Research in Science Education

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 385-399

First online:

A quantitative analysis of physics textbooks for scientific literacy themes

  • John WilkinsonAffiliated withDepartment, School of Arts and Education, La Trobe University Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The purpose of this study was to examine the content of textbooks used in the Victorian Physics course between 1967 and 1997 for curriculum balance and emphasis on the following aspects of scientific literacy: (a) science as a body of knowledge, (b) science as a way of investigating, (c) science as a way of thinking, and (d) the interaction between science, technology and society. These themes were chosen because they are reflected in the aims of the current Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Physics course. The textbook is an important teaching aid in senior school physics in Victoria since it conveys some of the information that students receive and influences how students perceive the subject. The majority of the textbooks analysed stress science as a body of knowledge, place some emphasis on science as a way of investigating, and have little emphasis on science as a way of thinking. Texts produced for the new VCE Physics course (post 1990) were found to place more emphasis on the theme science, technology and society than texts produced prior to 1990.