1 j. curriculum studies, 2002, vol. 34, no. 6, 637±658 School science education for citizenship: strategies for teaching about the epistemology of science JIM RYDER One consequence of the advancing globalization and technological dependence of society is that people outside professional science are nding that issues of concern to them have a science dimension. I consider how school science education can support engagement with scienti c information. I contend that teaching about the epistemology of science is central to achieving this educational goal. I identify epistemic learning aims appropriate to school science education. These are derived from a survey of case studies of how individuals interact with science outside formal education. I consider di erent ways in which these learning aims might be achieved in schools. Teaching approaches based on modi cations of existing practice are identi ed. Addressing the full range of epistemic learning aims is likely to require teaching approaches rarely used in current science teaching. The relationship between science and society has changed signi cantly over the last 50 years. As science has become `industrialized, much scienti c activity has become capital-intensive and, therefore, in need of funding from commercial or government bodies (Ravetz 1995). Consequently, these bodies have a signi cant role in guiding the questions scientists investigate. The increasing technological sophistication of scienti c investigations has also accelerated the interpenetration of science and technology, thus blurring the distinctive aims of these disciplines. Furthermore, science has become more global in terms of both the scienti c community itself and the issues examined by science (e.g. global warming, acid rain and genetically modi ed food). Many of these issues are formidably complex, involving investigation of phenomena outside a controlled laboratory environment. As a result, even though the issues are of immediate public concern, scienti c progress is likely to be slow, with interim pronouncements characterized by uncertainty. Drawing a contrast with traditional `academic science, Ziman (2000) identi es a shift towards a `post-academic science whose activities are interwoven with those of commercial and government bodies. One consequence of this change is that `post-academic science is not directly guarded, institutionally or ideologically, against societal interests (p. 330). As science has become more capital-intensive, Jim Ryder, lecturer at the Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK; web: ¹edu-jr/, has research interests in science teaching and learning in school and university education. His papers have appeared in such journals as International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, and Learning and Instruction. Journal of Curriculum Studies ISSN 0022±0272 print/issn 1366±5839 online # DOI: / Taylor & Francis Ltd
2 638 j. ryder a clear case needs to be made that science provides bene ts worthy of public funding. Furthermore, the funding of science by commercial and government bodies has removed the image of scientists as `lonely seekers after truth (Ziman 1995). As a consequence of these developments, the public has become more sceptical about announcements of scienti c ndings as they relate to issues of public policy (Collingridge and Reeve 1986). As the issues debated by science become more global, and technology more a part of people s lives (e.g. mobile-phones and genetic nger-printing), individuals who are not professionally involved in science are increasingly likely to be a ected directly and personally by scienti c activities. In response to these developments, scienti c and government bodies are recognizing that enabling people not professionally involved in science to engage critically with scienti c information outside formal science education is an important goal (National Research Council 1996, European Commission 2000, Select Committee 2000, O ce of Science and Technology 2001). What is involved for those not professionally involved in science in `engaging critically with issues with a science dimension? Insights into this oft-neglected question are provided by analyses of how individuals interact with science issues in particular contexts of personal concern (e.g. Layton et al. 1993, Irwin and Wynne 1996). Such case studies exemplify critical engagement in terms of drawing on science knowledge in making lifestyle decisions, framing questions to science professionals, or reading media reports of scienti c issues with understanding. Examples of relevant contexts include drawing upon knowledge of human nutrition in following a balanced diet, contributing to a radio phone-in to discuss the safety record of a local nuclear power plant, questioning a health-care professional concerning the risks associated with deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) and long-distance air travel, and interpreting a pamphlet produced by a government department concerning possible harmful health e ects associated with mobile-phone use. Enabling people to engage critically with science issues as they arise in their lives is an educational goal I term `science education for citizenship. Such a goal has been identi ed in terms of enhancing the `public understanding of science (Fensham and Harlen 1999, Miller 2001), `scienti c literacy (DeBoer 2000, Laugksch 2000), `functional scienti c literacy (Jenkins 1990, Shamos 1995, Ryder 2001), `science education for action (Jenkins 1994), `science for speci c social purposes (Layton et al. 1993), and `citizen science (Irwin 1995). Working towards the goal of `science education for citizenship can also support the inclusion of women and minority ethnic groups in science education and, thereby, enhance the democratization of science and society (Brickhouse 1994, Bencze 2000). Of course, school science is only the beginning of the process of learning to engage with science as an adult. From a `life-long learning perspective, individuals will continue to learn science beyond school age, e.g. through contact with science topics covered in the print and broadcast media and searches for information on the Internet. Nevertheless, compulsory education is likely to play a signi cant role in the early stages of this development. Existing school science teaching, however, does not re ect
