About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 9682-9685
Publication year: 2018
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.0790

Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain

CAN SCIENCE BE DANGEROUS? REFLECTION ABOUT ETHICALLY AND CULTURALLY SENSITIVE TOPICS IN THE SECONDARY SCIENCE CLASS

V. Verschoren, J. De Schrijver, J. Sermeus, E. Cornelissen

Odisee University College (BELGIUM)
Ethically sensitive topics such as euthanasia or culturally sensitive themes such as the theory of evolution and homosexuality elicit tensions in the science class for both students and teachers alike. These topics can induce resistance among students and even lead to polarization, especially in a context of super diversity where students of many different cultures share a classroom.

Although the interaction between natural sciences and society is part of the secondary science curriculum in Flemish schools, science teachers report more and more difficulties to tackle these ethically and culturally sensitive topics related to science. However, not tackling these sensitive issues may lead to alienation of students who may feel less at ease in this science context and may tend to ignore or repulse the sciences as a whole.

In short, there is a need for a method supporting teachers and students when dealing with ethical and culturally sensitive themes in the science class. In this regard, a method aimed at stimulating dialogue among students about these sensitive topics can be a relevant approach as it may allow students to reflect about the values under discussion rather than to jump to conclusions.

We developed an approach based on the work on Socratic dialogue and intercultural communication. These approaches not only provide an understanding of dialogue in culturally diverse classrooms, but also provide a dialogue technique allowing students to investigate a shared question. The use of a key question such as ‘Can a scientist be religious?’, ‘May we improve nature?’ or ‘Is Einstein morally responsible for Nagasaki?’ allow students to explore the issues at hand in an open and trusted context. The teacher acts as a dialogue facilitator taking the Socratic stance, this means that he or she facilitates without intervening with regard to the content of the discussion allowing students to discover and develop a shared language to explore these sensitive scientific issues.

As the teacher’s opinions influence his or hers didactic approach, a reflection instrument is developed allowing teachers to reflect upon their views on society, education and the nature of science. Through the discussion of exemplary cases this instrument helps teachers reflect upon their own didactic approach with regard to these sensitive themes.

The method is developed following a design based research protocol. In different steps the method is introduced in schools, evaluated and refined. This is done in co-creation with both science teachers as teachers involved in religious education. Group interviews of teachers and observations of the use of this method suggest that this method focusing on reflection through challenging questions may be an interesting tool to overcome polarization and stimulate dialogue. We will further discuss our findings at the conference.
@InProceedings{VERSCHOREN2018CAN,
author = {Verschoren, V. and De Schrijver, J. and Sermeus, J. and Cornelissen, E.},
title = {CAN SCIENCE BE DANGEROUS? REFLECTION ABOUT ETHICALLY AND CULTURALLY SENSITIVE TOPICS IN THE SECONDARY SCIENCE CLASS},
series = {11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2018 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-09-05948-5},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2018.0790},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2018.0790},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {12-14 November, 2018},
year = {2018},
pages = {9682-9685}}
TY - CONF
AU - V. Verschoren AU - J. De Schrijver AU - J. Sermeus AU - E. Cornelissen
TI - CAN SCIENCE BE DANGEROUS? REFLECTION ABOUT ETHICALLY AND CULTURALLY SENSITIVE TOPICS IN THE SECONDARY SCIENCE CLASS
SN - 978-84-09-05948-5/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2018.0790
PY - 2018
Y1 - 12-14 November, 2018
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2018 Proceedings
SP - 9682
EP - 9685
ER -
V. Verschoren, J. De Schrijver, J. Sermeus, E. Cornelissen (2018) CAN SCIENCE BE DANGEROUS? REFLECTION ABOUT ETHICALLY AND CULTURALLY SENSITIVE TOPICS IN THE SECONDARY SCIENCE CLASS, ICERI2018 Proceedings, pp. 9682-9685.
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