Perceptions of scientific literacy among university science professors and science education professors

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Okhee Lee, Committee Chair


This study describes and compares perceptions of: (a) scientific literacy; (b) the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (NRC, 1996); and (c) elementary teachers' scientific literacy and elementary teacher preparation programs. Study participants were university professors involved in elementary science teacher preparation. Interview and course syllabi data allowed for descriptions and comparisons of professors' perceptions of: (a) the definition, components, and implementation of scientific literacy, (b) NSES' definition and components of scientific literacy, the NSES document, NSES' inquiry emphasis, and barriers to NSES' implementation, and (c) elementary teachers' scientific literacy and elementary teacher preparation programs.The study was conducted in a southeastern state university system in the summer and fall of 1996. Thirty-one science teacher educators from nine state universities were interviewed, including sixteen life/physical science professors and fifteen elementary science education professors.Results indicated that science professors emphasized science content when defining scientific literacy, while science education professors emphasized science inquiry. Science professors used lecture to promote scientific literacy, while science education professors used student participation.Science professors were less familiar with NSES than science education professors. Professors were generally positive toward NSES and its inquiry emphasis, but expressed concern about the balance between science inquiry and content. Barriers to implementation of NSES were cited, including society/community and classroom teachers. Most professors indicated that elementary teachers were generally unprepared to teach science, recommending changes in university teacher preparation, in elementary school structure, and among individual teachers to enhance elementary teacher preparation.Based on the findings, further study is recommended to describe differences between perceptions and implementation of scientific literacy among science professors and science education professors, including perceptions of laboratory and community college science instructors. More training and exposure to NSES are recommended for university professors, particularly for science professors. More efficient dissemination, a more specific implementation plan, and a description of the universities' responsibility regarding NSES is suggested. Science and methods courses structured around NSES and the K-6 science content curriculum are recommended, including special science courses and more laboratory experiences for elementary majors. Collaboration is suggested between science and education departments through various strategies, including seminars, workshops, co-teaching, and co-planning of courses.


Education, Teacher Training; Education, Sciences; Education, Higher

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