Science Discourse : The Field, The Tenor, And The Mode

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What does it mean to be literate in science, or to have ‘Scientific literacy’? Surely any definition given here must conform to the accepted social view of literacy; yet still need to encompass anything that could be required of a scientist – at least as far as literacy is concerned. Any definition of scientific literacy must then explain the literacy demands and opportunities specific to speaking and listening, reading and viewing, writing and composing in the science discourse; although of course no definition is complete without strategies to embed it into classroom practice. According to the social view of language, “in any particular situation there are three key factors in the context that impact in the choices we make from the language system: the field, the tenor, and the mode.” (Derewianka & Jones, 2013, p. 6) where the register is “a combination of the field, tenor and mode in a particular situation” (Derewianka & Jones, 2013, p. 7). Here the field is “the subject matter or topic being developed in a particular situation” (Derewianka & Jones, 2013, p. 6); the tenor is “roles and relationships being enacted in a particular situation” (Derewianka & Jones, 2013, p. 6); and the mode is “the channel of communication being used in a particular situation” (Derewianka & Jones, 2013, p. 6) “The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development 's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) defines being literate in science as ‘the capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence-based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity.’” (The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development... ... middle of paper ... ...sociated with meaning prediction” (Axford, Harders and Wise, 2009, p.26). of course this also works for writing. Any scaffold that a teacher gives their students must be thoroughly introduced, and worked through with the students step by step, and reiterated briefly before use, this ensures that the students have abundant exposure and instruction to the use of the scaffolds and sufficient time to memorise their use. The teacher must insure that their method of explaining the scaffold is not simply to narrate its use all at once then leave the students to their own devices, as this can leave the students with too much to think about all at once, called ‘overload’. A good way to introduce the scaffold is to “present the students with cards of questions they should be trying to answer as they read and write, to reduce the problem of overload” (Cornish & Garner, 2009).

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