Increasing Scientific Literacy

Faculty across the CUNY regularly address complex, scientifically-grounded issues such as climate change, genetically-modified foods, vaccines, and evolution. For many of these politically-charged topics, there are fundamental scientific principles that can help students to more fully understand the topic. Increased scientific literacy can help students better interact with complex social problems, and can also help expand their abilities to propose solutions.

Join the Teaching and Learning Center for a workshop where we will develop a working definition of what scientific literacy means in the context of the CUNY classroom. Workshop participants will then identify scientific theories that undergird topics in their own disciplines and then work to break them down into common, foundational concepts – a method that can be employed by all instructors in their classrooms, and by students across the CUNY curriculum and in their everyday lives.

Increasing Scientific Literacy was offered in the Fall 2019 as an in-person workshop at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The workshop and materials were developed by John Zayac.


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains outreach materials, workshop plans and slides.

Materials Folder: Increasing Scientific Literacy

Workshop Plan

00:00 – 00:15: Introductions: discipline, CUNY campus(es), statement of individual workshop goals.

00:15 – 00:30 What is scientific literacy?

  • Small group discussion, consensus building.

00:30 – 00:45: Whole group – discussion of ideas from small group activity

  • Handout – Questions from the NSF National Scientific Literacy Test
  • Do these questions assess what we have defined here? Which ones do, which do not?

00:45 – 01:00: Breaking down complex concepts to science fundamentals – laws, theories, hypotheses.

01:00 – 01:30: Identify scientific concepts for small group work

  • If no volunteers – climate science, energy, vaccines, Earth is (pseudo)spherical.

01:30 – 01:50: Report minimization back to large group

01:50 – 02:00: Wrap up and pitch for future work (office hours).


American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2018) Perceptions of Science in America

Vincent DeFrancesco (2015) “How Science-Literate Are You?” Chronicle of Higher Education

Kennedy and Hefron (2019) “What Americans Know About Science” Pew Research Center.

National Science Foundation (2018) Science and Engineering Indicators, 2018

Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Quiz” 

Eoin O’Carroll (2011) “Are you scientifically literate? Take our quiz.” Christian Science Monitor