Persons demonstrating scientific literacy apply the scientific method and related concepts and principles to make informed decisions and engage with issues related to the natural, physical and social world. Additionally, students grasp scientific content, understand science as a way of knowing, and conduct scientific inquiry based on pre-existing knowledge. It is not just knowing scientific facts; it is understanding how science works and we can apply scientific facts and processes into everyday decision-making.
The National Research Council (1996)2 breaks-down scientific literacy into five components:
- Knowledge of scientific facts, concepts, principles, and theories.
- Ability to apply relevant knowledge in everyday life.
- Ability to utilize the processes of scientific inquiry.
- An understanding of general ideas about the characteristics of science and important interactions of science, technology, and society.
- The possession of informed attitudes and interests related to science.
Individuals display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as appropriately using technical terms or applying scientific concepts and processes. Individuals often have differences in scientific literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and less understanding of physical-science concepts.
2 The following information comes from: Ogunkola, B. “Scientific Literacy: Conceptual Overview, Importance and Strategies for Improvement.” Journal of Educational and Social Research, 3 (2013).