10 SES 11 B, Free Choice Experimental Orders and Socio-Scientific Issues
Placing the Problem and Purpose of the Study
Socio-scientific issues (SSI) are those that significant numbers of people would argue about, without necessarily reaching a conclusion or consent. Socio-scientific problems are ill-defined and value-laden, invoking aesthetic, ecological, economic, moral, educational, cultural, religious and recreational values that are constrained by missing knowledge. TThe inclusion of SSI in the curriculum offers a means of expanding both the curriculum and the range of instructional practices commonly experienced in the school science classroom. Studies in SSI so far have focused on students’ decision making (Jimenez-Aleixandre & Pereiro-Munoz, 2002), conceptual understanding, and engagement with science (Albe, 2008b). An area that is still relatively unexplored however is how teachers understand and approach everyday science and SSI in their teaching (Evagorou, 2011).
Starting from the aforementioned gap in the literature, the aim of this work is to explore whether elementary pre-service teachers can be engaged in critical discussions of everyday science through socio-scientific issues, and prepare them to teach SSI. The motivation to design and implement such a project comes from limited research and curriculum development in the area of everyday science, SSI and teacher development (Evagorou, 2011), and the fact that this area can potentially engage students with science and scientific practices (Zeidler & Sadler, 2007). More specifically, science poses political and moral dilemmas and engaging with socio-scientific issues that can enable students to understand the relevance of science to everyday life, gain insight into how people use science, and develop their capacity to be critical consumers of scientific information (Kolsto, 2001). Studies in SSI and everyday science so far have focused on students’ decision making (Ratcliffe, 1996), conceptual understanding (Zohar & Nemet, 2002), and engagement with science (Albe, 2008a) but there is minimal research in the area of teacher education and teaching the connections of science to everyday life through the use of SSI (Venville & Dawson, 2010). Published studies have shown that teachers do not make the connection between science and everyday life since they find it difficult to coordinate between scientific data and the social aspects of the problem which bring uncertainty into the discussions (Zeidler, Sadler, Simmons, & Howes, 2005). Based on this gap in the literature we (1) designed a framework to address teachers’ difficulties when teaching everyday science and SSI and (2) designed curriculum materials that will focus on empowering teachers to understand the connections of science to everyday life and the implications of their decisions.
Even though SSI are an important aspect of science, European educational systems have yet to place an emphasis on the fact that we are facing common scientific and socio-scientific issues that need to be understood systemically (as systems interacting within and across countries) in order to be able to make informed decisions. Hence an additional motivation for this project is to design and implement curriculum materials to engage pre-service teachers (and thereafter their students) in critical discussions of everyday scientific problems that are common across Europe, and prepare them to teach SSI in their classes providing examples of pedagogical approaches, and placing an emphasis on the European (and international) dimension of the problems. Therefore, the main purposes of this paper are to:
(a) Present the framework and three modules that were designed in order to engage pre-service teachers with socio-scientific issues,
(b) Explore whether the three modules were successful in engaging the pre-service teachers with the socio-scientific issues, and helping them to understand the complexities of the socio-scientific issues.
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