Dissertation Defense Announcement
The College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation Defense of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
September 21, 2018 at 5:00 PM in Patterson Hall Library, Room 335
Advisor: Brad McAdon
Attaining Scientific Literacy through a Rhetoric of Science Composition Pedagogy
ABSTRACT: For the past sixty years, acquiring scientific literacy has proven to be a daunting task in education, especially for undergraduate science nonmajors. Although some education scholars have recognized the importance and use of arguments to teach science, these pedagogical practices often are aimed at primary school children rather than college students or involve reporting science experiments rather than actually studying or constructing arguments about issues related to science. However, in this dissertation, I contend that educators often neglect a more available tool that not only examines arguments concerning scientific issues but also demonstrates the very heart of scientific literacy: critical thinking. In this project, I argue that a rhetoric of science course that teaches undergraduate science nonmajors to assess and engage the rhetorical components of scientific arguments provides a more pedagogically sound means of helping these students attain scientific literacy than the course designs in popular Introduction to Biology textbooks and their related course syllabi. In order to support this claim, I define and focus on the relationship of five main terms throughout this project as they pertain to the teaching of scientific literacy: science, scientific literacy, critical thinking, argumentation, and rhetoric. Science is a rhetorical practice through argumentation, and as I explain, argumentation fulfills the process of critical thinking, utilizing the analysis, evaluation, and creation of arguments. Applying an Aristotelian understanding of the term, rhetoric involves both the employment and discernment of the means of persuasion. From these terms, I establish that the attainment of scientific literacy is a rhetorical endeavor that necessitates the use of rhetoric of science, which is the analysis, evaluation, and creation of scientific arguments through composition. Examining three major Introduction to Biology textbooks and nine related course syllabi, I demonstrate that these courses generally emphasize learning facts rather than how to think critically about issues pertaining to science, and any writing required in these courses do not include composing arguments concerning issues related to science. In contrast, I demonstrate how a rhetoric of science that uses rhetorical criticism can be used to help nonscience majors attain scientific literacy as I define the term.