Why everyday science?
The aim of the project is to engage elementary and secondary pre-service teachers in critical discussions of everyday science through socioscientific issues (SSI), and prepare them to teach SSI. Socioscientific issues (SSI) are those that significant numbers of people would argue about, without necessarily reaching a conclusion or consent. Socioscientific problems are ill-defined and value-laden, invoking aesthetic, ecological, economic, moral, educational, cultural, religious and recreational values that are constrained by missing knowledge .
The ability to deal with everyday scientific issues and socioscientific issues (SSI) has been recognized as an important goal of science education (e.g. Sadler, 2009). Furthermore, the inclusion of SSI in science teaching could move science classes towards unwrapping and engaging discussions and, thus promote dialogic arguments, understanding the nature of science, and conceptual understanding. The 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 (e.g. Jiménez-Aleixandre & Pereiro-Munoz, 2002; Ratcliffe, 1996), conceptual understanding, and engagement with science (e.g. Albe, 2008). A main gap in research however is how teachers (either pre or in-service) approach everyday science and SSI in their teaching.
The project is in line with the Development of Approaches to Teaching and Learning Comenius Priority. The motivation to design and implement such a project comes from:
(a) Lack of research and curriculum development in the area of everyday science, SSI and teacher development. More specifically, science poses political and moral dilemmas and engaging with socioscientific issues 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, conceptual understanding, and engagement with science 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. 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.
(b) 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 socioscientific 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 (elementary and secondary school) 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.
Albe, V. (2008). Students’ positions and considerations of scientific evidence about a controversial socioscientific issue. Science and Education 17, 805-827.
Jiménez-Aleixandre, M. P. & Pereiro-Munoz, C. (2002). Knowledge producers or knowledge consumers? Argumentation and decision making about environmental management. International Journal of Science Education, 24(11), 1171-1190.
Kolsto (2001). To trust or not to trust pupils’ ways of judging information encountered in a socio-scientific issue. International Journal of Science Education 23(9), 877-901(9).
Ratcliffe, M. (1996). Pupil decision-making about socio-scientific issues, within the science curriculum. International Journal of Science Education 19(2), 167-182.
Zeidler, D., Sadler, T., Simmons, M. & Howes, E. (2005). Beyond STS: A Reseacrh-Based Framework for Socioscientific Issues Education. Science Education, 89(3), 357-377.
Zohar, A. & Nemet, F. (2002). Fostering students’ knowledge and argumentation skills through dilemmas in human genetics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 30(1), 35-62.