New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Student Experience of Inquiry in the Context of Socioscientific Issues

Ruth Chadwick, CASTeL, Dublin City University (Ireland)

Eilish McLoughlin, CASTeL, Dublin City University (Ireland)

Odilla Finlayson, CASTeL, Dublin City University (Ireland)


Recent curriculum developments have focussed on the development of scientific literacy which can be improved and assessed through students’ inquiry into socio-scientific issues (Holbrook and Rannikmae 2009, Zeidler & Nichols 2009). Inquiry can be considered as a set of skills and knowledge to be acquired and as a pedagogical approach (Colburn 2000, NRC 1996, Olson & Loucks-Horsley 2000). In Ireland, students carry out a socio-scientific issues based inquiry, the Science in Society Investigation, in their third year of secondary school. This study discusses teachers’ and students’ experiences of carrying out socio-scientific issues based inquiry.  Findings from two case studies carried out with two science teachers (both with discipline expertise in Biology) are presented. Daisy Park School case study follows Mr. Baker through 6 lessons with a second year class, while Clover Field School case study follows Dr. Fisher over 7 lessons with a first year class. Data collection methods include teacher interviews and document analysis (student post-lesson questionnaires, student work, teacher lesson documentation). Thematic analysis was carried out on all data (Braun & Clarke 2006). The findings show that the teachers and students talked about their experience of socio-scientific issues based inquiry in terms of the skills and knowledge developed and teachers also talked about the pedagogical approach taken. The socio-scientific issues context of the inquiry differed between the two teachers. Students from Daisy Park School carried out a guided inquiry into local transport issues and linked this to the global context of controversial views on climate change.  Students from Clover Field School carried out an open, experimental inquiry into the preferences of woodlice and then a guided inquiry in which the ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in science were discussed. These different pedagogical approaches and contexts resulted in differing skills and knowledge being developed and these contribute to the development of different aspects of scientific literacy of students.

Keywords: Socioscientific issues, inquiry, scientific literacy, secondary school;


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[7] Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). California, USA: Sage Publications.


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