3 school science education for citizenship 639 adequately the relationship between science and society. In an in uential analysis of school science education in England and Wales, Millar and Osborne (1998: 4) claim that science is presented as `a body of knowledge that is value-free, objective and detachedða succession of ``facts to be learnt, with... a lack of contextual relevance to the future needs of young people. Given these concerns, I consider here the potential for compulsory school science education to enable individuals not professionally involved in science to engage critically in science-related contexts as they arise. Much has been written about the content of a school science curriculum that prepares people to use science knowledge outside formal education (American Association for the Advancement of Science 1993, Bybee 1993, Driver et al. 1996, Millar 1996, Collins et al. 2001). While these analyses use a range of terminology (methods or processes of science, nature of science, socio-scienti c issues), a common feature is the identi cation of knowledge about the development and use of scienti c knowledge, here termed knowledge about science. Such knowledge can be distinguished from the concepts, theories and relationships that constitute knowledge in science. As I argue later, knowledge about science cannot be decontextualized; it is only meaningful when elaborated in speci c science contexts. A weakness in existing school science curricula is the presentation of the concepts and relationships of science (knowledge in science) without any reference to the ways in which these ideas were developed (knowledge about science). Knowledge about science itself can be characterized in terms of the epistemology and the sociology of science. Epistemology examines the ways in which knowledge claims in science are developed and justi ed, e.g. assessing the quality of data, examining the relationship between phenomena and theory, and investigating how con icts of ideas are resolved in science. The sociology of science studies the interactions among scientists (e.g. collaborations between globally networked science research groups), the means by which science professionals interact with those outside science (e.g. scientists framing research questions in response to government funding priorities), or the impact of the communication of science ndings on people s decisions about what to eat or how to travel. In using this distinction, it is recognized that these issues need to be elaborated in speci c science contexts, and that they are interrelated. For example, there are social aspects to the epistemology of science, such as the role of peer review in decisions about what is published in academic journals, and the impact of the professional status of a scientist on the resolution of con icts of ideas. Although there has been some consideration of how aspects of the sociology of science might be examined within school science (Solomon 1993, Fullick and Ratcli e 1996, Ratcli e 1997), there has been less consideration of how epistemic learning aims might be realized in the classroom (Gott and Duggan 1995, Ratcli e 1999). In this paper, I bring into focus both the educational goal of science education for citizenship and the epistemology of science to consider two issues. The rst aim is to identify epistemic learning aims appropriate to school science education that are likely to contribute to achieving the goal of science education for citizenship. Broad areas of epistemology that might be relevant to school science have been identi ed in many of the papers I
4 640 j. ryder have cited. I intend to specify appropriate epistemic learning aims in more detail: to contribute to the identi cation of an `entry-level epistemology... of science, appropriate to a science course for citizens (Millar and Osborne 2000: 193). Furthermore, there has been limited exempli cation of the relevance of stated epistemic learning aims to people s interactions with science. To emphasize relevance, the learning aims identi ed here are grounded in a survey of case studies of how individuals not professionally involved in science interact with science outside formal education. My second aim is to consider the di erent ways in which these epistemic learning aims might be realized in the school classroom. Many previous analyses of teaching knowledge about science in the classroom have failed to recognize the varied characteristics of the knowledge involved. I identify issues within the epistemology of science that are distinctive in terms of the challenges faced in achieving e ective learning in the classroom. Given the emphasis on science education for citizenship within science curriculum documents, there is a critical need for studies that design teaching materials addressing epistemic issues and evaluate their impact in the classroom. However, to date there have been few schoolbased studies with a speci cally epistemic focus. The place of epistemology in interactions with scienti c knowledge In this paper, I build on a previous review of published case studies in which people not professionally involved in science interact with scienti c information outside formal science education (Ryder 2001). Examples of the 31 case studies examined include an analysis of the activities of lay members of a forum set up to consider options for the incineration of local waste (Petts 1997), an examination of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) scare of 1996 (Jasano 1997) and the experiences of parents of Down s children as they interacted with health-care professionals (Layton et al. 1993). Examination of each case study was guided by the question `What knowledge of science is relevant to those individuals not professionally involved in science? The review provides a detailed description and characterization of these science understandings. The strength of this analysis is its grounding in case studies of individuals interacting with science. A summary is provided in table 1. Table 1 provides a categorization of knowledge relevant to the individuals in the case studies. The rst category, subject matter knowledge, refers to the concepts, theories and relationships of science, which I term knowledge in science. The remaining categories refer to knowledge about science. Within these categories, aspects of the sociology of science feature. For example, the category science communication in the public domain includes knowledge about how the professional status of scientists can in uence how their interpretations of data are received by other scientists, policy-makers and journalists. However, the dominant knowledge area featured in table 1 is knowledge about the epistemology of science. For example, Tytler et al. (2001) examine a local debate concerning the safety of emissions resulting
