It’s Still Debatable! Using Socioscientific Issues (SSI) in Elementary Science Methods and PD Courses to Promote K-5 Scientific Literacy

It’s Still Debatable! Using Socioscientific Issues (SSI) in Elementary Science Methods and PD Courses to Promote K-5 Scientific Literacy.

Sami Kahn, Princeton University

Workshop Focus:
Current conceptualizations of scientific literacy demand that students develop as an informed citizenry prepared to negotiate complex societal issues related to science (Roberts, 2007, 2011; Zeidler & Sadler, 2011). This contemporary view of scientific literacy, which is emphasized in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), requires students to evaluate evidence, develop arguments, appreciate varied perspectives, and understand the moral consequences of their decisions, all skills that require explicit instruction and practice (NSTA, 2016). Elementary teachers, who are often very short on time for science, may avoid controversial socioscientific issues (SSI) such as whether we need zoos, whether distracted walking (on cell phones) should be illegal, or whether we still need a space program, and the like, because of concerns about arguments in their classrooms and fear of broaching moral/ethical issues (Kahn & Hartman, 2019; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014). Yet SSI is an ideal context for providing rich scientific and engineering experiences that promote social/discourse skills and Nature of Science understanding while seamlessly connecting to ELA, Math, and Social Studies (Kahn & Hartman, 2019). Science teacher educators, therefore, must provide pre-service and in-service students with opportunities for gaining the theoretical understanding and pedagogical skills required for implementing SSI in increasingly diverse, inclusive K-5 classrooms. In this way, science teacher educators can promote scientific literacy by ensuring that current and future teachers are prepared to engage all K-5 students in meaningful, real-world, contextualized science learning that encourages argumentation (Driver, Newton, Osborne, 2000; Osborne, Erduran, & Simon, 2004), moral development (Kahn, 2015; Zeidler & Sadler, 2011), and perspective taking skills (Kahn & Zeidler, 2016, 2019).

During this interactive two-hour workshop, participants will be introduced to the theoretical framework behind the Socioscientific Issues (SSI) approach as well as Universal Design for Learning (UDL; CAST, 2018; Rose & Meyer, 2002). They will then engage in activities drawn from the presenters’ book, It’s Still Debatable! Using Socioscientific Issues to Develop Scientific Literacy, K-5 (Kahn, 2019) to collaboratively engage in an SSI lesson, as well as review the book’s chapter on implementation of SSI in science methods courses, in order to understand how to incorporate this framework into their methods courses so that their students can plan, deliver, and assess SSI curricula in their own classrooms.

Workshop Audience:
This workshop will be of tremendous interest to all ASTE members, particularly science teacher educators who work with pre- and in-service elementary teachers due to the very clear focus on both theoretical and practical implementation of SSI in elementary methods and professional development courses. In addition, science curriculum developers and curriculum coordinators will find the workshop helpful in that it will provide them with both the SSI and UDL theoretical frameworks and interdisciplinary connections that can be applied to other STEM approaches. Finally, the workshop will be of interest to science education researchers who are interested in elementary science teaching and learning, and approaches to incorporating SSI and UDL in the elementary science classroom.

Expertise of Presenter:
Sami Kahn, J.D., Ph.D. ( is a 30+ year veteran science educator with extensive experience in pre-service and in-service teacher education, curriculum development, and science education research. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Council on Science and Technology at Princeton University where she works to promote scientific literacy for all through STEM education research, interdisciplinary course development, and outreach. An award-winning teacher and scholar, she uses her background in science education and law to inform her work on socioscientific issues (SSI), inclusive science practices, argumentation, and social justice. Dr. Kahn has authored numerous journal articles and has co-authored four books on enhancing scientific inquiry experiences for children and adults, including co-authorship of the book, It’s Debatable! Using Socioscientific Issues to Develop Scientific Literacy, K-12 (Zeidler & Kahn, 2014). She frequently serves as an invited speaker at national and international conferences and holds leadership positions with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) (Advisory Board, Science & Children) and the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) (Chair, Inclusive Science Forum), as well as editorial positions for two peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Kahn is particularly proud of her recently-published co-edited/authored book entitled, Towards Inclusion of All Learners Through Science Teacher Education (Brill, 2018) and her sole-authored book, It’s Still Debatable! Using Socioscientific Issues to Develop Scientific Literacy K-5 (NSTA Press, anticipated publication Aug. 2019). Dr. Kahn holds an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Rutgers University, a J.D. in Law from Rutgers School of Law, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Science Education from the University of South Florida where she served as a Presidential Doctoral Fellow. Prior to coming to Princeton University, she held positions at Ohio University, Rutgers University, and Collegiate School in New York City.

