The nature of science is concerned with science as a way of thinking, but this can’t exist in isolation, so the New Zealand curriculum document includes three other substrands of the nature of science to embed it within. The ‘Communicating in science’ strand of the curriculum is one of these three other substrands.
Communicating in science achievement aim
Levels 3–4 achievement objectives
Levels 5–6 achievement objectives
Scientists’ use of scientific vocabulary and conventions
In the early days of sending texts via cell phones, users were limited to just 160 characters. SMS became its own language and a whole specialised vocabulary developed as a result. Internet linguistics continue to create specialised vocabularies, which help various users to communicate. In a similar manner, science has developed its own language and it is critical for science communication.
Scientific knowledge is communicated through its text and associated symbols, diagrams, graphs and equations. This specialised language of science makes it possible for scientists to communicate ideas and explanations in a way that would not be possible with everyday language. It is crucial for collaboration among scientists, who more often work as part of a wider scientific community than the stereotypical view of a scientist working alone in a laboratory or in the field. Scientific language is critical also in the presentation of science at conferences or in scientific journals and publications.
Scientists need scientific vocabulary to communicate effectively. At an even more fundamental level, scientific language actually helps shape ideas and provides the means for constructing scientific understandings and explanations.
Need for students to develop scientific vocabulary and conventions
Scientific language also helps students to shape their scientific ideas, construct scientific understanding and explanations and communicate purposes, findings and implications with others. This will help them to understand science knowledge, learn about science and do science.
Students need to learn the language of science in much the same way as they might learn a second language. Part of learning this language will be seeing that there are numerous everyday words that have a totally different meaning in science, such as matter, work, energy, force, plants, animals or cells.
Need for students to evaluate communication
‘Clinically proven to build muscle.’ ‘Homeopathic solutions proven to carry memory of water.’ ‘Climate change debate heating up.’
Every day, students are confronted with media messages like these that use science. They can be in advertising via social media, or in news reports, on TV, on radio, on the internet, in newspapers, on product labels and in magazines. All media messages have goals, which can affect the information presented. For example, scientific messages can be used in advertising to sell a product, or scientific messages can be used by environmental or activist groups to rally support for a particular cause.
Students need to be able to apply their understanding of science and their understanding of the nature of science to evaluate both popular and scientific texts. They need to be able to decide what to believe and use scientific information and knowledge to inform decision-making at the personal, work-related and societal level. They need to be able to distinguish among good science, bad science and non-science. To do this, they must be able to understand, analyse and evaluate the scientific text.
Understanding the nature of science and the ways it is communicated helps students to:
- uncover the purpose and meaning of media messages about science
- evaluate the science behind the messages
- identify misrepresentations of science
- find trustworthy sources of further information
- be critical consumers of science.
There are many places on the Science Learning Hub that show this communicating in science strand.
See examples on the Hub
Several of the teaching and learning activities involve constructing tables for data or using graphs to display, interpret and evaluate data.
Related content and activities
Communicating in science is important for students and those who work in science. Read how Napier Central School developed and used the interview techniques to interview a Rocket Lab avionics systems engineer. We’ve taken some of the key points out of this article and put them into a framework. Use the activity Communicating with scientists – interview techniques and etiquette if you plan to work with a science expert. If you are a scientist or science expert who's been invited to a school and you are feeling a tad nervous about the experience, read the article School visits – hints for scientists. It contains some useful advice!
In the activity, Communicating in science, students look at SMS text language to gain a deeper understanding of communicating in science.
An infographic is a visual presentation of information using graphic images and text. This activity explores how infographics are constructed and how they communicate science ideas.
What is real? In the article Read news like a scientist discover how to approach science news like a scientist – see past the sensational and find the facts. The Connected article Fake facts investigates misinformation, malinformation and disinformation and how they are used in online media. Climate change, science and controversy looks at fake facts – from Galileo to the present.