5 school science education for citizenship 641 Table 1. A summary of science knowledge featured in case studies of people interacting with science outside formal education (from Ryder 2001). Subject-matter knowledge. Subject-matter knowledge featuring in compulsory school science.. Subject-matter knowledge beyond the scope of compulsory school science.. Subject-matter knowledge unavailable.. Subject-matter knowledge con icting with compulsory school science. Collecting and evaluating data. Assessing the quality of data.. Study design. Interpreting data. Assessing the validity of interpretations in science:. correlation and causation. considering alternative explanations. time horizons. Interpretation involves knowledge sources in addition to data.. Multiple interpretations in science. Modelling in science. Use of models not made explicit.. Assumptions within models.. Modelling errors. Uncertainty in science. Seeking certainty.. Sources of uncertainty.. Consequences of uncertainty. Science communication in the public domain from the burning of recycled liquid fuel at an industrial cement kiln near a UK village. The cement company took measurements of the emissions from the kiln at regular intervals. Tytler et al. (2001) found that the company often reported the lowest of these emission measurements: `for example, one of the three baseline measurements was selected to show a 75% reduction in heavy metals whereas choosing another would have shown a 10-fold increase (p. 822). In this case study, the company presented a single value as an unproblematic measurement of emissions without any communication of the inherent variability associated with these measurements. For the local residents, an appreciation that measurements do carry variability would have supported them in engaging critically with cement company o cials by asking about the number of measurements taken, and the spread in these measurements. Epistemology in the school science curriculum School science is only the beginning of the process of learning to engage with science as an adult. Individuals will continue to learn science beyond school age, e.g. through engagement with science topics of contemporary
6 642 j. ryder relevance appearing in the print and broadcast media, and also by more self-directed means such as reading popular science books and healthinformation lea ets, and discussions with health-care professionals. Searches for scienti c information on the Internet are also becoming increasingly signi cant (Lee 1999). From this `life-long learning perspective, the goal of compulsory school science education is to provide a basis for this future learning. Of course, providing students with a basic understanding of the key concepts of science is important if individuals are to develop the con dence to frame questions of science. It is also important that school science promote a positive attitude towards engaging with science by giving students a sense that science is a subject that they can interact with as adults. While recognizing these issues, I focus on identifying epistemic learning aims appropriate to compulsory school science that are likely to contribute to people s use of science as adults. The science understandings relevant to people s interactions with science outside formal education detailed in Ryder (2001) were used as a starting point for this analysis. All learning aims with a predominantly epistemic focus were selected. An attempt was then made to identify those learning aims attainable within compulsory school science. Given the limited number of studies into the teaching of epistemic issues in school science, and the potential for radically revised school science curricula in the future, it is impossible to make de nitive judgements about what might be achieved. As a result, only those learning aims whose conceptual demands were considered to be beyond that of the majority of pupils were removed. For example, recognizing the design characteristics of randomized experimental, prospective and retrospective studies, and the extent to which each might be used to justify claims of a causal link between two factors, was a learning aim judged to be inappropriate at compulsory school level. This is not to say that students are incapable of learning about these issues, but that such teaching would be very demanding for many students, and likely to take up a disproportionate amount of teaching time. Approximately 40% of the original epistemic learning aims were removed as a result of this analysis. It is hoped that, as more studies into classroom teaching in this area are undertaken, more informed judgements about what is both desirable and practicable will be possible. Table 2 details the remaining epistemic learning aims categorized under ve headings. The table provides a framework of desired end-points for student learning within compulsory schooling grounded in an analysis of people s needs of science as adults. No attempt is made to consider progression through the school curriculum. Table 2 emphasizes the need to introduce students to a wide range of investigative strategies in science, in addition to the traditional focus on laboratory-based experimental studies involving the control of variables. This requires teaching about the concepts associated with such investigative techniques (e.g. in vitro, in vivo, placebos and control groups). Also important is the assessment of data-quality (e.g. obtaining an estimate of variability) and making judgements about interpretations arising from these studies (e.g. the distinction between correlation and causation and the importance of sample size and sampling bias). Case studies of indi-
