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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Promoting Scientific Literacy

Denis Goodrum.

What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? How can scientific literacy be developed in schools? These questions are examined drawing upon two Australian studies.

The first study is a national review for the Australian government on science teaching and learning in primary and secondary schools. This study concluded the purpose of school science is to develop scientific literacy. It explains that science is an essential part of the education of all students. However, there is little point in learning about science unless it is of benefit to people in their everyday life. The extent to which people are able to use science is often described in terms of scientific literacy. There is widespread agreement that scientific literacy is a high priority for all citizens, helping them to be interested in and understand the world around them, to engage in the discourses of and about science, to be sceptical and questioning of claims made by others about scientific matters, to be able to identify questions, investigate and draw evidence-based conclusions, and to make informed decisions about the environment and their own health and well-being. People who are employed in science-related fields will make use of science in more formal ways, but everyone has the right to a science education which enables them to feel comfortable and confident to deal with the scientific and technological issues that impact on their lives.

The second study also funded by the Australian government examines a pilot project that helps secondary teachers develop scientific literacy in their classrooms. The project involving 28 schools uses an integrated model of professional development, curriculum resources and participative inquiry strategies. It examines the classroom implications of scientific literacy and how to assist teachers bring about change in their pedagogy to promote scientific literacy.


Denis Goodrum  (Australia)
Associate Professor in Science Education
School of Education‡
Edith Cowan University

Denis Goodrum has undertaken a number of large national science education projects in Australia as well as a number of international projects. He has carried out the roles of Head of Department, Head of School, and Dean of the Faculty of Education within Edith Cowan University in Western Australia.

  • Scientific literacy
  • Science education
  • Teacher change

(30 min Conference Paper, English)