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Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Scientific literacy includes the ability to seek out, understand, evaluate, and communicate scientific information. There are many ways of communicating science and engineering ideas, including words, diagrams, graphs, images, models, and mathematical representations. Scientists and engineers must communicate among themselves on a daily basis, sometimes formally and sometimes informally. Informally, scientists and engineers may talk face-to-face, email, have phone discussions, or even text or blog. Formally, scientists present their findings through conference presentations, peer-reviewed journals, and books. In both informal and formal communications, scientists and engineers critically consume information and engage in argumentation. Scientists and engineers communicate within and across disciplines. Education and outreach are also an important component of scientific communication (Fig. 1). Marine and aquatic scientists engage in every type of scientific communication, from large conferences (Fig. 2) to informal discussions (Fig. 3).

According to the framework, understanding and communicating scientific information can be challenging for students. Scientific and engineering disciplines use jargon that may be unfamiliar, even to students reading at or above grade-level. Deciphering scientific text requires different modes of reading than other types of text, both because of the purpose of the text and because of the multiples types of information presented. However, obtaining, evaluating, and communicating scientific information is important to developing scientifically literate citizens. Students should be able to interpret scientific discourse, texts, tables, diagrams, graphs, and mathematical expressions. Students should be able to recognize and read different types of scientific communications, including scientific literature and media reports of science. Students should be able to interpret and critique these communications. In the classroom, students need opportunities to practice these skills, as well as explicit instruction on recognizing and interpreting scientific communication. As students progress through school, their communications and understandings should increase in complexity and depth, with an appropriately evolving vocabulary.


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Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.