Science Education for Citizenship: Teaching Socio-Scientific Issues

Science Education for Citizenship: Teaching Socio-Scientific Issues

Science Education for Citizenship: Teaching Socio-Scientific Issues

Science Education for Citizenship: Teaching Socio-Scientific Issues


"This is overwhelmingly a valuable book - particularly in the context of science education in the UK. It is a book that deserves to be read more widely by science teachers, particularly those who seek not simply to extend their repertoire of teaching techniques, but who wish to place these techniques upon a sound academic footing." Educational Review"I have greatly enjoyed reading through Science Education for Citizenship. It is extremely informative and contains much of value. We will definitely be putting it on our MA in Science Education reading list." - Dr Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, University of London Science Education for Citizenship explores the effective teaching and learning of issues relating to the impact of science in society.Research case studies are used to examine the advantages and problems as science teachers try new learning approaches, including ethical analysis, use of media-reports, peer-group decision-making discussions and community projects.This book:• offers practical guidance in devising learning goals and suitable learning and assessment strategies which provide students with the skills and understanding to address these multi-faceted issues• explores the nature and place of socio-scientific issues in the curriculum and the support necessary for effective teaching. This book is designed for science teachers, citizenship teachers and other educators as they help students to develop the skills and understanding to deal with complex everyday issues.


Which do you prefer – pest-free food or avoidance of long-term damage to the ozone layer? Should vaccination against contagious diseases be compulsory or at patients’ discretion? Should research be funded to establish whether there is life in outer space or should priority be given to developing new energy sources?

Of course, the choices are not as stark or as simple as these. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the nature of socio-scientific issues, such as these questions, and possible reasons for their inclusion in the school curriculum. We consider a socio-scientific issue to be one which has a basis in science and has a potentially large impact on society.

Interest in socio-scientific issues

Many areas of debate in the media and in social policy relate to socio-scientific issues. As we write this the news headlines are on the radio – they include the Irish government campaigning against a new nuclear reprocessing plant because of radioactive pollution; concerns about the way in which the British foot-and-mouth outbreak had been handled; DNA evidence in a murder trial. These are typical socio-scientific issues which reach national prominence. They can impact on individuals and groups at different levels, from determining policy through to individual decision-making.

Most people are interested in applications of science and technology. In 1999, the Office of Science and Technology (OST) and the Wellcome Trust collaborated in research designed to explore attitudes towards science, technology and engineering. As part of the study they surveyed a stratified random location sample of 1839 representative British adults for their interest in particular topics (OST/Wellcome 2000). Almost all were interested in health issues and new medical discoveries (91 per cent and 87 per cent respectively). More people were interested in environmental issues (82 per cent), new inventions . . .

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