Vol. 24, No. 1
and the Public: Learning for the Future
the public from appreciating science more? Is the way that science is
taught today helping or making it harder for young people to evaluate
2000, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) set out to address these
important questions. The Society put in place a two-year initiativeScience
and the Publicto take a careful look at the schools and colleges.
the initiative to bring about collaboration among scientific societies
and other agencies, with the ultimate goal of promoting a long-term
strategy for highlighting the role of science in everyday life.
leaders aimed to accomplish the following:
find new ways of providing young people with the background information
and confidence to evaluate science-based issues that are affecting
consider how best to provide continuing professional development opportunities
for teachers to achieve the above objective; and
provide support for adults who go into schools to support teachers.
the RSC developed a range of evaluation criteria to help measure the
effectiveness of current activities in promoting science to the publicin
this case prehigher educationin as objective a way as possible.
By drawing on these criteria and examples of successful public outreach
activities and curriculum resources, the RSC sought to concentrate efforts
on supporting those activities that are proved to work, and to sustain
a long-term program of activities with common messages about the role
Activities That Work
The evaluation criteria needed to be workable in real-life situations.
Three general measures to help target specific student activities have
feedback (from evaluations), produced by organizations creating the
initiatives, on the successes and failures of initiatives.
published sociological and psychological research on the perception
of science and scientists (5-19 year olds as well as the general public)
supported by unpublished surveys from learned societies within the
on the nature of learningconsidering students' cognitive development
at different ages (preschool to post-16). For example, the project
took into consideration issues such as the ability to learn abstract
theories as well as gender differences in learning.
A number of key issues were identified as a result of the research.
The following is a summary of some of the main issues.
from monitoring, very little independent evaluation of projects and
lack of coordination has created some duplication among a large number
of diverse projects and resources available to schools and colleges.
majority of resources are linked to mandatory parts of the curriculum.
them talk! Discussion activities are important to students.
is a dearth of resources covering science and societal issues available
at the correct level for use in schools and colleges.
materials should provide more than information. Teachers
need help developing strategies for preparing students to deal with
controversial science and society issues that require evaluation of
study highlights the need to develop a consensus approach with other
learned societies, industry, and government agencies that are involved
in science and society issues. It is critical to take the project forward
across as many fronts as possible in science engineering and technology.
The RSC hopes that a consensus approach will give the project more impact
report was published by the RSC in May 2001. To request a copy of the
report or if you would like more information about the project, contact
John Johnston, Manager, Education Communications, Royal Society of Chemistry,
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BA (tel: +44 020-7437 8656;
Johnston is manager of education communications for the Royal Society
of Chemistry in London, United Kingdom.
The report can be downloaded from the RSC website at http://www.chemsoc.org/networks/learnnet/science-public.htm