A recognised aim of science education is to promote critical engagement with science in the media. Evidence would suggest that this is challenging for both teachers and pupils and that at science education does not yet adequately prepare young people for this task. Furthermore, in the absence of clear guidance as to what this means and how this may be achieved it is difficult for teachers to develop approaches and resources that address the matter and that systematically promote such critical engagement within their teaching programmes. Twenty-six individuals with recognised expertise or interest in science in the media, drawn from a range of disciplines and areas of practice, constituted a specialist panel in this study. The question this research sought to answer was ‘what are the elements of knowledge, skill and attitude which underpin critical reading of science based news reports’? During in-depth individual interviews the panel were asked to explore what they considered to be essential elements of knowledge, skills and attitude which people need to enable them to respond critically to news reports with a science component. Analysis of the data revealed fourteen fundamental elements which together contribute to an individual’s capacity to engage critically with science-based news. These are classified in five categories ‘knowledge of science’, ‘knowledge of writing and language’, ‘knowledge about news, newspapers and journalism’, ‘skills’ and ‘attitudes’. Illustrative profiles of each category along with indicators of critical engagement are presented. The implications for curriculum planning and pedagogy are considered.
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