So to help us get a better understanding about what research literacy could look like, I have turned to the Paul DeHard Hurd's 1997 paper - Scientific Literacy: New Minds for a Changing World where he identifies the elements of a science curriculum framework and cognitive strategies that seek to prepare students as productive citizens in today’s world. For the purposes of this post I will adapt the suggested cognitive strategies for the purpose of identifying what is needed for educators to be research literate. So the research literate educator
- Distinguishes experts from the uninformed.
- Distinguishes theory from dogma, and data from myth and folklore.
- Recognises that almost every fact of one’s life has been influenced in one way or another by science/technology.
- Knows that research evidence in social contexts often has dimensions in political, judicial, ethical, and sometimes moral interpretations.
- Senses the ways in which academic research is done and how the findings are validated.
- Uses research knowledge where appropriate in making life and social decisions, forming judgements, resolving problems, and taking action.
- Distinguishes educational research from pseudo-science such as astrology, quackery, the occult, and superstition.
- Recognises the cumulative nature of science and social science as an “endless frontier.”
- Recognises gaps, risks, limits, and probabilities in making decisions involving a knowledge of educational and other research.
- Knows how to analyze and process information to generate knowledge that extends beyond facts.
- Recognises that educational concepts and theories are not rigid but essentially have an organic quality; they grow and develop; what is taught today may not have the same meaning tomorrow.
- Knows that educational problems may have more than one “right” answer, especially problems that involve ethical, judicial, and political actions.
- Recognises when a cause and effect relationship cannot be drawn.
- Understands the importance of research for its own sake as a product of a researcher’s curiosity.
- Recognises when one does not have enough data to make a rational decision or form a reliable judgement.
- Distinguishes evidence from propaganda, fact from fiction, sense from nonsense, and knowledge from opinion.
- Views academic research addressing complex educational problems as requiring a synthesis of knowledge from different fields including natural and social sciences.
- Recognises there is much not known in educational research and that the most significant discovery may be announced tomorrow.
- Recognises that research literacy is a process of acquiring, analyzing, synthesizing, coding, evaluating, and utilizing achievements in educational research in schools and similar contexts
- Recognises that educational problems are generally resolved by collaborative rather than individual action.
- Recognizes that the immediate solution of an educational problem may create a related problem later.
- Recognizes that short- and long-term solutions to a problem may not have the same answer.
This is without doubt a long list, however, it does illustrate the complexities of becoming research literate. Indeed, it suggests being research literate involves a career-long commitment to developing the attitudes and disposition, and is not something which can be achieved by participating in the relevant or ITE module or the attendance at a one-day conference. Being research literate involves a commitment to continually seeking to improve your practice, it's not something you become, but rather it is something you do.
Hurd, P. D. (1998). Scientific literacy: New minds for a changing world. Science education, 82(3), 407-416.