Date of this Version
UCARE Poster session, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Fair, April 2016, Lincoln, NE.
Socioscientific issues (SSIs) are complex, multifaceted issues with components of science as well as components of values requiring evaluation of social, political, and ethical concerns (Nichols & Zeidler, 2009). • However, many students do not possess a fundamental understanding of the underlying scientific foundations of SSIs (NRC, 1998), or may evaluate issues based on personal relevance as opposed to contemplation of evidence presented (Sadler et al., 2004). • This study examined how undergraduate students chose to substantiate their opinions on the SSI of using biofuels as a fuel source before and after taking a semester long course, AGRI/NRES 103. • The AGRI/NRES 103 course is designed to increase students’ capacity to use science in their analysis of SSIs facing agriculture and natural resources. • By helping students understand and use scientific information when reasoning about this issue, we hope to support greater understanding of how science is relevant to an issue, which is a key component of science literacy (Feinstein, 2013).
Overall, student responses showed improvement in overall mean argument quality, and less emotive arguments. However, students may need more support in developing high-quality, science-informed arguments. Many students changed their opinions about biofuels, (42% of all the students) which is a sign of deep reasoning and learning about the issue. Many students’ analyses, explanations, and opinions of the usage of biofuels are based in economic, environmental and social dimensions of agriculture and natural resources.