Promoting scientific literacy of secondary science students

Improving secondary school science students’ decision making

This international project, led by UWA professor Vaille Dawson, uses case study methodology to investigate the use of socioscientific issues (SSI) to promote critical thinking in Year 7 to 10 classes in schools in disadvantaged areas. Through the study, science teachers participate in targeted one-on-one professional development sessions with researchers about scientific literacy, SSI and argumentation.

Findings of these sessions draw upon information such as:

  • classroom observations
  • teacher interviews
  • pre- and post-tests of argumentation
  • content knowledge

These findings provide insight into the challenges of teaching and measuring critical thinking skills. This helps emphasise the importance of scaffolding, literacy support, a collaborative classroom environment and quality teacher-led probing in promoting scientific literacy in students.

Funding for this project has come from a 2016 UWA Research Collaboration Grant, a 2013-2015 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, and a 2007 Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Funding Grant.

PhD opportunities

PhD students on this project have the opportunity to work with Year 7 science teachers and their students in disadvantaged schools. The aim is to improve critical thinking by developing and implementing socio-scientific issues and argumentation skills.

If you’d like to get involved with this project as a postgraduate researcher, contact research team lead Professor Vaille Dawson using the contact details below.

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Get involved

We welcome collaborations with like-minded researchers and with schools looking to explore how they can improve scientific literacy among their students.

This project involves collaborating with the following academics:

  • Professor Grady Venville, Australian National University
  • Professor Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, University College London
  • Professor Anat Zohar, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Dr Siew Yap, Kingsway Christian College

If you’d like to discuss how we could work together, contact Professor Vaille Dawson using the details below.

Related links

Contact Professor of Science Education Vaille Dawson