Module 4

Socio-Scientific Issues


This module is part of:
  • Mathematics and Science Subject dimension: (inter)cultural perspectives on the subjects themselves;
  • Mathematics and Science Education dimension: pedagogical issues, in particular in respect to dealing with diversity in classrooms.
General overview and aim

Socio-Scientific Issues (SSI) offer powerful controversial scenarios to trigger students’ interest and engagement, the need of communication and argumentation, the consideration of different perspectives for informed and democratic decision-making, and the understanding of science and its implications in today’s societies.

This module encompasses a series of activities for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) intended at providing teachers with opportunities to experience and reflect on the potential of socio-scientific issues (SSI) to enhance science education in culturally diverse classrooms, while promoting fundamental values.

To increase the impact of the module on teachers’ knowledge, values and skills, activities will make teachers to take an active role as learners, designers and reflective practitioners (Camburn & Han, 2015; Davis & Krajcik, 2005; Girvan, Conneely & Tangney, 2016).

It offers a set of ITE activities grouped in three different tasks, any of them with a focus on a particular role (teachers as learner, teachers as designers and teachers as reflective practitioners). Additionally, some activities to learn more about specific pedagogical strategies are proposed.

The module considers granularity issues thus making it possible to select particular activities and combine them in longer or shorter sequences. ITE activities are based on research evidence about effective teacher professional development (Avalos, 2011; Desimone, 2011; Loucks-Horsley, et al., 2003; Simon & Campbell, 2012) and a literature review on the use on socio-scientific and cultural issues in the science classroom (e.g. Balgopal, Wallace & Dahlberg, 2017; Dinsmore, Zoellner, Parkinson, Rossi, Monk & Vinnachi, 2017; Dittmer & Gebhard, 2015; France, Mora & Bay, 2012; Lederman et al., 2014; Levinson, 2006; Ratcliffe & Grace, 2003; Sadler & Dawson, 2012; Vázquez et al., 2016; Venville & Dawson, 2010).

The module can be used either for pre-service primary or pre-service secondary school teachers. The teacher educator can decide which SSI are more appropriate to work on, depending on the target group.

Some of the activities described in this module has been successfully implemented in teacher initial education (Romero-Ariza, Abril & Quesada, 2017).

Relevant topics

Nowadays the number of migrants and refugees is being significantly increased in many places around the globe, making science teachers encounter very diverse students in terms of language skills, cultural background, values, knowledge and capacities. In this scenario, teachers play a crucial role since science education will certainly influence the capacity of both, natives and migrants, to get a proper job, to develop their full potential and to actively contribute to social prosperity (Ariza et al., 2017).

From this perspective, teachers need to become aware of potential barriers, acquire intercultural competences and develop culturally appropriate strategies and resources to facilitate science learning for diverse students. In this module we focus on SSI as an appropriate pedagogical approach.

Socio-Scientific Issues (SSI) is a term that refers to topics related to science and technology, which usually entail controversy due to their social, ethical and environmental implications. Research evidence shows that SSI increase students’ motivation and engagement in science learning and promote critical thinking and the understanding of science and its implications (Lederman et al., 2014; Sadler & Dawson, 2012; Vázquez et al., 2016; Venville & Dawson, 2010).

Given the above-mentioned arguments, SSI can be considered a relevant topic for ITE, since it offers interesting opportunities to enhance science education in culturally diverse classrooms. Socio-Scientific Issues and their controversial nature trigger students’ engagement and need of communication. Additionally, SSI entail a pedagogical approach based on argumentation and consideration of diverse perspectives (scientific, social, ethical, moral, cultural, economical, environmental) and require a classroom atmosphere of democratic deliberation and respect (Levinson, 2006; Ratcliffe & Grace, 2003), which is of special value in culturally diverse classrooms.

Learning Outcomes

This module will enable prospective science teachers to:

  • Promote empathy, respect and mutual appreciation through the use of specific techniques.
  • Recognise the potential of SSI to enhance science education in culturally diverse classrooms.
  • Trigger students’ active engagement in a culturally diverse classroom by using media, recent news and events from students’ close environment.
  • Use socio-scientific issues to enhance the understanding of science and its implications in our current lives, taking into consideration cultural, ethical, economical and environmental issues.
  • Support the development of communication and argumentation skills in students with diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • Facilitate the recognition of emotional and rational arguments and support students’ informed decision-making.
  • Promote respect to others’ opinions and active listening in culturally diverse classrooms.
  • Build an atmosphere of ownership within a culturally diverse group joined by fundamental values and the achievement of common goals.
  • Encourage students’ meaningful application of knowledge, values and skills to take actions that will improve their close environment.
  • Apply assessment criteria and processes aligned with the learning outcomes resulting from the use of SSI in culturally diverse science classrooms.
Module (Teacher)

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Worksheets (Students)

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