Guiding tomorrow

SMATE UNIT (Science, Mathematics &Technology Education)

The Scientific Literacy project aims at encouraging teachers to communicate attitudes of curiosity, respect for evidence and critical reflection necessary for the development of higher-order cognitive skills via reading, writing, talking, doing and arguing science.


This project aims at promoting both scientific and general literacy amongst second-language learners at primary school level. The strategy is based on an integrated teaching strategies model that emphasises stimulating discussion (via discrepant events, reading, etc.) towards developing investigable questions, planning and doing investigations, writing to learn science (science notebook strategies), finding supplementary information and arguing and presenting findings using a scaffolded Toulmin model.

Drs Catherine Nesbit and Cynthia Rogers of the University of North Carolina, who have contributed to the conceptualisation and implementation of the Scientific Literacy project, worked with the NMMU team when READ trainers were trained on various aspects of the model. A tailor-made READ Scientific Literacy Training Programme including topics, activities, homework for educators, time allocations, trainer’s notes, as well as a set of delegates’ notes for the participating educators, was developed. Since conceptualisation the project has been run in the Tyumie Valley near Alice, Port Elizabeth and with the READ organisation in five provinces. Each teacher attending the training received science kits which include books for shared and group reading, science notebooks for learners, and equipment and related materials to perform investigations.

The research aspect of this project, which includes classroom observation, inspection of learners’ written work, diagnostic assessments, testing of problem solving skills, as well as testing of learners general literacy abilities, began in the third quarter of 2009. The Tyumie Valley data were analysed and findings were that statistically significant improvements were made in terms of the participants’ reading levels in English and their isiXhosa writing and listening abilities. The data generated on teachers’ ability to implement the strategy and their learners’ science knowledge and thinking skills will be analysed early in 2009.

Photo Gallery

A NMMU registered Short Learning Programme in Scientific Literacy was run in early 2009 as an attempt to increase capacity to offer the programme for teachers

Contact information
Prof Paul Webb
Acting Dean: Faculty of Education
Tel: 27 41 504 2565
paul.webb@nmmu.ac.za