In this study we report about secondary school (age 14- 15) students’ learning when working with a socio-scientific case - Me, my family and global warming. 27 students in five groups answered a test after 9 hours of teaching. The test included four questions about conceptual understanding, one question about applying knowledge, two questions about asking questions to one researcher and one politician and one question about resources’ trustworthiness. We also audio recorded the students’ poster presentations and performed three focus group interviews after the work. The students were presented an advertisement for a green car as a starting point for the discussion.
In the data we identified the students’ conceptual understanding. We then used four aspects in competence for SSI defined by Sadler et al. (2007): Recognizing the complexity of SSI, examining issues from multiple perspectives, appreciating that SSI are subject to ongoing inquiry and exhibiting skepticism when presented potentially biased information. Then we constructed a matrix to define three levels of these aspects.
The students worked with the simple questions in the case, e.g. comparing how their families travel. Most groups however, did not carefully examine the issue, i.e. they failed to identify it as a SSI-case with complexity and different levels of conflicts. The test results showed that the students know that emissions from a car have weight and they all know that carbon dioxide is released when a car drives and when oil is combusted, but they did not seem to have the basic conceptual understanding of the chemical reaction. Three of the five groups did recognize a need for inquiry but they did not use the information they got to make any decision. The students showed no skepticism to the information they found. Neither were they prepared to ask questions with a high degree of complexity. Most questions were on a personal level. To conclude, the students increase their scientific content knowledge somewhat during the work with the case but the outcome of the case is not very encouraging when it comes to cover aspects of nature of science in the curriculum.
ERIDOB 2010. 8th Conference of European Researchers in Didactics of Biology, Braga, Portugal 13 – 17 July 2010