7 school science education for citizenship 643 Table 2. Epistemic learning aims to achieve science education for citizenship in compulsory school science. Assessing the quality of data Students should: (a) recognize that measurements carry an inherent variability and, therefore, do not provide unequivocal access to a `true value; (b) understand that an estimate of variability can be obtained from the spread found in repeated measurements; and (c) recognize that if meaningful conclusions are to be drawn then communication of a measurement needs to be accompanied by an estimate of variability. Study design Students should: (d) be aware of a range of methodologies used by scientists to collect data, e.g. in vitro and in vivo studies, blind and double-blind studies involving placebos, observational studies, and experimental studies involving control of variables; (e) understand that in population studies sample size and sampling bias have an impact on the validity of the ndings; (f) understand that in experimental studies involving control of variables, the choice of variables to be controlled has an impact on the validity of the ndings; and (g) understand the concepts of correlation, causal link and causal mechanism. Scienti c explanations Students should: (h) recognize that scientists use analogies to help them develop new explanations, e.g. the heart as a mechanical pump; (i) recognize that explanations can involve entities not there to be seen in the phenomenon, e.g. particles of matter in a gas, magnetic eld lines, light as an electromagnetic wave; (j) recognize that theoretical models can be used to generate predictions that can be tested by further analysis of phenomena; and (k) be able to give examples of controversies that have arisen as a result of scientists using di erent ideas to explain a single phenomenon. Uncertainty in science Students should: (l) appreciate that many scienti c questions are not amenable to empirical investigation because of the number and complexity of variables which would need to be controlled in an experimental study, the long-time horizons involved, and/or restrictions on study design following from ethical considerations; and (m) understand that since proof is often unattainable, decisions may need to be made on the basis of estimates of risk. Science communication Students should: (n) understand the role of peer review in the publication of new ndings; (o) be aware that the status, track record and funding source of scientists can in uence how their interpretations of data are reported; (p) recognize that commercial organizations, scientists, government bodies and media reports often present measurements following from scienti c investigation without any communication of the reliability or validity of these measurements; and (q) be aware that in describing disagreements between groups of scientists media reports may provide limited consideration of the strength of each group s case. viduals interacting with science show that ndings from epidemiological studies, involving statistical ndings, often play a central role. To engage with announcements of ndings from such studies, individuals need to recognize the terminology used to describe these investigative methodol-
8 644 j. ryder ogies, and also the ways in which the reliability and validity of these ndings might be judged. The nature of scienti c explanations is identi ed in table 2 as an epistemic learning aim for compulsory school science. The role of analogies and models in science, and the ontological status of entities such as magnetic eld lines or particles in a gas, might appear far removed from the aims of science education for citizenship. Many case studies, however, show that such features can be relevant to people s interactions with science. For example, the UK Black Report examined the case for a link between local incidence of childhood leukaemia and activities at the Sella eld nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria (Black 1984). The Report gave reassurance that Sella eld discharges could not be linked to leukaemia incidence in the area on the basis of two numerical values derived from empirical data (Layton et al. 1993). Taken as unequivocal empirical facts, these two values provided very strong reassurance. However, the Black Report did not make it clear that both of these values were derived by the application of models to the available data. There were many uncertainties and assumptions associated with the application of these models in the Sella eld context. Local people who did not recognize the uncertainties associated with these modelling assumptions are likely to assume that the report gave solid reassurance based on `hard numerical data. Table 2 also highlights `science communication as a distinctive learning aim. Such communication includes the processes leading to the publication of new ndings in professional science journals and the ways in which commercial and government bodies report science ndings. Particular emphasis is placed on the reporting of scienti c ndings in the popular print and broadcast media. Such issues have rarely been included in school science curricula. It might be argued that many issues under the heading of `science communication are concerned with the operation and aims of the popular media, and the activities of individuals representing commercial and governmental organizations, rather than the epistemology of science. However, examination of case studies in which these science communication issues arise shows that epistemic issues are often highly relevant. For example, Millar and Wynne (1988) present an analysis of newspaper reporting following the Chernobyl nuclear accident. One newspaper presented small changes in measurements over time as automatically indicating a change in the quantity being measured: `A [newspaper] report states that ``the readings were 225 becquerels a litre, against 220 on Monday, implying signi cance in the third gure cited (Millar and Wynne 1988: 393). No explicit discussion concerning the quality of this data was included in the report, leaving the reader to deduce that radioactivity levels had risen, even though the data may not support this deduction. Critically engaging with such a report involves recognizing the place of epistemic considerations in the context of newspaper reports.
