An important distinction can be made between the science, technology, and society (STS) movement of past years and the domain of socioscientific issues (SSI). STS education as typically practiced does not seem embedded in a coherent developmental or sociological framework that explicitly considers the psychological and epistemological growth of the child, nor the development of character or virtue. In contrast, the SSI movement focuses on empowering students to consider how science-based issues reflect, in part, moral principles and elements of virtue that encompass their own lives, as well as the physical and social world around them. The focus of this paper is to describe a research-based framework of current research and practice that identifies factors associated with reasoning about socioscientific issues and provide a working model that illustrates theoretical and conceptual links among key psychological, sociological, and developmental factors central to SSI and science education.
The purpose of this study is to contribute to a theoretical knowledge base through research by examining factors salient to science education reform and practice in the context of socioscientific issues. The study explores how individuals negotiate and resolve genetic engineering dilemmas. A qualitative approach was used to examine patterns of informal reasoning and the role of morality in these processes. Thirty college students participated individually in two semistructured interviews designed to explore their informal reasoning in response to six genetic engineering scenarios. Students demonstrated evidence of rationalistic, emotive, and intuitive forms of informal reasoning. Rationalistic informal reasoning described reason-based considerations; emotive informal reasoning described care-based considerations; and intuitive reasoning described considerations based on immediate reactions to the context of a scenario. Participants frequently relied on combinations of these reasoning patterns as they worked to resolve individual socioscientific scenarios. Most of the participants appreciated at least some of the moral implications of their decisions, and these considerations were typically interwoven within an overall pattern of informal reasoning. These results highlight the need to ensure that science classrooms are environments in which intuition and emotion in addition to reason are valued. Implications and recommendations for future research are discussed. ß
ABSTRACT:The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between students' conceptions of the nature of science and their reactions to evidence that challenged their beliefs about socioscientific issues. This study involved 41 pairs of students representing "critical cases" of contrasting ethical viewpoints. These 82 students were identified from a larger sample of 248 students from 9th and 10th grade general science classes, 11th and 12th grade honors biology, honors science, and physics classes, and upper-level college preservice science education classes. Students responded to questions aimed at revealing their epistemological views of the nature of science and their belief convictions on a selected socioscientific issue. The smaller subset of students was selected based on varying degrees of belief convictions about the socioscientific issues and the selected students were then paired to discuss their reasoning related to the issue while being exposed to anomalous data and information from each other and in response to epistemological probes of an interviewer. Taxonomic categories of students' conceptions of the nature of science were derived from the researchers' analysis of student responses to interviews and questionnaires. In some instances, students' conceptions of the nature of science were reflected in their reasoning on a moral and ethical issue. This study stimulated students to reflect on their own beliefs and defend their opinions. The findings suggest that the reactions of students to anomalous socioscientific data are varied and complex, with notable differences in the reasoning processes of high school students compared to college students. A deeper understanding of how students reason about the moral and ethical context of controversial socioscientific issues will allow science educators to incorporate teaching strategies aimed at developing students' reasoning skills in these crucial areas.
This study focused on informal reasoning regarding socioscientific issues. It sought to explore how content knowledge influenced the negotiation and resolution of contentious and complex scenarios based on genetic engineering. Two hundred and sixtynine students drawn from undergraduate natural science and nonnatural science courses completed a quantitative test of genetics concepts. Two subsets (n = 15 for each group) of the original sample representing divergent levels of content knowledge participated in individual interviews, during which they articulated positions, rationales, counterpositions, and rebuttals in response to three gene therapy scenarios and three cloning scenarios. A mixed-methods approach was used to examine the effects of content knowledge on the use of informal reasoning patterns and the quality of informal reasoning. Participants from both groups employed the same general patterns of informal reasoning. Data did indicate that differences in content knowledge were related to variations in informal reasoning quality. Participants, with more advanced understandings of genetics, demonstrated fewer instances of reasoning flaws, as defined by a priori criteria, and were more likely to incorporate content knowledge in their reasoning patterns than participants with more naïve understandings of genetics. Implications for instruction and future research are discussed.
ABSTRACT:The ability to negotiate and resolve socioscientific issues has been posited as integral components of scientific literacy. Although philosophers and science educators have argued that socioscientific issues inherently involve moral and ethical considerations, the ultimate arbiters of morality are individual decision-makers. This study explored the extent to which college students construe genetic engineering issues as moral problems. Twenty college students participated in interviews designed to elicit their ideas, reactions, and feelings regarding a series of gene therapy and cloning scenarios. Qualitative analyses revealed that moral considerations were significant influences on decision-making, indicating a tendency for students to construe genetic engineering issues as moral problems. Students engaged in moral reasoning based on utilitarian analyses of consequences as well as the application of principles. Issue construal was also influenced by affective features such as emotion and intuition. In addition to moral considerations, a series of other factors emerged as important dimensions of socioscientific decision-making. These factors included personal experiences, family biases, background knowledge, and the impact of popular culture. The implications for classroom science instruction and future research are discussed.
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