Using Socioscientific Issues-Based Instruction

By Sandra M. Latourelle, Plattsburgh State University, Plattsburgh, NY
Alex Poplawsky, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Brian Shmaefsky, Lone Star College, Kingwood, TX
Susan Musante, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Washington, DC

What is Socioscientific Issues-Based Instruction?

Socioscientific issues-based instruction combines the use of controversial socially-relevant real world issues with course content to engage students in their learning. Issues-based teaching is a variant of problem-based teaching in which authentic, real-life issues or topics are the central focus and the socioscientific aspect. The issue does not have closed boundaries that lead to a specific answer, but is open to exploration, inquiry, and integration of multiple disciplines. Students can investigate a wide range of subjects and the ramifications of them in science, society, politics, economics and any other realm that affects the everyday life of the learner.

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Why use Socioscientific Issues-Based Instruction?

Education research on using socioscientific issues to teach science has shown that it increases student interest and motivation, improves the development of their higher order thinking skills, and increases their understanding of the nature of science. It can also improve students' content knowledge (Klosterman and Sadler, 2010). The approach requires students to develop a position on a controversial, real-world issue, discover evidence that supports or refutes their position, and communicate with their peers. These are skills that will serve them both in their future academic studies and in the workforce.

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How to Teach with Socioscientific Issues-Based Instruction

Socioscientific issues-based learning can constitute a single exercise in the classroom or can be integrated into the entire curriculum. When using issues-based instruction in the classroom, it is best to use current controversies to reinforce the comprehension and retention of subject matter content.

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Examples of Teaching with Socioscientific Issues-Based Instruction

Find classroom activities involving issues such as human cloning, the use of genetic information, and the extinction of species.


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