Socio-scientific issues

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Socioscientific Issues (SSI) are controversial social issues which relate to science.[1] They are ill-structured, open-ended problems which have multiple solutions.[2]

SSI are utilized in science education in order to promote scientific literacy, which emphasizes the ability to apply scientific and moral reasoning to real-world situations. Some examples of SSI include issues such as genetic engineering, climate change, animal testing for medical purposes, oil drilling in national parks, and "fat taxes" on "unhealthy" foods, among many others. Research studies have shown SSI to be effective at increasing students' understanding of science in various contexts, argumentation skills, empathy, and moral reasoning.[3][4]

Goals of SSI[edit]

Supporters of SSI argue that it can:

  • 1) Cultivate a scientifically literate citizens who are able to apply evidence-based scientific content knowledge to real-world socioscientific scenarios;
  • 2) Foster a collective social conscience whereby students consistently reflect upon the formation and implications of their own reasoning;
  • 3) Encourage argumentation skills that are essential for thinking and reasoning processes and mirror the types of discourse utilized in real-world scientific deliberations;

evaluation, interpretation, and self-regulation[5] Science educators often refer to all of these aspects together as,"functional scientific literacy."[6]

Historical Context of SSI[edit]

Scientific Literacy - Vision I and II[edit]

Scientific literacy has been defined by two competing visions. A Vision I approach to scientific literacy is characterized by content-driven, decontextualized science knowledge. A Vision II approach to scientific literacy is a context-driven, student-centered approach which seeks to prepare students for informed civic engagement.[7] The SSI framework follows a Vison II approach as it is believed to provide an opportunity for contextualized learning of science content as well as an opportunity for moral development.

SSI Distinguished from Science, Technology, and Society (STS)[edit]

SSI is conceptually related to Science, Technology, and Society (STS) education. However, while both approaches connect science to societal issues, SSI is distinguished from STS because of its emphasis on the development of character and virtue as well as content knowledge.[8]

SSI and Moral Reasoning[edit]

Research suggests that SSI creates cognitive dissonance by compelling students to consider claims that may be at odds with their own beliefs and values.[9] Dissonance of this nature is believed by some to advance moral reasoning by ‘empowering students to consider how science based issues and the decisions made concerning them reflect, in part, the moral principles and qualities of virtue that encompass their own lives, as well as the physical and social world around them.'[10]

Research Supporting SSI[edit]

SSI education has been empirically investigated and linked to particular outcomes including: • Promoting developmental changes in reflective judgment;[11] • Moving students to more informed views of the nature of science;[12][13] • Increasing moral sensitivity and empathy;[14] • Increasing conceptual understanding of scientific content;[15]• Increase students’ ability to transfer concepts and scaffold ideas; • Revealing and reconstructing alternative perceptions of science;[16] • Facilitating moral reasoning;[17] • Improve argumentation skills;[18] • Promote understanding of eco-justice and environmental awareness;[19] and • Engage students’ interest in the inquiry of science.

More recently, SSI research has been focused on cross-cultural comparisons and research has reflected international partnerships.[20] It has been hypothesized by some that more advanced stages of epistemological reasoning allows individuals to apply a kind of socioscientific reasoning (SSR)[21] akin to scientific habits of mind. SSR is a theoretical construct that entails the ability to tap key traits while negotiating SSI. These include skepticism, complexity, multiple perspective and inquiry.

SSI in the Classroom[edit]

Teachers utilize SSI to foster understanding of science content and consequences involved in everyday scientific issues. For example, in a study of ecology, an elementary class might consider whether pesticides confer more benefit or harm to our ecosystem.[22] This type of analysis would require students to research the interractions between organisms in food webs and food chains, as well as the human impacts of pesticides. Students could make evidence-based decisions and discuss them through various means including whole-class discussions, debates, online discussion boards, etc... Similarly, older grades might consider issues such as whether genetic engineering should be used to treat genetic diseases.[23]

