chapter  2
5 Preparing students for competent scientific practice
Implications of recent research in science and technology studies
ByMichelle K. McGinn, Wolff-Michael Roth
Pages 15

An often cited goal for science education reform is to increase the ‘scientific liter-

acy’ of graduates (AmericanAssociation for theAdvancement of Science [AAAS]

1993; National Research Council [NRC] 1994; National Science Teachers Asso-

ciation [NSTA] 1992, 1995; Rutherford and Ahlgren 1990), yet massive amounts

of money, time and effort associated with these reforms have effected little overall

change in scientific literacy (Eisenhart et al. 1996; Shamos 1995). One possible

reason for these shortcomings relates to the predominance of narrow and conven-

tional interpretations of scientific literacy. To achieve increased scientific literacy,

classrooms have been organized around activities intended to help students

develop and practise scientific process skills (i.e. the ‘scientific method’) and

accepted scientific knowledge and curricular materials have been developed with

the intention for students to engage in hands-on activities and discover the natural

world for themselves. These changes are predicated on the belief that students best

learn scientific concepts through engaging in the practices of ‘real scientists’

(Eisenhart et al. 1996). However, the visions of ‘real scientists’ and ‘real science’

that underlie these curricular reforms tend to be based on the myth that scientists

are a special class of people who are particularly endowed with superior mental

abilities, exceptional problem-solving competence, and well-tuned scientific

process skills that they use in an impartial pursuit of truth.