New dissertation about socio-scientific controversies in science education


On March 8th 2019 Anne Solli defended her thesis Handling socio-scientific controversy: Students’ reasoning through digital inquiry.

Motivating this research is the vast access to information on socioscientific controversies (SSCs) that have become readily available through network-based digital media and the challenge of selecting, analyzing and evaluating claims from various disciplines and perspectives. The research concern how 1) student reasoning is contingent on institutional, social and material contexts 2) mediated by mapping tools developed within Science and Technology Studies (STS) when SSCs found online are investigated. Empirical material was collected in two different educational institutions; a technical university and at a science program in an upper secondary school.

The findings are presented in four studies: Study I reports on how students came to understand how to articulate an appropriate argument in a techno-scientific community exhibiting the features of biotechnological discourse, a community-specific use of language that legitimates the epistemic and moral authority of science and marginalizes GMO opponents. Study II reports on how students recirculate a message from a scientific study that has been widely spread online that claims that GMO causes cancer in rats. It shows how such ‘appeals to science’ gained their meaning and rhetorical power as a discursive resource intrinsic to different Communicative Activity Types (CATs). Study III reports on how students’ unfolding discourses on socio-scientific controversies (SSC) can be fruitfully analyzed by using dialogical theories. The findings illuminate how students discursively manage the multivocality and multimodality inherent in SSI online and reveal a set of discursive means that the students use to handle the many perspectives involved when communicating about an issue. Study IV reports on how a digital network visualization tool together with other mediational means such as a task provided by teachers, supports students when analysing data found online. The analysis shows how tool-mediated activity provides means for students to work out what is relevant and useful in a corpus of online data, categorizing online material in terms of criteria such as institutional status, trustworthiness, and position of a controversy.