Teaching Using Socioscientific Issues to Support Students’ Science Literacy Skills
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
A major goal of STEM education is science literacy, or the ability to access and make sense of science to reach one’s own goals. Putting learning in the context of socioscientific issues (SSIs) can increase STEM relevance to real-world issues and provide practice in evidence evaluation and decision-making. SSIs are complex and open-ended, and feature elements of both science and society (economics, policy, culture, ethics). In the context of microbiology, some SSIs include COVID-19 policies, antibiotic resistance, microbiome-based health treatments and biotechnology (e.g. Bt corn). This session highlights how we used SSIs in a required introductory science literacy course and briefly reviews research that indicates that not all SSIs are equal, because students bring their assumptions, experiences and identities to bear differently on each issue. The session also presents ideas about how best to approach SSIs that are especially controversial and fraught with identity issues (like COVID-19).
Read more about Teaching Science Literacy About Socioscientific Issues.
Getting to Know Yourself and Others
Even with the best of intentions, approaches to equity and inclusion are as good as one’s awareness of factors that influence one’s own perspectives, identity and engagements. For example, our own sense of belonging might even influence how we help others to belong.
The greater the barriers, the more need we have for critical perspectives in order to navigate spaces. Without racial or socio-economic barriers, one might be less reflective about navigating these spaces. As a well-represented majority, one might only need to reflect on these influences if we experience conflict, such as when our perspectives about who we are or about our own ability are challenged, whether through failure or discrepant events. Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and personal experiences as insider-outsider to cultures and races, are used to provide insights into belonging, persistence and identity, as well as misunderstandings that might lead to a lack of empathy.
Communicating Science: Building Bridges, Not Barriers
Iowa State University
As we teach our students about the nature of science and scientific information, we often use specific terminology to describe specific structures, phenomena or processes. While this jargon has value in framing how we think about research questions in the sciences, it is often a barrier to clear communication. We need to consider our use of scientific language when communicating with both introductory students and the lay public. Excessive jargon often excludes many students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Poor communication of scientific concepts opens the door to the spread of misinformation. As science educators, we need to welcome fledgling scientists to our disciplines, acting as guides and teaching students the culture and language of our scientific endeavors. In this session, we will discuss and demonstrate several activities aimed at bridging this jargon-gap.