Preparing students to take informed positions on complex problems through critical evaluation is a primary goal of university education. Socioscientific issues (SSI) have been established as effective contexts for students to develop this competency, as well as reasoning skills and content knowledge. This mixed-methods study investigates the effects of an interdisciplinary undergraduate human biology program focused on the development of evidence-based reasoning to form personal commitments on SSI. Specifically, the study investigates how human biology majors differ from traditional biology majors in their reasoning with SSI, their perceptions of experiences with SSI, their understanding of scientific inquiry, their levels and perceptions of science content knowledge, and their general program perceptions. These outcomes were assessed through open-ended questionnaires on SSI and scientific inquiry and a basic biology concept test administered to 95 participants representing both programs and 16 semi-structured student interviews. Although the two groups did not differ significantly in their decisions or factors influencing their decisions in SSI, human biology majors showed higher levels of socioscientific reasoning, suggesting that learning contextualized in SSI helped them understand and reason with similar issues. While biology majors reported few experiences with socioscientific reasoning, human biology majors felt well equipped to reason with SSI and more likely to consider alternative perspectives in their decision making. Human biology majors also were more likely to view social science research as a form of inquiry and less likely to view scientific inquiry as purely experimental. No difference was found between groups in basic biology content knowledge, although human biology majors felt they were exposed to less detailed biology content. This exploratory study illustrates a novel approach to interdisciplinary, SSI-based science education at the college level.
|Advisor:||Sherwood, Robert D., Schlegel, Whitney M.|
|Commitee:||Akerson, Valarie L., Park Rogers, Meredith|
|Department:||School of Education|
|School Location:||United States -- Indiana|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Biology, Science education, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Biology education, Interdisciplinary education, Socioscientific issues, Undergraduate science education|
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