Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Department

Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Younkyeong Nam PhD

Abstract

With the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), further emphasis in science education is being placed on preparing students to become more informed voters regarding social, ethical, economic and political topics that affect contemporary society. Parallel to this shift is a stronger emphasis on integrating evolutionary theory as a unifying concept in the biological sciences. Given that evolution is one of the aforementioned topics commonly discussed and debated about in social and political arenas, ensuring that instruction provides students from all backgrounds a comprehensive understanding of its principals is becoming increasingly important in contemporary science education. Chapter II of this project functions as a review of contemporary literature that will be utilized to help determine the best methodology for enhancing instruction and comprehension of prominent Socio-Scientific Issues (SSI) like evolution. Literature suggests that using argumentation to engage students in socially controversial scientific content may enhance comprehension and retention of material. More specifically, since evolution is a SSI that is often perceived by some to challenge individuals’ religious and ethical beliefs, engaging students in the content is often difficult using traditional methods that do not allow alternative, non-scientific ideologies to be incorporated. Therefore, it is suggested that the incorporation of a data driven, formal argumentation that allows students the option to argue either for or against evolution may serve to increase the level of engagement of the student body as a whole in evolutionary content. Chapter III of this project is a unit planned designed to incorporate data driven SSI argumentation into an evolutionary context. Through the use of five case studies, students will be introduced to the raw data that is used by evolutionary biologists to support evolutionary theory. Using these activities, students will collaboratively analyze the data, and be asked to decide individually whether to use it to support evolutionary theory or creationism. Subsequently, the formal argumentation piece is designed to engage all students in active argumentation using debate questions related to each case study.

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