Academic journal article Science Educator

Elementary Pre-Service Teachers' Environmental Literacy and Views toward Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Issues

Academic journal article Science Educator

Elementary Pre-Service Teachers' Environmental Literacy and Views toward Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Issues

Article excerpt

The study explored elementary pre-service teachers' attitudes toward environmental and STS issues, their levels of environmental literacy and knowledge about STS, and their views about teaching environmental and STS issues.

A quick glance at our modern world reveals a deep interrelationship between science, technology, and society. Science and technology are increasingly influencing numerous aspects of contemporary life and are, in turn, affected by societal values and norms . In fact, it is estimated that more than 90% of all current societal issues are grounded in science and technology (Yager, 1987). Hickman, Patrick, and Bybee argue , "The success of individuals and their society is tied to the quality of their choice, which varies with the knowledge and cognitive skills of decision makers." Furthermore, he argues that the success of democracies hinge upon the "ability of citizens to think effectively about developments in science and technology and their effects on the world" (1987, p. 5). It is therefore imperative that citizens understand the interconnections between science , technology, and society and take an active and responsible role in the decision making processes related to the social application of science and technology. Many individuals remain poorly equipped to deal multifaceted societal issues are intertwined with science and technology (Cheek, 1992).

Cognizant of the urgent need for scientific literacy in various arenas including the workforce, scientific literacy for all students has become the centerpiece of science education reform movements for the past several decades and has been touted by major reform documents such as the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council [NRC], 1996). Boyer argued that there is a definite place in the core curriculum for the interconnections between science , technology, and society "because these relationships are among the most important ideas, experiences and traditions common to all of us" (1983, p. 302). Achieving scientific literacy involves educating students about complex social issues and their underlying scientific and technological principles. Hence, learning science in its social context is vital to the success of science education reform.

The Science-Technology-Society (STS) movement flourished in the late seventies and early eighties in an effort to tackle the societal concerns of the time which demanded, as Hof stein and Yager argued, "a different kind of science curriculum" (1982, p. 540). Such issues as overpopulation, various types of pollution, dangers of nuclear proliferation, and shortage of water and other natural resources continue to cause concern and stir debates on all sides . The STS movement aimed to address the need to develop a scientific literate society by providing students with real-world connections between the classroom and society and a richer understanding of societal issues whose root causes or solutions can be found in science and technology. STS curricula have been designed to help students develop skills that will enable them to be responsible citizens who are able to make educated and well-informed decisions.

Not surprisingly, in 1982, the NSTA position statement called for STS as a new emphasis in K-12 science education and recommended dedicating 15-20% of science instruction to STS issues (Yager & Roy, 1993). The STS framework is based on an interdisciplinary constructivist philosophy that promotes the genuine and active engagement of students in the learning process. According to Yager, the process should "give the students practice in identifying potential problems, collecting data with regard to the problem, considering alternative solutions, and considering the consequences based on a particular decision" (1990, pp. 198-200). The STS approach allows the development of particular skills needed to address a wide range of social and technological endeavors (Bybee, 1987) and, consequently, promotes social responsibility and active engagement (Aikenhead, 1984). …

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