New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

“Small Particles – Big Effect?” A Teaching Unit to Foster Students’ Risk Literacy Regarding Nanotechnology

Marie Eschweiler, Institute of Science Education, University of Bremen (Germany)

Doris Elster, Institute for Science Education, University of Bremen (Germany)


Nanotechnology is regarded as a key technology of the 21st century. Due to the increasing use of nanomaterials in almost all areas of life it becomes more and more important to consider the risks and chances caused by these nanomaterials regarding to oneself, the society and the environment. However, the risk-research is lagging behind the production and marketing of nanotechnology. One precondition for a responsible handling regarding nanotechnology is the `risk literacy’ (RL). In order to promote the students´ risk literacy, the six-hours lasting teaching unit “Small particles – Big effect?” is developed, conducted and evaluated in the outreach lab Backstage Science (BaSci Lab) at the University of Bremen. Target groups are 10th to 12th graders (N=57) of six school classes. The learning effectiveness of the teaching unit regarding the prerequisites of risk literacy (attitudes, subject knowledge, reflection, orientation knowledge) is measured by a questionnaire in pre-post-design. Furthermore, the students write risk judgements, which are evaluated based on the Risk Literacy Model (RLM) of Sozio & Elster. The findings demonstrate particularly an increase of subject knowledge regarding nanotechnology. The attitudes are on a relatively high level (interest: average 3.40 of 5pt-Likert-Scale; motivation: average 3.87 of 5pt-Likert-Scale). Orientation knowledge (own values and norms: average 4.06 of 5pt-Likert-Scale; orientation on others: average 2.87 of 5pt-Likert-Scale) and the ability to reflect (self-assessment of own risk judgment competence: average 3.96 of 5pt-Likert-Scale; quality and credibility of sources: average 3.30 of 5pt-Likert-Scale) are of a relatively high level too. Regarding the risk judgements, the students especially pursue the peripheral route of the RLM, the risk literacy of the students therefore tends to be low and should be further trained.

Keywords: nanotechnology, environment, Backstage Science Lab;


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