Academic journal article Teaching Science

The Use of Ethical Frameworks: For Implementing Science as a Human Endeavour in Year 10 Biology

Academic journal article Teaching Science

The Use of Ethical Frameworks: For Implementing Science as a Human Endeavour in Year 10 Biology

Article excerpt

This research focuses on the use of ethical frameworks as a pedagogical model for socio-scientific education in implementing the Science as a Human Endeavour (SHE) strand of the Australian Curriculum: Science in a Year 10 biology class in a Christian college in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Using a case study approach, a mixed method data collection and action research, analyses of students' beliefs/values/attitudes and achievement outcomes in critical thinking, ethical reasoning and decision-making skills were evaluated accordingly. This research confirms that the use of ethical frameworks can be effective in engaging students and developing informal reasoning and decision-making skills.

INTRODUCTION

This paper introduces the use of ethical frameworks as a pedagogical model to implement Science as a Human Endeavour (SHE) in a Year 10 biology classroom. An ethical framework is based on an ethical principle that allows one to work out whether a particular action is right or wrong. The use of ethical frameworks fits the SHE strand of the Australian Curriculum because of its focus on defined ethical concepts delineating a decision-making procedure that prioritises process learning and its applicability to all socio-scientific contexts where ethical, faith values, social, cultural and/or economical implications can be systematically taken into account. This article explores the use of ethical frameworks in two different activities. First, the 'Four Scenarios', namely: Genetically Modified (GM) Food; In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF); Genetic Screening, Reproductive Technologies and Stem Cells; and Therapeutic Cloning (Sadler & Zeidler, 2005a). And second, a case study of 'My Sister's Keeper' based on the novel by Jodi Picoult. An evaluative study of the experimental group students' written responses to these two activities using the ethical frameworks, when compared to a comparison group using a simple framework (pros versus cons), demonstrated the effectiveness of using ethical frameworks as a pedagogical model to implement the SHE strand in our science classrooms.

THE RATIONALE

In a recent article, The Australian Curriculum: Continuing the national conversation' (Atwell & Singh, 2011), it was highlighted that the focus placed on SHE is considered to be a huge improvement to previous science curriculum initiatives. Such an observation is consistent with curriculum reform in different parts of the world that affirm the importance of engaging with contemporary cultural, economic and technological change. Essentially, the curriculum and syllabi for science recognises that students should be able to use their knowledge of nature and human activities as arguments on issues concerning the environment, health and interpersonal relations as well as formulate standpoints based on that knowledge and their ethical considerations (Ekborg, Ottander, Silfver & Simon, 2012). In particular, socio-scientific issues have come to the fore in science education because of their central role in promoting this aspect of scientific literacy (Driver, Leach, Millar & Scott, 1996; Roberts, 2007). Socio-scientific issues, in general, involve some processes of science or products that generate controversy or debates. These issues may arise from gene technology such as stem cells, therapeutic cloning, genetically modified foods and reproductive technologies. The focus of socio-scientific issues on scientific literacy are reflected in the standards of the United States of America, (National Research Council, 1996; Siebert & McIntosh, 2001) United Kingdom (Millar & Osborne, 1998), Europe (European Union, 2007) and Australia (National Science Standards Committee, 2002; Curriculum Council of Western Australia, 1998; Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Science, 2009). These documents maintain that science students need to develop the ability to make informed decisions regarding scientific issues of social importance. …

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