This type of analysis would require extensive study of genetics and modern genetic engineering techniques,as well as the ethical issues involved in personal freedoms, religious prohibitions on intervention, and so on. Advocates suggest that, through evidence-based discourse, students learn to formulate their own informed decisions and understand those whose views differ from themselves. An essential aspect of the implementation of SSI is that the teacher is not promoting any particular belief; rather, the teacher's role is to promote evidence-based critical thinking and argumentation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zeidler, D.L. & Keefer, M. (2003). The role of moral reasoning and the status of socioscientific issues in science education: Philosophical, psychological and pedagogical considerations. In D.L. Zeidler (Ed.), The role of moral reasoning on socioscientific issues and discourse in science education. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Press. (pp. 7-38)
  2. ^ Sadler, T.D. (2004). Informal reasoning regarding socioscientific issues: A critical review of research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41, 513-536
  3. ^ Sadler, T. D., & Zeidler, D. L. (2005). The significance of content knowledge for informal reasoning regarding socioscientific issues: Applying genetics knowledge to genetic engineering issues. Science Education, 89(1), 71-93.
  4. ^ Zeidler, D. L., & Sadler, T. D. (2008). The role of moral reasoning in argumentation: Conscience, character and care. In S. Erduran & M. Pilar Jimenez-Aleixandre (Eds.), Argumentation in science education: Perspectives from classroom-based research (pp. 201-216). The Netherlands: Springer Press.
  5. ^ Facione, P. A. (2007). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts (2007 update). Millbrae, CA: Insight Assessment/California Academic Press LLC. Retrieved April 28, 2009, from www.insightassessment.com/pdf_files/what&why2006. pdf.
  6. ^ Zeidler, D. L., Sadler, T. D., Simmons, M. L., & Howes, E. V. (2005). Beyond STS: A research-based framework for socioscientific issues education. Science Education, 89(3), 357-377.
  7. ^ Roberts, D.A. (2007). Scientific literacy / science literacy. In S.K. Abell & N.G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 729-780). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  8. ^ Zeidler, D.; Sadler, T.D., Simmons, M.L., & Howes, E.V. (2005). "Beyond STS: A Research-Based". Science Education 89 (3): 357–377. doi:10.1002/sce.20048. 
  9. ^ Zeidler, D.L. & Nichols, B.H. (2009). Socioscientific Issues: Theory and Practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21, 2, 49-58
  10. ^ Zeidler, D. L., Sadler, T. D., Simmons, M. L., & Howes, E. V. (2005). Beyond STS: A research-based framework for socioscientific issues education. Science Education, 89(3), 357-377, p. 360.
  11. ^ Zeidler, D., Sadler, T., Applebaum, S., & Callahan, B. (2009). Advancing reflective judgment through socioscientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 74–101.
  12. ^ Kolstø, S.D. (2001). Scientific literacy for citizenship: Tools for dealing with the science dimension of controversial socioscientific issues. Science Education, 85, 291–310.
  13. ^ Zeidler, D.L., Walker, K.A., Ackett, W.A., & Simmons, M.L. (2002). Tangled up in views: Beliefs in the nature of science and responses to socioscientific dilemmas. Science Education, 86, 343–367.
  14. ^ Fowler, S., Zeidler, D., & Sadler, T. (2009). Moral sensitivity in the context of socioscientific issues in high school science students. International Journal of Science Education, 31, 279–296.
  15. ^ Sadler, T. D., & Zeidler, D. L. (2005). The significance of content knowledge for informal reasoning regarding socioscientific issues: Applying genetics knowledge to genetic engineering issues. Science Education, 89(1), 71-93.
  16. ^ Sadler, T.D., Barab, S.A. and Scott, B. 2006. What do students gain by engaging in socio‐scientific inquiry?. Research in Science Education, 37: 371–391.
  17. ^ Zeidler, D.L. & Keefer, M. (2003). The role of moral reasoning and the status of socioscientific issues in science education: Philosophical, psychological and pedagogical considerations. In D.L. Zeidler (Ed.), The role of moral reasoning on socioscientific issues and discourse in science education. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Press. (pp. 7-38)
  18. ^ Sadler, T. D., & Donnelly, L. A. (2006). Socioscientific argumentation: The effects of content knowledge and morality. International Journal of Science Education.
  19. ^ Mueller, M.P. & Zeidler, D.L. (2010). Moral-ethical character and science education: Ecojustice ethics through socioscientific issues (SSI). In D. Tippins, M., Mueller, M., van Eijck & Adams, J. (Eds), Cultural studies and environmentalism: The confluence of ecojustice, place-based (science) education, and indigenous knowledge systems (pp 105-128). New York: Springer
  20. ^ Lee, H.; Chang, H., Choi, K., Kim, S., Zeidler, D.L. (2011). "Developing Character and Values for Global Citizens: Analysis of pre-service science". International Journal of Science Education: 1-29.
  21. ^ Sadler, T.D., Barab, S.A. and Scott, B. 2006. What do students gain by engaging in socio‐scientific inquiry?. Research in Science Education, 37: 371–391.
  22. ^ Forbes, C., & Davis, E. A. (2008a). Exploring preservice elementary teachers’ critique and adaptation of science curriculum materials in respect to socioscientific issues. Science and Education, 17(8–9),829–854.
  23. ^ Sadler, T. D., & Zeidler, D. L. (2004). Negotiating gene therapy controversies. The American Biology Teacher, 66, 428–433.