Workshop Objectives:
At the end of this workshop, participants should be able to:
1) Articulate the theoretical underpinnings of the SSI and UDL frameworks to advance scientific literacy for all elementary students;
2) Implement strategies for engaging pre-service and in-service science teachers in elementary-level SSI through debate and other forms of argumentation and discourse;
3) Employ rubrics to assess student performance and evaluate sources of information within the SSI classroom context;
4) Integrate the book’s chapter specifically written for science teacher educators to implement SSI into new or existing elementary science methods syllabi or professional development course outlines.
An online survey will be distributed to all participants to assess their knowledge of and comfort with the above-mentioned objectives and more generally, using SSI in their teacher education courses, research, and/or curriculum development.

Instructional Strategies:
The workshop will utilize a variety of instructional strategies to accomplish these goals. Participants will:
1) Employ Universal Design for Learning (UDL; CAST, 2018; Rose & Meyer, 2002) and the BSCS 5E Instructional Model (Bybee, 2015) to ensure accessible, inquiry-based STEM experiences for all learners;
2) Utilize cooperative learning techniques (Johnson & Johnson, 2002; Slavin, 1980) including numbered heads, think-pair-share, team roles, and Jigsaw to enhance collaboration;
3) Implement graphic organizers such as KLEW Charts, RAN Charts, and 4-Square Writing Charts to encourage evidence-based argumentation and disciplinary literacy skills;
4) Utilize role play and debate to encourage discourse and perspective taking skills.

Workshop Outline:
The draft workshop outline is as follows:

• Welcome and Introduction to SSI:
Theory and research behind the SSI framework – 10 minutes
Primer on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – 5 minutes

• It’s Still Debatable! – Modeling elementary-level, NGSS-aligned SSI activities – 45 minutes

• Student Assessment and Resource Evaluation for SSI
Argumentation and debate organizers, rubrics, formative and summative SSI assessment, applying the CARS rubric to evaluate resources – 20 minutes

• Incorporating SSI into your science methods/PD course syllabi
Collaborative activities allowing participants to plan for incorporation of SSI in their courses – 30 minutes

• Workshop Processing, Ongoing Support, and Evaluation – 10 minutes

Workshop Assessment and Follow-Up:
The workshop effectiveness will be gauged both formatively and summatively. During the workshop itself, feedback from workshop participants will be solicited using “thumbs up”
polling following interactive activities to allow the presenter to adjust the workshop to address participants’ interests and preparation level. At the completion of the workshop, an online
survey will be distributed to assess how well the workshop addressed teacher educators’ preparedness for incorporating SSI into their methods courses and professional development
programs. This evaluation will also provide valuable information so that the presenter can distribute follow-up materials to participants on any topics that were not sufficiently covered in the workshop. In order to maintain momentum following the workshop, a Google Group will be formed so that participants can continue conversations with the presenter and other participants in order to collaboratively plan, troubleshoot, and share resources.

ASTE members will find this session to be incredibly timely given the near universal calls for greater collaboration and understanding in societal deliberations as well as the need for stronger understanding of the Nature of Science during a period when scientific misunderstanding and distrust appears to be on the rise. Using SSI, UDL, and connections to Common Core and Social Studies standards, this session will provide participants with the tools and strategies to immediately implement inclusive SSI in their elementary science methods and PD courses.

Thank you for your consideration!