An analysis of earth science textbooks for presentation of aspects of scientific literacy

Date

1985

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Abstract

Scientific literacy has been a long-standing goal of science education; a goal that has received renewed interest in the 1980s. Many investigators agree that this goal, even after two decades of emphasis and attention, has not been reached. This study addressed the question of why the goal of scientific literacy has not been met by examining earth science textbooks to determine (1) the extent to which the aspects of scientific literacy are present, (2) the extent to which balance among aspects of scientific literacy exists, (3) the quantative presentation of scientific literacy. These three research questions were investigated by use of an instrument, developed as part of this study, to analyze earth science textbooks. The development of the instrument formed a fourth research question: can a reliable and valid research instrument, using content analysis methods be developed to analyze earth science text- books. Four aspects of scientific literacy were identified through the synthesis of previous work on scientific literacy. The four aspects are: (1) Basic knowledge of science (2) Investigative skills of science (3) Science as a way of thinking (4) Interaction of science, technology and society The instrument, constructed around these aspects, used the techniques of content analysis to quantify the inclusion of these aspects of scientific literacy. The sample consisted of the five earth science textbooks (junior high/middle school level) adopted in the State of Texas for the 1983-89 academic years. A 5% sample randomly selected from each text was analyzed. This sample size was determined to be of adequate size by employing a chi square analysis of two 5% samples selected from each text. Independently coded the textbooks. The results of this procedure were analyzed using Cohen's kappa. This formula accounts for chance agreement and allows the expected proportion to vary as the proportion of coding agreements varies. Kappa values range from -1 to +1 with 0 equal to chance agreement. Agreement for the instrument was found to be a 0.645, 0.529 and 0.620 among the three pairs of coders which indicates a fairly good agreement among coders. The results revealed that only one of the five textbooks was reasonably well-balanced in its treatment of the aspects of scientific literacy. On the whole, textbooks devote about 80% of their message to acquisition of basic scientific knowledge. In addition these textbooks generally contain little inquiry, provide little opportunity for student involvement and devote little space to demonstrating the value of the scientific enterprise to society. The results imply that supplemental material, which embodies the aspects of scientific literacy, needs to be developed for classroom use. in addition, teachers should become informed as to the limitations of the textbook in the classroom. The results further imply that content analysis is an appropriate research method for analyzing textbooks for their message.

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Keywords

Earth sciences, Textbooks, Study and teaching

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