Fundamental understandings and applications of science: An analysis of perceptions of scientific literacy among 12th grade high school students

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Gilbert Cuevas, Committee Chair


The purpose of the study was three-fold: (a) to rate the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) capabilities of scientific literacy as perceived by 12th grade high school students; (b) to determine the differences in response ratings among gender and ethnic groups of students with respect to each capability of scientific literacy; and (c) to determine the degree of congruence in response ratings of scientific literacy between science professionals and 12th grade high school students.The study was conducted in Dade County Public Schools from September to December 1994. A survey questionnaire prepared by AAAS Forum 1989 was used. Six hundred students from six senior high schools were surveyed. The data collected from the surveys were presented in the form of means, standard deviations, frequencies and percentages. Analysis of variance and chi-square tests were performed to determine statistical significance in response ratings among the various groups of students.Most of the students considered the fifteen capabilities "somewhat essential" for scientific literacy. The most highly rated capabilities fell in the academic and inquiry oriented capabilities. Less than fifty percent of the students viewed personal/societal capabilities as "essential". When students were compared with science professionals, differences were found in virtually every capability. Science professionals emphasized academic and personal/societal-oriented capabilities, whereas students emphasized academic and inquiry-oriented capabilities. Both science professionals and students agreed that "defining scientific terms" and "explaining natural processes" were not as essential as the other capabilities. Overall, students from different ethnic groups viewed scientific literacy in a similar manner. Male and female students viewed differently one capability of scientific literacy.


Education, Secondary; Education, Sciences

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