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In this seminar Prof Mike Watts introduces both members of his family and the term dysciencia. He intends by dysciencia a description of people troubled by understanding science concepts and processes: persistent troubles that can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with accessing broad issues in science.

Science learning difficulties are certainly not in their infancy and are very prevalent – perhaps not, though, discussed in exactly this way before. Such ‘science difficulties’ might best be thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, along which lie many causal factors, social factors, dispositions, motivations, preferences, and Prof Watts see such difficulties as occurring across ages and abilities.

He looks at the possibility of dysciencia from two viewpoints: (i) from the perspective that, for some people, science appears to be an entirely ‘other’ world, its arguments and processes are wholly foreign, unfathomable and, consequently, simply cannot be penetrated – and, therefore, with little point in trying to do so; (ii) for some, the cognitive effort of engaging with science is simply too great, there is far too much cognitive ‘heavy lifting’ to be done to merit interaction with scientific matters at all.

In his discussion, Prof Watts will draw on data from a range of research projects over time, none of which were specifically designed to identify or delineate dysciencia. His available data has accumulated through conversations, discussions, debates and some research interviews with children, students, colleagues, family, friends and neighbours – among many others. Any work specifically on dysciencia is yet to happen. 

He draws on a number of theories to explore the ways in which people develop their ideas in science and reach the unexceptional conclusions that learning science is not a straightforward business, there is seldom a clear and direct line between input and output, that explicating people’s thinking through ‘talking’ science is a complex affair and – possibly – that dysciencia is one way of looking at ‘science refusniks’.

About the speaker

Mike Watts is Professor of Education at Brunel University London. He is Director of Internationalisation and Lead for the STEM Education Research Group in Brunel's Department of Education, and currently supervises 15 PhD students. He enjoys exploring new technologies for learning and writing about creative (sometimes transgressive!) pedagogical approaches to learning and teaching.

He enjoys conducting ‘naturalistic’ people-orientated research principally in science education and in scholarship in higher education. He has conducted major studies in both formal and informal educational settings in the UK and abroad, and has published widely on his research through numerous books, journal articles and conference papers.

He has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship, is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Fellow and Council Member of the National Conference of University Professors.

He was raised and educated in Wales and is a passionate supporter of Welsh rugby. He loves, too, spending time in Italy and is (very slowly) learning Italian.