No Child Too Young: A Teacher Research Study of Socioscientific Issues Implementation at the Elementary Level

No Child Too Young: A Teacher Research Study of Socioscientific Issues Implementation at the Elementary Level

Sami Kahn (Princeton University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4558-4.ch001

Abstract

Research on the Socioscientific Issues (SSI) framework provides compelling evidence of its ability to provide contextualized science learning as preparation for informed citizenship. However, few SSI studies provide insight as to whether the pedagogical demands of SSI warrant modification or refinement when implemented with young children. Through this exploratory teacher research study, SSI units were developed and implemented in the teacher-researcher's first, second, and fourth grade science classrooms over a one-year period. Results suggest that while SSI provided a critical real-world context for science learning and student discourse, several developmentally-influenced challenges were evident including students' difficulties in shifting from emotional to cognitive bases of argumentation, unintended activation of student fears, confusion between real and imaginary scenarios, and uneven emotion regulation. Findings and recommendations provide a foundation for future research on curricular and pedagogical supports that can facilitate successful elementary SSI implementation.
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Introduction

I wait for it each day…that magical moment when my students forget that I’m there! At that instant, I envision my classroom as a rainforest and I, an intrepid explorer listening intently to its sounds. Quiet and tentative at first, they rise to a delicious cacophony of voices giggling, arguing, squealing, and buzzing, with only an occasional “Dr. Kahn!” squawking like a raucous bird piercing the discursive mist. For me, these are the happiest times in elementary science teaching; when young children are given the tools, opportunities, and encouragement to share their ideas, they can be magnificently unguarded, incredibly insightful, and at times oblivious to your presence. They have so much to say! That’s only true, I think, if you earn their trust and create an environment that is safe for their deepest thoughts. The beauty of teaching science to young children is that they are only mildly indoctrinated into societal norms; elementary students say what’s on their minds, providing what could be an ideal context for enacting SSI. ~Teacher/Researcher Journal Entry, 2016

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher Research: An educational research method that values teachers as knowledge makers but does not require the introduction of a specific intervention to be tested.

Scientific literacy: A goal of science education that prepares students to apply science in their everyday lives and in society.

Socioscientific Issues: A framework that uses ill-structured, scientifically-related societal issues as the context for science learning.

Psychosocial Development: A theoretical approach to understanding the manner in which humans change through life, both psychologically and socially, due to social and environmental influences.

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