the economy.


ok, i agree that this could be useful. although another possible solution is to do away with democracy and have some sort of meritocratic aristocracy that has specialized knowlege instead of trying to teach every single person of varying intelligences and interest levels and making them care enough to put in the effort.

("Another aspect of the importance of scientific literacy is strongly emphasized by the SEI 2006 report, which points out the importance of specialized knowledge in maintaining the U.S. economy and in enduring competition in the world market.


this is actually arguing against your conclusion. specialized knowledge implies a focus on one concept to the maximum as opposed to every concept to some extent. this also applies to our scientific community not our community at large. i very much agree our scientific community should be well educated and supported, however i think it is counterproductive to use our resources trying to educate everyone, instead of focusing on elite.

For the past five decades the growth rate of Science and Technology (S&T) jobs in the U.S. has outpaced the rate of growth of citizens trained to fill these jobs.")


theres plenty of people in other countries that could fill these positions im sure, while were training our best why not grab a few of india, china, and europes best?

My question is how has the current education system, of the United States in particular (though not necessarily restricted to), has caused such a lack of scientific literacy to occur?

by focusing too much on the broad education of the masses, instead of specialized education for those who would give the most bang for out educational buck.

And, as a follow-up, what changes and reforms would be advisable to promote scientific literacy, given its importance?

reduce primary education, both in scope and length, to the bare bones such as reading, writing, arithmetic, maybe some history and critical thinking. increase secondary education, make it more widely available while maintaining meritocratic entry barriers.
if state farm has perfected teleportation technology why do they still sell car insurance?
kogline
Posts: 134
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2/9/2012 8:35:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
i mean not trying to be abrasive or condescending, i just truly dont understand why people feel that it is of such a high importance that every single person ever must know that the earth is round. its just not that big a deal.
if state farm has perfected teleportation technology why do they still sell car insurance?
Man-is-good
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2/10/2012 3:41:19 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/9/2012 8:31:42 PM, kogline wrote:
so we need to know every circuit in our computers, every piece of our cars engine, how all the plumbing works, all the optic laws that allow our glasses to work, what makes the refrigerator work, how hydrocarbons potential energy is harnessed to heat our homes and cook our foods, and so many many other things that we use every day. not only is it unnecessary, it is impractical to try to understand how every thing you use works. what is the point?
Should practicality be considered a factor in our learning?

ok, i agree that this could be useful. although another possible solution is to do away with democracy and have some sort of meritocratic aristocracy that has specialized knowlege instead of trying to teach every single person of varying intelligences and interest levels and making them care enough to put in the effort.
What would determine their initial interest levels in the course then? How would you account for this "intelligence" that would allow them to grasp the concepts and basics?


this is actually arguing against your conclusion. specialized knowledge implies a focus on one concept to the maximum as opposed to every concept to some extent.
Agreed.

this also applies to our scientific community not our community at large. i very much agree our scientific community should be well educated and supported, however i think it is counterproductive to use our resources trying to educate everyone, instead of focusing on elite.
Interesting....
For the past five decades the growth rate of Science and Technology (S&T) jobs in the U.S. has outpaced the rate of growth of citizens trained to fill these jobs.")


theres plenty of people in other countries that could fill these positions im sure, while were training our best why not grab a few of india, china, and europes best?

My question is how has the current education system, of the United States in particular (though not necessarily restricted to), has caused such a lack of scientific literacy to occur?

by focusing too much on the broad education of the masses, instead of specialized education for those who would give the most bang for out educational buck.
Would increasing the base of the elite or strengthening it by educating the masses help?

And, as a follow-up, what changes and reforms would be advisable to promote scientific literacy, given its importance?

reduce primary education, both in scope and length, to the bare bones such as reading, writing, arithmetic, maybe some history and critical thinking. increase secondary education, make it more widely available while maintaining meritocratic entry barriers.

Where does educating shift from teaching the basics to the facts then?
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
kogline
Posts: 134
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2/11/2012 7:34:08 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/10/2012 3:41:19 PM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 2/9/2012 8:31:42 PM, kogline wrote:
so we need to know every circuit in our computers, every piece of our cars engine, how all the plumbing works, all the optic laws that allow our glasses to work, what makes the refrigerator work, how hydrocarbons potential energy is harnessed to heat our homes and cook our foods, and so many many other things that we use every day. not only is it unnecessary, it is impractical to try to understand how every thing you use works. what is the point?
Should practicality be considered a factor in our learning?

i think so.

ok, i agree that this could be useful. although another possible solution is to do away with democracy and have some sort of meritocratic aristocracy that has specialized knowlege instead of trying to teach every single person of varying intelligences and interest levels and making them care enough to put in the effort.
What would determine their initial interest levels in the course then? How would you account for this "intelligence" that would allow them to grasp the concepts and basics?

there would be noticeable differences in proficiency even in just arithmetic and writing, however we could probably add a general class as i dont think the public should be entirely ignorant, however resources in general should be more focused on those that will use them to create more.


this is actually arguing against your conclusion. specialized knowledge implies a focus on one concept to the maximum as opposed to every concept to some extent.
Agreed.

this also applies to our scientific community not our community at large. i very much agree our scientific community should be well educated and supported, however i think it is counterproductive to use our resources trying to educate everyone, instead of focusing on elite.
Interesting....
For the past five decades the growth rate of Science and Technology (S&T) jobs in the U.S. has outpaced the rate of growth of citizens trained to fill these jobs.")


theres plenty of people in other countries that could fill these positions im sure, while were training our best why not grab a few of india, china, and europes best?

My question is how has the current education system, of the United States in particular (though not necessarily restricted to), has caused such a lack of scientific literacy to occur?

by focusing too much on the broad education of the masses, instead of specialized education for those who would give the most bang for out educational buck.
Would increasing the base of the elite or strengthening it by educating the masses help?

And, as a follow-up, what changes and reforms would be advisable to promote scientific literacy, given its importance?

reduce primary education, both in scope and length, to the bare bones such as reading, writing, arithmetic, maybe some history and critical thinking. increase secondary education, make it more widely available while maintaining meritocratic entry barriers.

Where does educating shift from teaching the basics to the facts then?

i have some calculus hw to do so im just going to skip this one, sorry.
if state farm has perfected teleportation technology why do they still sell car insurance?