Science: Facts vs Literacy
December 17, 2018
I don’t care who you are, space stuff is just plain cool. In recent years, NASA‘s spacecrafts have performed missions that were–and are–truly far out. It’s hard for my finite human mind to grasp the seemingly infinite expanses of the universe, and yet, my imagination is attracted–with overwhelming gravitational force–to try.
- In July, 2015, New Horizons sent pictures and messages to Earth while flying by Pluto. These transmissions traveled over 3,000,000,000 miles in four hours.
- In November, 2018, InSights landed on Mars, which would–again–be like shooting a basketball from LA to NYC and making a perfect swish.
- In December, 2018, Juno approached the halfway point of its mission to Jupiter, sending breathtaking images of all that swirls, while precisely avoiding radiation that proved fatal to the former Galileo spacecraft.
- Locally, space enthusiasts love celebrating annual perseid meteor showers and sky watching sessions, while all of humanity was humbled by a total solar eclipse.
A veteran educator and a lifelong learner at heart, I love mind-blowing science facts. But there’s no way I could memorize all these NASA mission details. In fact, what I love even more than discrete content is the arena of research; the sphere of reason; and the art of debate. Perhaps, I could simplify:
What do you believe? Why? Prove it.
Let’s face it: increasing science literacy ain’t easy.
Critically analyzing and evaluating the manners in which we engage in science learning could go a long in making the world a better place. At the very least, how we influence science literacy in our spaces matters.
How do we go about increasing science literacy in the world around us?
Not only would it be beneficial for kids to care about the factual content, they need to own their learning processes and experiences, too. How can educators facilitate learning opportunities in a way that inspires kids to want to learn, and not because they have to learn? A want-to approach paves a smoother road to justifying our claims and making meaning in our learning. If we don’t care about our science first, nothing will change.
Want to learn something new and also be able to recall it later? Learn it by doing it.
Think about your favorite professional learning experience, such as a workshop or a conference. What you have most likely recalled was an experience in which you did something. You were active or you had time to try something and play right there on the spot.
It would be difficult to conceive of meaningful learning as sit-and-get lectures every day, where information is told to students, even if they took notes from a powerpoint and perused reading selections. Varying our instructional learning opportunities and providing choice helps. While moving, blending 2D with 3D, solving problems, and making decisions, students are constructing unique memories. When students have a meaningful memory associated with newly-learned content, skills, and concepts, the impact is deeper, more connective, and more extensive.
“Google it!” How many times have you said or heard that? Since we live in the Age of Information where we can Google facts in an instant, how much time should we be investing in rote memorization of independent facts?
In his post, Are Your Science Standards Producing Scientifically Literate Citizens?, Bill Ferriter accentuated learning processes over memorizing facts. To illustrate this theme, Bill sharply contrasted North Carolina Science Essential Standards with the Next Generation Science Standards. This piece made me wrestle with literacy versus facts; process versus product; and thinking versus memorizing. It made me really consider comprehensive, cross-cutting concepts and the glue that makes all the pieces fit together.
Whatever the standards, I believe that how we facilitate inquiry-based experiences in our learning spaces every day has a huge influence on increasing science literacy in our communities.
Challenges Moving Forward
Currently, I know many situations where students do not have science class every day. More concerning, educators are wrestling harder than ever to integrate science in other areas, especially given the discipline giants of reading and math. Finally, I can’t deny that silo structures in our systems aren’t still fortifying, stronger than ever.
After collaborating with several science educators over the past seventeen years, an undeniable truth remains: Until that end-of-the-year test changes, why change anything at all?
I'm 🤔 on this from @STEMscopes: "Unlike scientific knowledge, which is just fact-knowing, scientific literacy is very difficult to assess through multiple choice; it is best assessed through a performance-based evaluation." #wakesclt #scienceliteracy See: https://t.co/Ln5FEMCEYm
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) December 15, 2018
"Judging if a pupil understands a concept fully requires a combination of observation and rubric-based assessment that can show growth over time." I'm reading @STEMscopes' "Developing Student Scientific Literacy." #wakesclt https://t.co/Ln5FEMCEYm
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) December 17, 2018
— Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra) December 16, 2018