"Aha," said the carpenter with a smile, "I see that Scottish sheep are black."
"Hmm," said the school teacher, "You mean that some Scottish sheep are black."
"No," said the scientist glumly, "All we know is that there is at least one sheep in Scotland, and that at least one side of that one sheep is black."
Awe ... come on you say, that can't be it. Probably not, but it really gets to the heart of science - Observation.
Everything we know, when doing science must be observable and not only observable, but repeatable or verifiable.
Thus, with observation being the basis of science, many philosophers have philosophized about observation: is it real, is it imagined, what makes better observations, and is every person's imagined observation exist only in their mind? ... and so on ... but I will leave these ideas for the interested to explore elsewhere ...
So let's move on ...
Alas, there is not one. There are many things that science is and there are many things it is not; the most important that it is not, is anything that isn't based on verifiable observation.
Philosophy based on beliefs and assumptions, religion based on faith, intuition based on a gut feelings, or arguments built on assumptions that we are unwilling to challenge. Conclusions made based on these ideas, are not scientific.
That doesn't devalue those decisions, or put greater value on decisions that are scientific. It is human nature that decides what to value and what process or processes to use to decide what to believe or not. When we choose decisions based on verifiable observation, then science is the discipline that has been created and refined for that kind of decision making.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, it requires more study. A simple definition of science can be useful to point us in an appropriate direction, but unless that definition includes an in depth understanding of science as investigation, how to investigate, skills necessary for investigation, what has been learned and created by science; and what science can do, when to use it, and when not to; then a definition isn't very helpful for professional educators.
So the solution is to dig deeper, we need to explore ... science literacy.
How to tame the powerful question: What is science literacy?
First, a little history:
In 1989 a group of scientists and educators joined together to create a project group and called themselves Project 2061. Their first task was to compile a book, Science for All Americans, a comprehensive description of what science literacy is. Is is and an excellent source for professional educators. This and more of their work is available at the (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The information in Science for All Americans, is a compilation created by an expert panel of scientists, mathematicians, social scientist, and technologists of what they believe every American graduate should know and be able to do to be science literate; not what a person needs to know to be a scientist, nor what a student needs to know to be awarded a science scholarship to a prestigious college or university to study in a science field, but what everyone should know. More importantly for you, it is what a professional educator needs to know to teach at any grade level. It is what can be included in a science knowledge base and professional science educators conceptual framework.
Another group the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) also publishes many professional science documents and most notably the National Science Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Another group The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences published A Framework for K-12 Science Education in the summer of 2011, which is available at The National Academies Press.
If you want to review one or more of these, head off into the wilderness and take a look:
Wow! They each have a lot of information.
Yes, they do, but for now just know these groups have resources, which you are now aware of and can reference it you choose.
So let's continue toward ...
Definitions of science and the ideas in these documents help identify a science knowledge base or the body of science knowledge accumulated by human activity to organize and interpret reality with the use of verifiable evidence to understand the world. What we need to know to teach our students.
A person's science literacy is an individual's ability to use science in the real world.
So to decide what should be in our science knowledge base let's review science content and its categories?
A survey of science information in science documents finds the information can be categorized into the following big categories (dimensions). For example: You can give it a test drive by finding where to categorize these different ideas and skills for science literacy.
Which of these dimensions are represented in the different documents listed above?
Good question. Let's compare them using the four dimensions that all subjects were found to have in a meta analysis of different subjects.
This chart lists the four dimensions and relates the categories identified in Project 2061 by AAAS, the National Science Standards by NSTA, and A Framework for K-12 Science Educators.
Hopefully, this information will help you see the strengths and weakness in different documents used to represent a science knowledge base.
This collection of concepts and misconceptions can be considered a science knowledge base.
So we now have a process for professional science development and a description of a science knowledge base necessary for science literacy.
So let's look at a professional science educator's conceptual framework, or how to plan and teach science, after a short activity to reduce your anxiety level for teaching all this science.
Is all the information increasing your anxiety as a science teacher?
If so, try this, and hurry back...
I hope that encourages a desire to review and study a knowledge base or conceptual framework for science educators and our students.
If you have a bit of stress or anxiety, look over this survey (don't worry about comprehensive answers, suggestions are below) about the nature of science.
The nature of science is important, because it is the foundation for science literacy and there are many misconceptions on its nature in the media and the general population. So let's look at the survey again ... Remember? I said I would help you so here are suggestions and misconceptions for each of the questions.
I imagine your thinking on the nature of science questions was pretty deep. The information is pretty comprehensive for an overview of the nature of science, but as a future professional science educator you need a solid understanding of the big ideas of science literacy. Don't worry you can always use these resources.
Before we move to the pedagogy (teaching and learning) in a science educator's conceptual framework, let's review three key ideas for the nature of science and how to use them to answer questions, provide explanation, and reduce your anxiety to facilitate science literacy.
So let's move on ...
As a professional science educator we have reviewed:
This leaves the pedagogy focused questions:
Big ideas related to these questions can be illustrated in a Professional Educator's Conceptual Framework of Education or in a professional science educator's conceptual framework. More on this below.
Specifics for how to assess, learn, facilitate science literacy see related topics in the science teacher's tool box.
We have a sample model that illustrates a Professional Educator's Conceptual Framework of Education. We could use it and edit it to create one specific for a professional science educator's conceptual framework. The subcategories could reference additional documents that relate to the categories.
For example: How do professional educators improve professionally? Would reference: the diagram for a process for professional educators development and the subcategories for professional development in a document with principled procedures for science educators.
This diagram could be a map for a science educator position paper or science educator professional portfolio.
In addition to the professional educator conceptual framework on education here are two additional samples with some parts and pieces as suggestions:
As suggested the map could start as a planning document and evolve into a map for information in a science educator's position paper, or a professional portfolio. Each, would include other documents to support your abilities: philosophies, principled procedures, lesson plans, units, sequence plans, currriculums, teaching videos, student artifacts, professional assessments, reflections, and more.
As we use a professional development model and learning cycle to assess and evaluate our science practices and development we can go beyond the questions in the model by asking:
If not what changes would you make to suggest your understandings of these three kinds of knowledge?