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The Challenges and Opportunities for Embracing Complex Socio-scientific Issues As Important in Learning Science: The Murray-Darling River Basin As an Example

  • Peter J. FenshamEmail author
  • Jasper Montana
Chapter

Abstract

Socio-scientific issues present a great challenge to science educators that are charged with equipping students—as future adult citizens—with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to understand and respond to them. These issues, such as climate change and over-exploitation of resources, are increasingly prominent in our lives. Complex socio-scientific issues are often defined by an interrelated set of smaller issues, they can have vast social impacts and their scientific basis is often uncertain or contested. The increasing global conflict around water, in particular in rivers that flow across territorial or national boundaries, is a notable example of one of these issues.

In Australia, the management of the Murray-Darling River Basin, which underpins a large part of the nation’s agricultural economy, became the focus of intense public debate in all forms of the media between 2010 and 2012. At the same time, a new national curriculum for school science was being developed. In this chapter, we use the Murray-Darling controversy as a context to investigate how this science curriculum might facilitate teaching and learning of socio-scientific issues (SSIs) by considering this SSI. We adopt the analytical tools of frame theory and boundary work to assess:
  1. (i)

    the role of science in the controversy surrounding this SSI;

     
  2. (ii)

    the strengths in the science curriculum to make a contribution to understanding the science involved; and

     
  3. (iii)

    the lessons that can be drawn from the Murray-Darling controversy about how the science curriculum might better equip teachers and students to tackle such complex SSIs.

     

Keywords

Socio-scientific issues Science curriculum Framing Boundary work Water management Science controversy 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PoliticsUniversity of SheffieldSheffleldUK

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