Throughout history, people have concerned themselves with the transmission of shared values, attitudes, and skills from one generation to the next. All three were taught long before formal schooling was invented. Even today, it is evident that family, religion, peers, books, news and entertainment media, and general life experiences are the chief influences in shaping people’s views of knowledge, learning, and other aspects of life. Science, mathematics, and technology—in the context of schooling—can also play a key role in the process, for they are built upon a distinctive set of values, they reflect and respond to the values of society generally, and they are increasingly influential in shaping shared cultural values. Thus, to the degree that schooling concerns itself with values and attitudes—a matter of great sensitivity in a society that prizes cultural diversity and individuality and is wary of ideology—it must take scientific values and attitudes into account when preparing young people for life beyond school.
Similarly, there are certain thinking skills associated with science, mathematics, and technology that young people need to develop during their school years. These are mostly, but not exclusively, mathematical and logical skills that are essential tools for both formal and informal learning and for a lifetime of participation in society as a whole.
Taken together, these values, attitudes, and skills can be thought of as habits of mind because they all relate directly to a person’s outlook on knowledge and learning and ways of thinking and acting.
This chapter presents recommendations about values, attitudes, and skills in the context of science education. The first part of the chapter focuses on four specific aspects of values and attitudes: the values inherent in science, mathematics, and technology; the social value of science and technology; the reinforcement of general social values; and people’s attitudes toward their own ability to understand science and mathematics. The second part of the chapter focuses on skills related to computation and estimation, to manipulation and observation, to communication, and to critical response to arguments.