, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 697-703
Date: 04 Jun 2008

Socioscientific issues in science education: labels, reasoning, and transfer

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Abstract

This paper provides a critical analysis of some of the issues raised in Simonneaux and Simonneaux’s analysis of socioscientific reasoning among a group of university level students negotiating three socioscientific issues. I first discuss the labels used to reference approaches in science education that prioritize socially relevant issues and the science related to these issues. I draw distinctions between approaches labeled science-technology-society (STS), the socioscientific issues framework, and les questions socialement vives (socially acute questions), which Simonneaux and Simonneaux introduce. Next, I discuss ways in which Simonneaux and Simonneaux’s use socioscientific reasoning as an analytic construct varies with respect to its initial conceptualization. The primary distinctions include linguistic inconsistencies and the conceptual differences these language choices confer, expansion of the construct to subsume a broader range of practices, and issues related to unit of analysis (i.e., applying socioscientific reasoning as an analytic resource for assessing individual practice vs. group patterns). Finally, the issue of transfer of socioscientific reasoning is addressed. When considering the extent to which and how students leverage experiences and practice relative to the exploration of one socioscientific issue to inform their negotiation of another, I suggest that researchers and practitioners consider the distinction between the content of arguments advanced and underlying reasoning patterns. The tension between embedding science in meaningful, specific contexts and promoting forms of scientific literacy applicable to diverse, socially-relevant issues emerges as an important point of emphasis for educators interested in the socioscientific issues (or socially acute questions) movement.