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Title: Towards a pedagogical framework for the teaching of controversial socio-scientific issues to secondary school students in the age range 14-19
Author: Levinson, Ralph
ISNI:       0000 0004 2696 2849
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Teaching controversial socio-scientific issues presents a significant challenge to teachers because these issues are often based on complex but tentative scientific evidence, and differences between contending parties reflect political, socio-economic and ethical considerations. This thesis aims to develop a realisable pedagogy, underpinned by a theoretical framework, to address such controversial issues. The framework draws on three separate but interwoven strands: McLaughlin’s formulation of nine ‘levels of disagreement’ which conceptualises controversy in a democratic and pluralistic society, the levels ranging from differences based on evidence to differences in worldviews; the ‘communicative virtues’ in which participants need to be schooled to support open dialogue; and Bruner’s ‘modes of thought’ in which protagonists in a controversy aim to convince their interlocutors through narrative and logico-scientific modes. This pedagogical framework operates through constructions of the school-society interface ranging from science as authoritative to science as negotiable. 83 teachers, from 21 different secondary schools and further education colleges in England and Wales, were interviewed about their experiences of teaching controversial socio-scientific issues. Empirical indicators drawn from the teachers’ narratives were mapped onto the framework to construct a picture of current pedagogy. Findings point to a need to support teachers in focusing on specific case studies, particularly those which draw on evidence and its associated logical procedures, to encourage teachers to explicitly draw on student narratives and to educate students in the communicative virtues. Opportunities and limitations are discussed in locating the teaching of controversial socio-scientific issues in the curriculum and in further characterising pedagogy and learning for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available