Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Project: thinking about science

The word science is derived from a latin word scientia meaning an organized body of theoretical knowledge.  Giving a precise definition of science is difficult as there is little consensus in the scientific community as to what that definition should be.   When discussing science what is often discussed are products of science or scientific methodology.   That is, making use of scientific findings (scientific products).  Even though this description provides part of the picture it is an incomplete description regarding the enormous enterprise of science. Science in various contexts has huge implications and a comprehensive study should be approached using a multi-disciplinary approach.   A comprehensive understanding of the implications of science requires more than the procedural skills to conduct research. Acquiring general or domain specific knowledge or citing studies is important, but doesn't indicate scientific cognition, or a comprehensive understanding of science.
Project: thinking about science involves pilot studies, assessments, a wide range of samples, full studies, scale design, univariate, bivariate and multivariate stats.  The project is a long term commitment with an emphasis on examining the association among various measures of science and finding predictors that may be useful regarding scientific achievement in an array of domains. Science is hard work.  The project will involve a number of people from various disciplines. 
Scientific literacy vs. Scientific cognition (thinking, reasoning)

Scientific literacy has been conceptualized  in various ways (see; Norris & Phillips, 2002).  Examples include understanding science and its applications, knowledge of what counts as science, knowledge of risks and benefits of science, etc.  In the current research scientific literacy is synonymous with general scientific knowledge that involves various domains.  This form of literacy is sometimes referred to as derived scientific literacy.  Scientific cognition is not the same thing as scientific literacy; it involves multiple components and sub-components (Feist, 2006).  Deanna Kuhn asserts that the essence of scientific thinking is coordinating belief with evidence (2001).  At the very least scientific cognition involves philosophy of science, scientific methodology, quantitative reasoning, probabilistic reasoning and elements of deductive and inductive logic.
Various scales have been developed to measure scientific thinking / reasoning / cognition.  Kahan developed a scale called the Ordinary Science Intelligence Scale (OSI_2.0, Kahan, 2014).  Drummond and Fischhoff (2015) developed the Scientific Reasoning Scale.  Drummond and Fischhoff found that measures of scientific reasoning were distinct from measures of scientific literacy.  Kevin Dunbar (2000) and Zimmerman (2005) have also conducted research on scientific thinking.  Dunbar's research mostly involves examining cognitive processes underpinning thinking during the research process, while Zimmerman's research is broader, examining various scales, and development patterns of scientific thought.  Fugelsang et al. (2004) have examined strategies that scientists and non-scientists use to evaluate data that is consistent or non-consistent with expectations. 

Stage 1: Current research

Sam Sloss and I are working on a paper that involves a large number of outcomes, including measures of general scientific knowledge, attitudes towards science and confidence in science.  The paper also involves an array of stats; univariate and multi-variate statistical procedures are used.

The development of a new scientific literacy scale and scientific cognition scale are also in the process.  Soon, the scales will be administered, in a pilot study, to University students.  Cronbach's alpha will be utilized once data is collected.  The scale might need to be modified  before using in studies. 
We are in the early stages of the project and hope to advance at moderate pace.  I plan on making progress reports consistently.  In the end my hope is that a large amount of data will be collected and can be utilized to further advance science and provide everyone interested in science useful information.  

References available upon request