Teaching with socio-scientific issues and inquiry in secondary school

2019 edition

Silvia Alcaraz Dominguez

In recent years, the purpose of science education in secondary school has changed from knowing scientific content or scientific ways of proceeding to educating future citizens that can perform science together and discuss it in the public sphere (European Union, 2018; OECD 2016; Departament d’Ensenyament, 2014).

Teachers play a crucial role in the actual act of teaching and learning in this top-down educational “reform”. This is shown, for example, in recent science teaching competence frameworks, which include a command on teaching Nature of Science or Socio-Scientific Reasoning (SSR) (Benarroch et al., 2013; Perales Palacios et al., 2014).

However, research reveals that teacher knowledge influences teacher practice (Ekborg et al., 2013; Reis, 2014). In particular, teacher knowledge has been seen as responsible for teachers’ using Socio-Scientific Issues (SSI) to teach scientific content, thus reproducing the “old” curriculum (Tidemand & Nielsen, 2017).

One way to address this problem is to embed the SSI in a sound pedagogical approach. In particular, Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) has been seen as an evidence-based decision-making process where to teach Nature of Science, argumentation or SSR (Levinson & the PARRISE consortium, 2017). However, despite its potential, research on this is scarce and not systematic.

On this basis, the purpose of this investigation can be pursued through the following central research question: What is the knowledge of secondary school Spanish teachers at a Professional Development course on Inquiry-Based learning for teaching with SSI?

This qualitative study draws on a main data source, which is the teacher portfolio with reflections about the different components of Inquiry-Based learning for SSI, reports from classroom practice, and plans for action. Teacher portfolio is recognised as a way to elicit teacher knowledge (Perrenoud, 2004; Esteve Alsina, 2010).

The expected and unique contribution of this research will be knowledge about teacher knowledge for teaching SSI with IBL in secondary school science subjects. It could also validate the Inquiry-Based Learning pedagogical approach, or suggest adaptations of the model so that it can promote it, the factors affecting, etc. The outcomes of this investigation shall be useful for educational researchers, teachers, and policy-makers.