Problem Statement: Since the 1970s, scientific literacy has been a major goal of national educational systems throughout the world, and thus reform movements in science education call for all students to be scientifically literate. Despite some good curricular changes and developments across the globe, much remains to be achieved. Given that textbooks play a critical role in the teaching/learning process at all educational levels, their analysis is crucially important to support the recent science education reforms.
Purpose of Study: In this study, the four upper primary level science textbooks were analyzed to determine the inclusion of four themes 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 among science, technology, and society (STS).
Methods:The method used in this study was content analysis. Textbook analyses were conducted based on the procedures described by Chiapetta, Fillman and Sethna (1991a, revised 2004). The four science textbooks that were selected for content analysis were those approved by the Turkish Ministry of National Education (MEB) to be used in grades 4 and 5 for the 2011-2012 academic year. The content to be analyzed from the textbooks was selected in two different ways; the units ‘the electricity,’ ‘human body,’ and ‘matter’ from each textbook and systematic sampling of almost 20 percent of each textbook. Two raters independently coded each unit of analysis. There was good intercoder agreement with Cohen’s kappa values, ranging from 0.61 to 0.79.
Findings and Results:The findings revealed that the Turkish science textbooks do not provide a balanced coverage of scientific literacy themes. Almost half of the textual material in the four science textbooks appears to emphasize science as a body of knowledge. The textbooks appear to devote approximately one-third of their presentation to teaching science through investigation, and about one-fifth of their coverage is devoted to the interaction among science, technology, and society. However, science as a way of thinking was an almost non-existent paradigm in the four textbooks analyzed. Although there are no big differences between the four textbooks, the MEB upper primary level science textbooks have a slightly better balance of the four themes of scientific literacy, compared to the Lider and Semih Ofset publications, especially with regard to STS.
Conclusions and Recommendations: These results do not adhere to the discourse in the 2004 National Science Education Reform documents, which often accentuates the importance of scientific literacy. It is hoped that, in the light of the findings of this study, the imbalanced coverage of scientific literacy themes – especially inadequate treatment of scientific thinking in Turkish upper primary level science textbooks – will be improved in subsequent editions so that students are helped in their efforts to become scientifically literate.
Keywords: Scientific literacy, science textbooks, textbook analysis, upper primary level.