Perspectives and Terms in the National Science Education Standards

Although terms such as ''scientific literacy" and "science content and curriculum" frequently appear in education discussions and in the popular press without definition, those terms have a specific meaning as used in the National Science Education Standards.

SCIENTIFIC LITERACY. Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities. In the National Science Education Standards, the content standards define scientific literacy.

Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Scientific literacy entails being able to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions. Scientific literacy implies that a person can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed. A literate citizen should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it. Scientific literacy also implies the capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately.

Individuals will display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as appropriately using technical terms, or applying scientific concepts and processes. And individuals often will have differences in literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and words, and less understanding of physical-science concepts and words.

Scientific literacy has different degrees and forms; it expands and deepens over a lifetime, not just during the years in school. But the attitudes and values established toward science in the early years will shape a person's development of scientific literacy as an adult.

[See Program Standard B]

CONTENT AND CURRICULUM. The content of school science is broadly defined to include specific capacities, understandings, and abilities in science. The content standards are not a science curriculum. Curriculum is the way content is delivered: It includes the structure, organization, balance, and presentation of the content in the classroom.

The content standards are not science lessons, classes, courses of study, or school science programs. The components of the science content described can be organized with a variety of emphases and perspectives into many different curricula. The organizational schemes of the content standards are not intended to be used as curricula;



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