Teaching Controversial Science: Where Values and Science Converge

By Jill M. Manske.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Scientific discovery and innovation are essential components of global progress and sustainability. However, current evidence suggests that science-based decision-making and outcomes are often challenged and countered by contrary views that rely on underlying beliefs and values rather than scientific assessment. Educators in scientific disciplines are at the forefront of many of these issues, frequently encountering them in their classrooms. Many initiatives aimed at addressing this challenge are designed to increase scientific literacy. While scientific and quantitative reasoning are important to attempt to address this disconnect, the role of personal values in decision-making must not be underestimated. This paper explores the role of college professors in supporting students as they analyze and negotiate controversial and often contentious topics in science, and discusses the role of students’ values, beliefs, and perceptions on their of interpretation of scientific concepts.

Keywords: Education, Pedagogy, Controversial Issues in the Classroom

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.135-142. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 286.332KB).

Jill M. Manske

Professor, Department of Biology, University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, MN, USA

Jill Manske is a professor of Biology at the University of St. Thomas. Her research explores the intersections between immunology, infectious disease, and environmental/community health. Over the past twenty years she has served as a professor in an undergraduate biology department where she has been actively engaged in scientific literacy initiatives across a continuum from first-year non-science students to students engaged in upper-level science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Her academic endeavors have included direct interaction in the national discussion on science literacy and STEM education, as well as mentoring of graduate students and faculty, and serving as an external consultant to other college biology departments. Additionally, she has assisted faculty developing science curricula based on empirically validated teaching practices. Her experience at a religiously affiliated institution has provided experience and insight into students whose religious culture and views impact and influence their engagement with scientific concepts.