Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

More Than Scientific Literacy

Discussions involving scientific literacy are ubiquitous. Scientific literacy is conceptualized and operationalized  in various ways (see; Norris & Phillips, 2002).  Examples used in defining scientific literacy include: understanding science and its applications, knowledge of what counts as science, general scientific knowledge, knowledge of risks and benefits of science, etc. Numerous scales are used to measure scientific literacy.   In my 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. The various forms of scientific literacy are important, but there are many other relevant science related concepts, that are as important or maybe more important.

What about scientific cognition (thinking)? 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 logic. Scientific cognition requires specific cognitive abilities and cognitive style (thinking disposition). 
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.
Attitudes about science, predictors of scientific eminence, association between scientific measures, rudimentary knowledge regarding meta-sciences  and group difference relating to scientific concepts are other important topics, that receive less attention than general scientific knowledge.  All of these topics are important!  A comprehensive understanding and appreciation of science and its wide range of implications is a complex task.  
Current Research
Myself and colleagues are developing and modifying instruments for the assessment of scientific cognition and scientific literacy (general scientific knowledge).  We have completed a prototype for each, and we are currently using the instruments in a study examining the relationship between scientific cognition and scientific literacy. Each instrument consists of 14 questions. The scales are derivations from previously used scales. Upon completion of the study we will probably modify the instruments accordingly.  We plan on running a statistical analysis of internal consistency once the measures are complete. 
I am working with a colleague on an additional paper that involves measures of general scientific knowledge, attitudes toward science, relationships between / among various science concepts and group differences regarding science outcomes. This is a relatively long paper that presents a relatively large number of statistics.   
These studies are part of "Project: thinking about science."  We are also in the intermediate stages of the development of a seminar that will encompass information on the vast goals and implications of "Project: thinking about science." 

References are available upon request
You can contact me jamie.hale1@gmail.com if interested in hosting a seminar.   

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