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Toward a dialectical notion and praxis of scientific literacy

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Received conceptualizations of scientific literacy are grounded in (1) the notions of 'knowledge', 'concepts', and 'skills' that science students have to 'acquire', 'appropriate', or 'construct' or (2) the notion of 'practices' to which they have to be 'enculturated' so that they become part of a 'community of practice'. All such notions articulate scientific literacy in a static form, which does not correspond to the dynamic nature of the literacies that can be observed in society. This study proposes a dialectical notion of scientific literacy, which makes thematic its nature as a situated, distributed, collective, emergent, indeterminate, and contingent process. It articulates the idea that knowing a (scientific) language is indistinguishable from knowing one's way around the world. As a consequence, the goal of science education can no longer be to make individual students exhibit particular forms of knowledge but to provide them with contexts in which it is more important to deal with, select, and negotiate different forms of expertise and knowledgeability. This leads one to think of science education as but a part of a democratic liberal education that allows students to become competent to participate in any conversation that includes others with different forms and levels of expertise than their own.

Keywords: futures of society; science and society; science curriculum; social change; technological literacy

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2007

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