9 school science education for citizenship 645 Epistemology in the classroom The principal role of table 2 is to provide a framework for considering the ways in which epistemic learning aims might be realized in the school science classroom. No attempt is made here to examine approaches and learning aims likely to be appropriate for students of di erent ages, or within the distinctive environments of primary and secondary schools. Although such an analysis is certainly needed, the focus here is on teaching approaches likely to get students to the end-points identi ed in table 2. As a result, the approaches outlined below are generally most appropriate to secondary school teaching. It is likely, however, that activities in the earlier years of schooling will play an important role in developing students learning in these areas. For example, younger students might conduct small-scale surveys such as gathering data about height and foot size of students in the class. One purpose of such a survey would be to introduce students to concepts such as `sample in the context of study design. This section begins with consideration of what is meant by `learning about the epistemology of science when the purpose of such learning is to support students in making decisions and engaging in debates concerning scienti c and technological issues. Table 2 is then used to identify areas of the epistemology of science that are distinctive in terms of the challenges faced in achieving e ective learning in the classroom. Learning about the epistemology of science It could be argued that the learning aims in table 2 can be achieved through explicit teaching about the history and philosophy of science. For example, students could learn to `recognize that theoretical models can be used to generate predictions that can be tested by further analysis of phenomena through teaching that provides students with de nitions of the terms `hypothesis, `prediction, and `theoretical model. These de nitions could then be illustrated with accounts from the history of science. This would enable students to provide answers to questions such as `What is a scienti c theory? or `How do scientists use hypotheses to plan scienti c investigations?. A fundamental objection to the predominantly decontextualized approach outlined above is that details of the epistemology of science are context-dependent. For example, the ways in which theoretical ideas interact with knowledge of phenomena is very di erent in astrophysics and condensed matter physics. Observations of key phenomena in the laboratory, under controlled conditions in which experiments can be set up and key variables controlled, is rarely possible in astrophysics, whereas such experiments are the norm in condensed matter physics. Decontextualized discussions of the relationship between theory and phenomena are unlikely to communicate this variation. As a result, achieving the learning aims in table 2 involves introducing students to a wide range of science contexts; building up a student s `tool-kit of contextualized examples of the epistemology of science (Mortimer 1995, Ryder et al. 1999). This
10 646 j. ryder makes epistemic learning aims distinct from many existing learning aims that involve speci c science contexts, e.g. `pupils should be taught the properties and uses of the noble gases (Department for Education and Employment/Quali cations and Curriculum Authority 1999). A further reason why a predominantly decontextualized teaching approach is inappropriate arises from consideration of the educational goal of science education for citizenship. The purpose of achieving the epistemic learning aims in table 2 is to support students in making decisions and engaging in debates concerning scienti c and technological issues. The focus is on students actions in science-related contexts that they are likely to be engaged in as adults, rather than their ability to articulate a view about the epistemology of science. For example, in the context of newspaper reports concerning a possible link between DVT and long-distance air travel (the so-called `economy-class syndrome ), students need to be encouraged to ask questions about the reliability and validity of scienti c ndings, sample size and any potential sampling bias, whether any causal mechanism has been established, and the possibility of DVT resulting from other factors not considered in the newspaper report. To support the development of e ective engagement with such science, students need to be given the con dence to see themselves as capable of raising such questions, and to experience a range of relevant contexts in which to use and develop their understanding of the epistemology of science. This is not to say that such teaching should not consider aspects of the epistemology of science explicitly. However, such explicit discussions are most appropriately set in science contexts from the outset rather than through a decontextualized presentation followed by illustrative examples. Furthermore, where appropriate, these science contexts should re ect science issues of contemporary concern. Modifying existing teaching and learning activities Many have questioned whether developing students knowledge about science is an achievable goal for compulsory school science (Jenkins 1990). There are indeed considerable challenges. Such knowledge has not previously been a central part of school science curricula. Many teachers have undeveloped or inappropriate understandings about how science operates (Brickhouse and Bodner 1992, Lederman 1992, Lakin and Wellington 1994). New pedagogical strategies need to be developed together with new teaching resources and new approaches to assessment. Given these challenges, advocating the learning aims in table 2 as a goal for school science education can appear hopelessly naõè ve. Nevertheless, many learning aims in table 2 may be achievable through modi cations to existing teaching that do not require the design and use of wholly unfamiliar teaching strategies. Such teaching approaches and associated learning aims are identi ed below. It is hoped that these will provide practical starting points for the inclusion of epistemic issues within school science teaching.