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Interpret representations

Scientists represent their ideas in a variety of ways, including models graphs, charts, diagrams and written texts. A model is a representation of an idea, an object, a process or a system. It could be something concrete; for example, a model heart in a doctor’s surgery, or simply an idea expressed as a metaphor; for example, “the heart is like a pump”. Models are often used when the idea/ object/ process/ system scientists want to talk or think about is not directly observable. Models enable scientists to develop and work on science ideas but are often limited representations of the ‘thing’ itself. Using models when teaching science does have possible challenges .

Reading and writing and argument are “central to any conception of science as it is currently constituted.” Osborne, 2002. Understanding and using the literacy practices of science supports students to think in new ways. For example, language used in science usually focuses on things and processes (the empirical nature of science) rather than on people’s feelings and opinions. In a similar way the use of the passive voice focuses attention on the action, rather than on who did it. 

When scientists write about their research for other academics, they include enough detail of what they have done for others to be able to thoroughly critique their work. Public critique is essential for finding flaws in arguments which is in turn is central to the dynamic self correcting nature of science. It is important that students think about how data is presented and ask questions such as:

  • What does this representation tell us?
  • What is left out?
  • How does this representation get the message across?
  • Why is it presented in this particular way?

Being familiar with the literacy practices of science  supports citizens to think in new ways and provides a foundation to critically interact with articles about science in the media.

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels  – How to frame the same learning task to provide challenges at different curriculum levels.

Level 1 & 2

Level 3 & 4

Level 5

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