ERG SES C 12, Teacher Education
Societal issues associated with science have become important in science education to make the subject relevant and meaningful to students. (Zeidler, 2014). Socioscientific issues (SSI) can be defined as societal issues that arise from the scientific and technological developments and raise disagreement or dilemmas among society (Sadler, 2011). Recent studies emphasized the importance of using SSI as a context in science education for its potential to develop students’ subject matter knowledge, informal reasoning, evidence-based decision-making, reflective judgment, argumentation, and moral reasoning (Klosterman & Sadler, 2010; Zeidler, 2014; Zeidler & Nichols, 2009). Moreover, teaching science in SSI context requires the consideration of ethical issues and moral judgments about the scientific issues through social and scientific inquiry (Zeidler & Keefer, 2003). Therefore, SSI teaching fosters the development of social and moral reasoning and character in students through the classroom discourse that students are expected to engage in (Zeidler, Sadler, Simmons, & Howes, 2005).
There are a few frameworks proposed to guide teachers for effective SSI-based instruction (Presley, Sickel, Muslu, Merle-Johnson, Witzig, Izci, & Sadler, 2013; Sadler, Foulk, & Friedrichsen, 2017; Saunders & Rennie, 2013; Zeidler et al., 2005). Among these frameworks, Zeidler et al. (2005) proposed one of the most cited research-based framework for SSI education. The SSI framework emphasizes four areas of pedagogical importance central to the teaching of SSI: (1) nature of science issues, (2) classroom discourse issues, (3) cultural issues, and (4) case-based issues (Zeidler et al., 2005). These issues aim to promote students’ intellectual development and, in turn, their scientific literacy. More recently, an SSI-Teaching and Learning (SSI-TL) framework was proposed to highlight a sequence of learning experiences to support meaningful learning (Presley et al., 2013; Sadler, Foulk, & Friedrichsen, 2017). Sadler et al. (2017) suggested that students should encounter a focal issue, engage in science practices and socioscientific reasoning practices, and then, synthesize key ideas and practices.
Studies showed that the selection of issue context would result in differences in students’ reasoning on SSI (Romine, Sadler, & Kinslow, 2017; Topcu, Sadler, & Yilmaz-Tuzun, 2010). Zeidler et al. (2005) suggested teachers selecting fruitful SSI cases in terms of fostering critical thinking skills, moral and ethical development. Similarly, Presley et al.’s (2013) first two required design elements for SSI-based instruction is selecting and introducing a compelling social issue with strong connections to science and curriculum. Therefore, it was assumed that PSTs’ selection of issues would be influential in their teaching practices. For this purpose, PSTs’ thoughts about the influence of the characteristics of the selected issue context on their SSI teaching practices were investigated. In this sense, the following research question was investigated to be guide for teachers to select fruitful SSI context for their SSI teaching.
- What are the thoughts of PSTs about the characteristics of the selected SSI context influencing the effectiveness of their teaching practices?
This study is part of a broader three-year educational design research (McKenney & Reeves, 2012). The purpose of this research was to develop senior PSTs’ effective SSI teaching practices through re-designing a one-semester undergraduate course. The prototypes of the re-designed course were implemented in 2014 fall and 2015 fall semesters in the elementary science education program at public university located in Turkey. There were 36 PSTs enrolled in the course in the first implementation and 44 PSTs in the second implementation. All PSTs voluntarily participated in the study. There were eight groups in each implementation. There were five main stages of the re-designed course. At the comprehension stage, PSTs were expected to learn what SSI and SSI-based instruction is through readings and classroom discussions. At the observation stage, PSTs were provided effective SSI teaching examples. Then, at the practice stage, they were expected to prepare a group lesson plan (GLP) and perform their one-hour SSI teaching practice in the classroom based on their lesson plan. At the reflection stage, PSTs were guided to reflect on their own and other groups’ teaching performances. For this purpose, all PSTs were expected to write reflection papers before their teaching practices to reflect on their abilities to teach SSI (RP_1) and after their teaching to evaluate their own SSI teaching practices (RP_2). Moreover, after their teaching performances, video-stimulated recall interviews (VSRI) were conducted with groups and post-teaching structured interviews (PTSI) were conducted with 21 volunteer participants to encourage them to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching. Finally, at revision stage, PSTs were expected to design a SSI-based lesson, individually. All of the interviews were transcribed verbatim. Then, reflection papers and interviews were analyzed through inductive content analysis to determine the core consistencies and meanings (Patton, 2002). Another researcher in science education field coded 10% of the data separately and the inter-rater consistency exceeded 85%. Reflection papers and interviews were used for the same purpose to triangulate data. Moreover, in order to ensure trustworthiness of the data, prolonged engagement was used. While one of the researcher was the instructor of the course, the other researcher participated all the activities in the course and build trust with participants so that the sincere answers in the interviews and reflection papers were obtained.
Based on the analysis of PSTs’ statements in reflection papers and interviews, their thoughts about the characteristics of the selected SSI context influencing the effectiveness of their teaching practices were determined. Four codes were emerged which are life experiences, scientific background, care and empathy, and specificity. Firstly, PSTs stated that whenever they selected SSI context on which students have true life experience, they could easily motivate and encourage students in SSI argumentation. For example, the group choosing vaccination as their SSI context had no difficulty in guiding students to find evidences; because everyone had experience about the topic and could easily participate into the SSI argumentation. Moreover, whenever the complexity of the selected SSI contexts’ scientific background was appropriate for students’ understanding, students could easily understand and interpret the evidences. The groups selecting SSI context with too complex scientific background to be understood by students had difficulty in explaining the case. In addition, whenever the selected SSI context was convenient for developing care and empathy, students considered the issue important and paid attention to the SSI argumentation to reach a solution. For example, in the animal testing context, students developed care and empathy for the tested animal and the people waiting for cure; therefore, they were eagerly participate in SSI argumentation. Finally, if the selected SSI context was as much specific as possible, students could handle forming their claims and finding evidences. Otherwise, PSTs had difficulty in guiding students produce counter-arguments to the claims of the other groups. To conclude, the groups who selected SSI context close to students’ life experiences, appropriate to students’ scientific knowledge level, convenient for developing care and empathy, and specific for handling claims stated that they effectively performed their SSI teaching practices. They could easily motivate students to participate and guide their SSI argumentation effectively.
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