Fostering Scientific Literacy and Critical Thinking in Elementary Science Education


Scientific literacy (SL) and critical thinking (CT) are key components of science education aiming to prepare students to think and to function as responsible citizens in a world increasingly affected by science and technology (S&T). Therefore, students should be given opportunities in their science classes to be engaged in learning experiences that promote SL and CT, which may trigger the need to build and develop knowledge, attitudes/values, thinking abilities, and standards/criteria in an integrated way, resulting in their ability to know how to take responsible action in contexts and situations of personal and social relevance. This paper reports on a study to design, implement, and assess science learning experiences focused on CT toward SL goal. Results support the conclusion that the learning experiences developed and implemented in a grade 6 science classroom had a significant influence on the students’ CT and SL. Within this elementary school context, the theoretical framework used appears to be a relevant and practical aid for developing learning experiences that promote CT/SL and in supporting teaching practices that are more in line with the goals of critical scientific literacy.

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The authors thank Dr. Larry Yore and Mrs. Sharyl Yore for their mentoring assistance.

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Correspondence to Rui Marques Vieira.



Table 2

Table 2 Learning experiences, underlying topics, and CT/LS elements required
Table 1 Descriptive statistics for students’ scores on the critical thinking and scientific literacy pretests and posttests

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Vieira, R.M., Tenreiro-Vieira, C. Fostering Scientific Literacy and Critical Thinking in Elementary Science Education. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 14, 659–680 (2016).

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  • Critical thinking
  • Elementary science education
  • Scientific literacy