R. Soobard1, M. Rannikmäe1, P. Reiska2

1University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
2Tallinn University (ESTONIA)
The purpose of science education is to prepare students for real life to make relevant personal and social justified decisions, solve meaningful problems and develop reasoning skills, which are all cognitive components of scientific literacy. Scientific literacy in this study is taken to mean utilising science knowledge and skills, particularly with relevance to creative problem solving and making reasoned decisions in real life situations. To demonstrate higher levels of scientific literacy, only cognitive component is not enough and adequate self-perceptions against ones competence are also required as well as appropriate attitudes and values. Self-perceptions play a role in comprehending in school as well as in real life situations, choosing suitable future career and influence also lifelong learning. In other words, views towards one self are connected with actual achievement.
This study focuses on investigating the change in operational scientific literacy skills through demonstrating cognition associated with undertaking scientific processes and comparing students’ progress with their self-perceptions.
The instrument consisting two parts was compiled based on a review of relevant international literature and competences emphasised in the Estonian curriculum to ensure that the development of the test instrument was in line with expected learning outcomes.
Items in the first part of the instrument followed the levels of SOLO taxonomy (unistructural- scientific explanation, multistructural- scientific explanation, relational-problem solving, extended abstract-decision making) to allow monitoring the progression in operational skills and all tasks in the instrument were contextualized to relate to real life. Second part consisted items focusing on students perceptions (4-point Likert scale) against same components tested in the first part and items were also repeated for each of the 4 science subjects taught in upper secondary grades. Reliability of the both part of the instruments was calculated using Cronbach alpha and was considered as acceptable.
Gymnasium students were tested using purposefully developed and validated (expert opinions plus pilot study) instruments to determine the change in components of scientific literacy across two grades of schooling (the lower level at the beginning of grade 10 and the higher towards the end of grade 11). A stratified sample of students from 44 schools gave a data set with returns from 1128 beginning of 10th grade students and 916 end of 11th grade students.
Findings suggested that there was no sufficient shift from one grade to another in operational skills such as giving scientific explanations, problem solving and justified decision making. Although students did gain more knowledge and the expectation was that students would enhance their operational skills for scientific literacy, this was not reflected in their reasoning skills and in their competence to solve problems. Even more, students self-perceptions against those components were not high and they don`t see science subjects developing those operational scientific literacy skills in a sufficient manner. Only Geography and Biology subjects were perceived more for developing operational scientific literacy skills compared to Chemistry and Physics subjects. This suggested there is a need to re-think science teaching and learning approaches as well as the manner in which science was introduced to students.