Academic journal article Science Educator

A Framework for Socio-Scientific Issues Based Education

Academic journal article Science Educator

A Framework for Socio-Scientific Issues Based Education

Article excerpt


Science instruction based on student exploration of socio-scientific issues (SSI) has been presented as a powerful strategy for supporting science learning and the development of scientific literacy. This paper presents an instructional framework for SSI based education. The framework is based on a series of research studies conducted in a diverse range of classrooms that made use of several different SSI. Based on the findings and recommendations of these studies, a framework that captures key elements of successful SSI based teaching and learning is advanced. The framework consists of three core aspects - design elements, learner experiences, and teacher attributes which together are shaped by various contexts such as the classroom, the school/district, the community, and state/national policy. The paper describes each of these aspects and provides relevant examples. The framework presents elements necessary for SSI-based instruction with the aim of informing classroom practice, curriculum design, professional development and future research.

Keywords: instructional framework, science practices, scientific literacy, socio-scientific issues


The science education community generally endorses the promotion of scientific literacy, but debate persists over what exactly scientific literacy entails. Roberts (2007) describes the historical development of the construct and groups different viewpoints on scientific literacy into two "visions." Vision I scientific literacy includes an understanding of scientific processes, practices and basic principles within a strictly scientific context. Vision H, on the other hand, takes into account other contexts - "real-life" situations that are scientific in nature but are influenced by other factors, such as social, political and ethical issues. This perspective focuses on decision-making and negotiation of scientific issues for all citizens, not just those who will enter a scientific career. Vision II scientific literacy is consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards particularly in terms of scientific practices such as analyzing and interpreting data, using evidence to participate in argumentation, and collecting, evaluating and communicating information (NRC, 2012). Socioscientific issues (SSI), open-ended social problems with substantive connections to science (e.g., climate change, gene therapy, and nuclear power), represent the kinds of situations in which many individuals will be challenged to exercise their scientific literacy. Therefore, using these issues in formal science education provides an ideal approach for promoting vision II scientific literacy.

By providing SSI as a context in which students learn science, they can gain an awareness of the interrelationship between social, political and scientific perspectives as they learn important science content and practices such as argumentation, reasoning and decision-making (e.g., Hodson, 2003; Zohar & Nemet, 2002; Sadler, 2005; Driver, Newton & Osborne, 2000). In the recently published book, Socio-scientific Issues in the Classroom: Teaching, Learning, and Research (Sadler, 2011), science education researchers from around the world present examples of classroom-based SSI research with special attention to the nature of SSI interventions and implications for teaching and learning of SSI. The nine research studies featured in the volume varied in several ways including classroom contexts (elementary, middle, secondary, and college classrooms), types of SSI (including climate change, environmental issues, and biological determinism), length of intervention (from short units to year-long projects), and analytic approaches to the research (including pre/post-tests, case studies, mixed methods, and discourse analysis). Together, these studies represent a large range of SSI-based instruction in K-16 settings. By examining the instruction and research findings that emerged across these empirically based studies, we developed a framework for SSI-based instruction. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.