On 29 September 2015 Regina Soobard will defence her doctoral thesis „A study of gymnasium students’ scientific literacy development based on determinants of cognitive learning outcomes and self-perception“.
Supervisors: professor Miia Rannikmäe (PhD; University of Tartu), professor Jari Lavonen (PhD; University of Helsinki)
Opponent: professor Tuula Keinonen (PhD; University of Eastern Finland)
The purpose of the current study was to investigate gymnasium students scientific literacy (SL) over a three year period by collecting comparative (grade 10 and 11) and longitudinal data (grade 10 and 12, same students). SL means utilising appropriate evidence-based scientific knowledge and skills, particularly with relevance for everyday life and a career, in solving personally challenging yet meaningful scientific problems as well as making, responsible socio-scientific decisions. It is recognised that SL means also the ability to understand one’s own cognition. Based on this, perceptions realted to students competence and future career preferenes were asked. Additionally, students perceptions against received science teaching were also asked, because science subjects should promote the development of SL. In this quantitative study 44 schools participated and students responded to questionnaire (perceptions) and purposfully developed context-based test instrument. Items in the test followed SOLO (The Structure of Observed Lerning Outcomes) taxonomy covered giving scientific explanation, solving problem and making reasoned decision. Findings showed that there is little or almost no change during the three gymnasium years in the development of SL cognitive components identifyed in this study. Students agreed that biology and geography promote the development of SL compared to physics and chemistry subjects. They also related their future career with social sciences rather than natural sciences. Findings from this study emphasise that there is need to investigate more closely how science subjects are taught in gymnasium, what competences are promoted and how those are assessed. For assessing gymnasium students SL, context based test with items in different cognitive demands should be used. There is a reccommended need to make changes in teacher education (at both pre- and inservice levels) to enable science teachers to promote the development of competences emphasised in the curriculum adoped in 2011.