08 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session - NW 08
General Poster Session
This work aims to analyse how students evaluate socioscientific issues in health contexts. Therefore, a case study design to monitor adolescent students attending an Austrian upper-secondary academic school class in standard biology lessons was developed.
In many countries, educational standards are oriented towards the concept of competence-based education (Bernholt, Neumann & Nentwig, 2012). For the European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2006, p. 5), key competences for lifelong learning are acquired sustainably through “critical thinking, creativity, initiative, problem solving, risk assessment, decision taking, and constructive management of feelings”. In Austria, educational standards have been developed to increase transparency, objectivity and comparability of learning goals by linking school or teacher autonomy with obligations towards basic educational issues, and thus support teachers in giving feedback on the learning success and gaining data for curriculum and classroom development (Wiesner et al., 2017). These basic educational issues are oriented towards Weinert’s (2001) concept of competence-based education, which means that motivational, volitional and process-oriented skills as well as problem-solving abilities in variable contexts and situations should be reached. Based on this understanding, the Austrian competence model has three dimensions: a) the “behavioural dimension” (Handlungsdimensionen), which includes the three sections “organising knowledge: acquiring, presenting, communicating”, “gaining insights: asking, investigating, interpreting” and “draw conclusions: judging, deciding, taking action”; b) the “content dimension” (Inhaltsdimension) includes “basic concepts” (Basiskonzepte) specific for biology, chemistry and physics education; c) the “requirement dimension” (Anforderungsdimension) representing three increasing levels of complexity. (BIFIE, 2011)
According to the Austrian educational standards, science education is supposed to confront students with problems at the interface of science and society (BIFIE, 2011; Wiesner et al., 2017). These socioscientific issues are open-ended, debatable, challenging and realistic (Zeidler, 2014). They produce a social or moral dilemma and require scientific knowledge as well as moral reasoning or ethical evaluation (Zeidler, 2014). The subject biology, which includes environmental and life science education as well, is offering a variety of socioscientific issues in health context (Lindahl & Lundin, 2016). Examples are vaccinations, nutrition and human sexuality. These issues can be used to stimulate students’ reflection on their positioning and structure of thinking. The Austrian educational standards expect students to not only consider these socioscientific issues, but to make evaluations and decisions. However, Pupils grow up in a time of massive information flows and rapid change. In order to tackle these socioscientific issues appropriately they need scientific literacy and critical thinking (Bybee, 1997; Osborne, 2014).
Our long-term perspective is to evaluate necessary conditions for promoting ethical evaluation in the science classroom. For this purpose, a case study design to monitor adolescent students attending standard biology lessons in an Austrian upper-secondary academic school class was developed. We are using a multi-perspective, qualitative approach by collecting and analysing artefacts, such as teaching diaries, lesson plans, the results of writing tasks, class observations, audio-taped discussions and interviews. As a first step students (N = 27; age 15 to 17) were asked to evaluate the Austrian abortion law. In total, nineteen biology lessons (50 minutes each) were used to engage students with the issues reproduction, development and human sexuality in accordance with the Austrian curriculum for the subject Biology and Environmental Protection. The curriculum emphasises to address human sexuality as a biological, social and ethical phenomenon. Accordingly, the teacher (first author of this paper) established knowledge on meiosis, reproductive organs, puberty and secondary sexual characteristics, sexual intercourse and pregnancy as well as embryonic development using sixteen out of nineteen lessons. These lessons preferred lecturing in dialogue with the students and occasionally on student-centred task-based learning. In the seventeenth lesson, contraception and the morning-after pill were discussed. Thus, a contextual transition to the issue of abortion was made. In the next lesson, nine teacher-selected groups (two to three students per group) were provided with a decision-making framework (Fig. 2), which was prepared by the teacher. The students were asked to read the information on the worksheet and then follow the questions. The teacher emphasised that the questions shall be discussed within the group, however every student should come to an individual position and a group agreement is not required. Students had about 50 minutes to discuss the questions, take notes and reflect on their own position. In the final lesson, the teacher and the students collaboratively summarised and reflected on the deliberations made during the group discussions. The group discussions were audio recorded, the recordings transcribed. Then, the audio-tapes were deleted for reasons of data protection. Students were asked to sign a declaration of consent after they were informed about the study design and how their data is handled. The transcripts, the worksheets and the teaching diary were examined for common features. Data analysis is still in progress. In the next step, the study focuses on the issues vaccination and antibiotics.
Most students needed support when asked to critically consider an ethically controversial issue. Without assistance, most students were not making much progress in their discussions, which led to frustration in some groups. Students did not use lessons learnt, struggled in distinguishing facts from assumptions or opinions, had difficulty seeing aspects from another perspective and got lost in details. Only one group developed a dynamic of exchanging controversial ideas and asked each other for arguments and justifications. Worksheets contained some shorthand notes, no arguments or reasons. Only few students valued ethical reflections as important for evaluating the Austrian law on abortion. Most student noticed a dilemma of assessing what life is worth living. However, none of the students reflected on the social importance of the issue. For example, students did not discuss the role of sex education regarding contraception, the morning-after pill or prenatal care on prevent the dilemma of abortion. Even though some students superficially considered how an abortion might affect the woman’s mental, emotional or physical health, none of the students reflected on the mental, emotional and physical consequences a total ban of abortion might have on women. Also, most students did not evaluate the option to terminate the pregnancy, if the embryo’s mental or physical health is at risk. The teacher was unsatisfied with the given process of implementing ethical evaluation in this learning environment, particularly since none of the students used content specific knowledge although this was addressed in recent lessons. In addition, the teacher felt to be pressed for time and doubtful in how to assess e.g. different thinking patterns or train students’ self-regulation skills.
Berholt, S., Neumann, K. & Nentwig, P. (Eds.) (2012). Making it tangible. Learning outcomes in science education. Münster: Waxman. BIFIE / Bundesinstitut für Bildungsforschung, Innovation & Entwicklung des österreichischen Schulwesens (2011). Kompetenzmodell Naturwissenschaften 8. Schulstufe [Competence model science 8th grade]. Wien: Bundesinstitut - Zentrum für Innovation & Qualitätsentwicklung. Retrieved from http://www.bifie.at/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/bist_nawi_kompetenzmodell-8_2011-10-21.pdf Bybee, R. W. (1997). Achieving scientific literacy: From purposes to practices. Portsmouth: Heinemann. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning. Official Journal of the European Union, L 394/10. Retrieved from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32006H0962 Lindahl, M. G. & Lundin, M. (2016). How do 15–16 year old students use scientific knowledge to justify their reasoning about human sexuality and relationships? Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 121–130. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2016.08.009 Osborne, J. (2014). Teaching critical thinking? New directions in science education. School Science Review, 95(352), 53–62. Retrieved from http://www.ase.org.uk/journals/school-science-review/2014/03/352/? Weinert, F. E. (2001). Concept of Competence: A conceptual clarification. In D.S. Rychen & L. Salganik (Eds.), Defining and Selecting Key Competencies (pp. 45–65). Seattle, WA: Hogrefe and Huber. Wiesner, C., Schreiner, C., Breit, S. & Pacher, K. (2017). Bildungsstandards und kompetenzorientierter Unterricht. Salzburg: BIFIE. Retrieved from https://www.bifie.at/bildungsstandards-und-kompetenzorientierter-unterricht Zeidler, D. L. (2014). Socioscientific Issues as a Curriculum Emphasis. Theory, Research, and Practice. In N. G. Lederman & S. K. Abell (Eds.), Handbook of Research in Science Education, 2 (pp 679–726). New York: Routledge.
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