Analysis of Cycle 2 Science Textbooks Representation of Scientific Literacy and Reliability Level
For over half a century, textbooks have played a decisive role in teaching and learning activities. In today's classrooms, textbooks serve as primary teaching instruments and greatly influence how knowledge is delivered and communicated. With the development of the society, a majority of teachers use textbooks to guide their instruction. On the other hand, readability of textbooks is an important construct for both educators and textbook authors. Finding the right fit between the students' reading ability and the text difficulty is an important and challenging task for teachers.
This study is about how scientific content is presented and represented in Cycle 2 science textbooks of Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) schools. The purposes of this study are therefore to identify the aspects of Scientific Literacy (themes) that are emphasized by the science textbooks used in Grades (6 - 9) and to identify the readability level of these science textbooks.
Two types of samples and sampling procedures were involved in the present study. The first sample was that the textbooks of Science Focus for the United Arab Emirates (Student version), 2nd edition by Whalley, Phillips, Monckton, Roberson, Mayers, Brown, and Naville (2009) were the focus textbooks of this study to be analyzed and the second sample pertains to 200 students drawn purposely from two of AI-Ain Cycle 2 government schools covering grades 6, 7, 8, and 9 during the 2013/ 2014 academic year. The textbooks were selected for their content and readability analyses whereas the students were selected to identify their actual reading ability.
The framework used to examine the aspects of the Scientific Literacy presents science as (a) a body of knowledge, (b) a way of investigating, (c) a way of thinking, and (d) an interaction with technology and society (STS). The readability of the science textbooks was determined by using two instruments namely the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Formula and the Fry Graph. The actual reading ability of the involved student was determined by the Cloze Test.
The findings showed that while high percentages of content coverage were based on a theme of science as a body of knowledge across all grades, there was a tendency of less representation of this theme as we move up the grades (from grade 6 to grade 9) . However, the overall results suggested that the representation of the themes were not really balanced. Science as a way of knowing, as investigative activities, and as interaction with science, technology was all neglected in these textbooks. Findings related to the readability analyses suggested that there was a mismatch between textbooks intended reading levels and the student actual reading levels, indicating that all the textbooks are somewhat complex and far above the reading ability levels of the intended readers. Grades 6, 7, and 8 textbooks showed the highest mismatch as high as two grades level above the actual intended reading level. The findings also indicated that Grade 9 textbook was slightly difficult for the students by one age level higher.
These findings were discussed in the context of science education research with particular emphasis on how science teachers may use textbooks to lessen their impact in regard to views about Scientific Literacy and readability characteristics.
Specific recommendations were that authors and teachers had the responsibility to balance the content in terms of the themes describing the Scientific Literacy and improve the level of readability of science textbooks. Furthermore, science teachers can play a major role in improving students' reading abilities by using different teaching strategies.
Based on the findings that emerged from the present study, specific suggestions for future research were presented. Studies related to how science teachers conceptualize Scientific Literacy might produce findings that may encounter the imbalance representation of Scientific Literacy themes in these textbooks. Studies on how teachers can explicitly highlight the nexus among science, technology and society would lead to, a realization that science is more than simply the scientific knowledge. Furthermore, investigate the influence of textual difficulty in science textbooks on the students of different levels of reading achievement. Examine the differences of reading ability with regard to students' gender across the same topics of the science textbooks.