Mentoring for developing scientifically literate citizens

Salehjee, Saima; (2019) Mentoring for developing scientifically literate citizens. In: Mentoring Science Education Teachers in the Secondary School. Routledge, London.

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There is considerable research available that shows the need for scientifically literate people in the world. What exactly constitutes a science-literate citizen? Is it, for example, a person who ‘applies scientific habits of minds’ (Huxley, 1882, p.4); one who develops scientific attitudes and exhibits ‘open-mindedness, intellectual integrity, observation, and interest in testing their opinions and beliefs’ (Dewey 1934, p.3); who can communicate between two cultures – science and arts - that results in an understanding and learning of science among families, cultures and societies (C. P. Snow, 1959)? Or is it someone who can engage in ‘self-directed learning in science and technology beyond the school years’ (Rennie, Stocklmayer & Gilbert, 2019). Along these lines, we see scientifically literate people as everyday people who may not be working in any science specialist fields (such as a marine biologist or astrophysicist), but are learners who can accumulate and grasp aspects of science while solving everyday problems. They can, for instance, exhibit abilities to research and critique facts on social media, acquire scientific vocabulary so that they can understand if they are hurt or ill, listen to a BBC Radio 5 Science podcast or appreciate the science content in the daily news. As a framework for this chapter, we ask you first to analyse two stories of non-science professionals. For this, you need to bring your own - and your mentee(s) – personal experiences to bear in deciding what constitutes a scientifically literate person - and how, as science teachers, you might support, develop, advise and guide such people. The second, and longer, part of the chapter provides you with text-based science ideas about mentoring - ideas you can use as they are, or adapt and develop further to support and empower beginning teachers in embedding scientific literacy as a part of their everyday teaching and learning practices. The ambition here is that beginning teachers will help pupils, especially those pupils who are unsure or not interested in continuing with the study of science subjects, to see the learning of science not as an obstacle created by arcane facts, theories and laws, but a highly useful way to live a better and globally informed life.