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Revving Up for Fall: Fostering Science Literacy for Our Students
Revving Up for Fall: Fostering Science Literacy for Our Students
and Scholarliness in Our Teaching

August, 2005
Revisiting our CAE Teaching Excellence Workshops
Brissenden, University of Arizona; Prather, University of Arizona; &Slater, University of Wyoming

It's August, and classes are just around the corner. So, before this happens, we'd like you to take just a few minutes (or longer, if you like) to read two Position Statement from the Society for College Science Teachers (SCST). The first is on the characteristics of an exemplary course," and the second is on the "scholarship of college science teaching." Both provide an insightful, articulate, and concise (one page) view of our roles as educators—in and out of the classroom.

Position Statement on Introductory College-Level Science Courses

In earlier research (Slater, Adams, Brissenden, & Duncan, 2001), we found that many introductory college-level astronomy instructors state that one of their top three goals for their students includes an understanding of the nature and processes of science. This is one aspect of what SCST defines as scientifically literate. What else do they have to say about the nature of scientific literacy? Here is their list:

Science literacy is the knowledge and understanding of:

  • the nature and role of scientific knowledge and processes
  • the major principles and concepts that transcend the various sciences
  • the relationship of science to technology
  • the applications of science to the individual and society

How do we accomplish this in Astro 101? SCST's position statement provides some insight into structuring the following aspects of our course to help our students achieve scientific literacy:

  • Content and Processes
  • Laboratory Experiences
  • Format
  • Teaching Strategies
  • Assessment
  • Student Outcomes

Position Statement on the Scholarship of College Science Teaching

If we got together to decide what it meant for us to be "scholarly," our list would probably include things like: having knowledge of our discipline and how it fits in with other disciplines and with society; the ability to, and execution of, appropriate and meaningful research; publishing our results in scholarly journals; etc. However, we might only think about this in the context of the science we do, but not with respect to our teaching. SCST would like us to view our teaching in the same light as our science. Though the list may seem daunting, take note that this is an "all inclusive" list of characteristics which SCST states no person could or should be expected to fulfill. So take a look at the list, pick a few to concentrate on for the upcoming semester, but let us all especially take number seven to heart:

  • Show evidence of critical reflection on our own teaching, and use this information to continually improve the process of teaching [emphasis on evidence].

To learn more about the Society for College Science Teachers, visit their website. To learn more about evidence, critical reflection, and the improvement of teaching, attend one of our workshops

References

Slater, T., Adams, J. P., Brissenden, G., & Duncan, D. (2001). What Topics Are Taught in Introductory Astronomy Courses? The Physics Teacher, 39(1), 52-55.

Society for College Science Teachers (1998, April). The Scholarship of College Science Teaching: A Statement from the Society for College Science Teachers. (http://www.scst.suu.edu/documents/Scholarship1.pdf)

Society for College Science Teachers. A Society for College Science Teachers Position Statement on Introductory College-Level Science Courses. (http://www.scst.suu.edu/documents/Courses1.pdf)

Teaching Strategies Archive

CAE is housed in the Astronomy Dept. at the Univ. of Arizona's Steward Observatory. CAE is funded through the generous contributions of the NASA JPL Exoplanet Exploration Public Engagement Program. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0715517, a CCLI Phase III Grant for the Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars (CATS). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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