Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 615–644

Teaching socioscientific issues: classroom culture and students’ performances

Original Paper


The “Treasures in the Sea: Use and Abuse” unit that deals with authentic socioscientific issues related to the Mediterranean was developed as part of a national effort to increase scientific literacy. The unit aimed to enhance active participation of the learners and encourage higher order thinking in class by applying teaching methods that reduce the unfamiliarity felt by students. This was expected through an explicit use of a variety of teaching and assessment-for-learning methods, suitable for Science for All students. Our main goal was to examine the culture of Science for All classes in which the unit was enacted. In order to address the main learning objectives, we monitored students’ performances in tasks that required the higher order thinking skills of argumentation and value judgment, which are central constituents of decision-making processes. We show that while socioscientific issues were discussed in whole class and small group sessions, and students’ argumentation improved, there is still a long way to go in applying a thinking culture in non-science major classes. We suggest that science teachers should shift from traditional content-based and value-free approach, to a sociocultural approach that views science as a community practice and the students as active participants in decision-making processes.


Science for all STS Socioscientific issues Citizen science Assessment for learning 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. AAAS: (1989). Science for All Americans. Washington, D.C: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  2. AAAS: (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aikenhead, G. S. (2004). The humanistic and cultural aspects of science & technology education. Paper presented at the 11th international organization for science and technology education (IOSTE) symposium, Lublin, Poland.Google Scholar
  4. Aikenhead, G. (2005). Science education for everyday life: Evidence based practice. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  5. Aikenhead, G. S., & Jegede, O. J. (1999). Cross-cultural science education: A cognitive explanation of a cultural phenomenon. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, 269–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Allchin, D. (1999). Values in science: an educational perspective. Science & Education, 8, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80, 139–144.Google Scholar
  8. Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004). Working inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86, 8.Google Scholar
  9. Cowie, B. (2005). Student commentary on classroom assessment in science: A sociocultural interpretation. International Journal of Science Education, 27, 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dori, Y. J., & Herscovitz, O. (1999). Question posing capability as an alternative evaluation method: analysis of an environmental case study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, 411–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dori, Y. J., Tal, R. T., & Tsaushu, M. (2003). Learning and assessing biotechnology topics through case studies with built-in dilemmas. Science Education, 87, 767–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duschl, R. A., & Osborne, J. (2002). Supporting and promoting argumentation discourse in science education. Studies in Science Education, 38, 39–72.Google Scholar
  13. Ennis, R. H. (1987). A Taxonomy of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. In J. Boykoff Baron, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Teaching thinking skills: Theory and practice. (pp. 9–26) New York: W.␣H. Freeman and Company.Google Scholar
  14. Harari, H. (1994). Tomorrow 98: Report of the superior committee on science, mathematics and technology education of Israel. Jerusalem: State of Israel, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.Google Scholar
  15. Hodson, D. (1998). Teaching and learning science: Towards a personalized approach. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hughes, G. (2000). Marginalization of socioscientific material in science-technology-society science curricula: Some implication for gender inclusivity and curriculum reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 426–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Keefer, M., & Ashley, K. D. (2001). Case-based approaches to professional ethics: A systematic comparison of students’ moral reasoning. Journal of Moral Education, 30, 377–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lazarowitz, R., & Bloch, I. (2005). Awareness of societal issues among high school biology teachers teaching genetics. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14, 437–457Google Scholar
  19. Oulton, C., Dillon, J., & Grace, M. M. (2004). Reconceptualizing the teaching of controversial issues. International Journal of Science Education, 26, 411–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Poole, M. (1995). Beliefs and values in science education. Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Resnick, L. (1987). Education and learning to think. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  22. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New-York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Roth, W. M., & Calabrese Barton, A. (2004). Rethinking scientific literacy. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  24. Roth, W. M., & Lee, S. (2004). Science education as/for participation in the community. Science Education, 88, 263–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Roth, W. M., & Tobin, K. G. (2002). At the elbow of another: Learning to teach by coteaching. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  26. Roth, W. M., Tobin, K., Zimmermann, A., Bryant, N., & Davis, C. (2002). Lessons on and from the dihybrid cross: An activity-theoretical study of learning in coteaching. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 253–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Solomon, J. (1993). Teaching science technology and society. Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Tal, R. T. (2004). Community-based environmental education—a case study of teacher-parent collaboration. Environmental Education Research, 10, 523–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tal, R. T. (2005). Implementing multiple assessment modes in an interdisciplinary environmental education course. Environmental Education Research, 11, 575–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tal, R. T., & Hochberg, N. (2003). Reasoning, problem-solving and reflections: Participating in WISE project in Israel. Science Education International, 14, 3–19.Google Scholar
  31. Tal, R. T., Dori, Y. J., Keiny, S., & Zoller, U. (2001). Assessing conceptual change of teachers involved in STES education and curriculum development—the STEMS project approach. International Journal of Science Education, 23, 247–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tal, R. T., Dori, Y. J., & Lazarowitz, R. (2000). A project-based alternative assessment system. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 26, 171–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tishman, S., Perkins, D., & Jay, E. (1995). The thinking classroom. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  34. Tobin, K. (2005). Building enacted science curricula on the capital of learners. Science Education, 89, 577–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tobin, K., Capie, W., & Bettencourt, A. (1988). Active teaching for higher cognitive learning in science. International Journal of Science Education, 10, 17–27.Google Scholar
  36. Toulmin, S. (1958). The uses of an argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Zeidler, D. L., Sadler, T. D., Simmons, M. L., & Howes, E. V. (2005). Beyond STS: A research-based framework for socioscientific issues education. Science Education, 89, 357–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zohar, A., & Dori, Y. J. (2003). Higher order thinking skills and low-achieving students: Are they mutually exclusive? Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12, 145–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zohar, A., & Nemet, F. (2002). Fostering students’ knowledge and argumentation skills through dilemmas in human genetics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 35–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education in Technology and ScienceTechnionHaifaUSA

Personalised recommendations