Science Teachers Are From Mars, English Teachers Are From Earth Usually.

I’m excited to have the latest ASE School Science Report (SSR) on Science, Literacy and Learning open in front of me on the train. I’ve got time to read it and write a short blog.

One article describes research on how English teachers and science teachers read a science news story differently (McClune and Alexander, Learning to Read with a Critical Eye: Cultivating discerning Readers of Media Reports with a Science Component, SSR Dec 2015).

Science in the news is only a small part of the science reading that interests me (I’m mainly interested in explanation texts), but this article caught my eye because it lets me compare the specific reading strategies between the two groups of teachers – and there are some differences.

The first difference is unsurprising. Science teachers relate the context of the story to established scientific knowledge. English teachers find technical terminology to be an obstacle. This is perfectly reasonable and is the principal reason why I don’t expect English teachers to teach students to read technical texts – that’s a science teacher’s job.

The second difference is the way English and science teachers question the credibility and status of sources. English teachers are less likely to do this. This is an important skill in science – don’t expect English teachers to do this for you.

The third difference surprised me until I thought about it. English teachers are more likely than science teachers to distinguish between fact and opinion. Science teachers cannot be experts on every area of science and so rely on others to be well informed and honest: we consider scientific opinion to be more reliable than other opinions. English teachers seem to be more cautious judges of human nature.

Finally, science teachers are interested in finding the links between evidence presented and the conclusion in the article. Another important skill in science.

The main conclusion I draw from this article is that science and English teachers have learnt to read texts differently. It follows that science teachers should teach students to read science texts.

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