Understanding and promoting the societal dimension of relevant science education

University of Bremen, Germany

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ingo Eilks (Co-reviewer Prof. Dr. Avi Hofstein, Rehovot, Israel)

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This PhD project intended to better understand and promote the societal dimension of relevant science education. The term ‘relevance’ is used frequently in connection with reform in science education; but, the problem is that the term is used in a multitude of ways. In this thesis a clear definition and a model of understanding the different dimensions of ‘relevance’ of science education are provided. A focus group study participated by chemistry teachers of different expertise helped to validate and better understand the hermeneutical derived model. The model can be presented as an interesting resource, e.g. for planning and reviewing curricula or lesson plans, and to better understand the role and emphasis of the societal dimension of science education.

Educational models for better understanding the linkage of science and society were derived from the philosophical works of Ludwik Fleck (1935). A second model derived seems to be useful in justifying and understanding teaching practices, such as the idea of learning about ‘filtered information’ as suggested by Hofstein et al. (2011). Educational recommendations were derived from the study about Ludwik Fleck that can help to enrich the practice of societal-oriented science education.

Both models were linked and compared to traditions of societal-oriented science education in Germany and beyond. The connections and interpretations led to new insights to better understand societal-oriented science education in general and the socio-critical and problem-oriented approach to science education in Germany in particular (Marks & Eilks, 2009). Based on the suggested theories, a lesson plan on tattooing for teaching practice was developed. The teaching unit on tattooing in chemistry education is a very productive basis for promoting motivation and ‘relevance’ in science teaching. The results of evaluating the lesson plan on tattooing revealed that carefully selected contexts, which are chosen with a comprehensive view of individual, societal and vocational relevance, could contribute to developing motivation by students to learn science.

Overall, this thesis contributes to a better understanding of ‘relevance’ in science education and introduces ways of making science education more relevant. It contributed to theory development, the invention of innovative pedagogies, development of concrete lesson plans and our general understanding of societal-oriented science education.


Fleck, L. (1935). Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache. Republished in German in 1980. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Hofstein, A., Eilks, I., & Bybee, R. (2011). Societal issues and their importance for contemporary science education: a pedagogical justification and the state of the art in Israel, Germany and the USA. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9, 1459-1483.

Marks, R., & Eilks, I. (2009). Promoting scientific literacy using a sociocritical and problemoriented approach to chemistry teaching: Concept, examples, experiences. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 4(3), 231-245.

The major findings from the thesis are published - among others - in the following journal articles


Stuckey, M., Hofstein, A., Mamlok-Naaman, R., & Eilks, I. (2013). The meaning of 'relevance' in science education and its implications for the science curriculum. Studies in Science Education, 49, 1-34.

Marks, R., Stuckey, M., Belova, N., & Eilks, I. (2014). The societal dimension in German science education – From tradition towards selected cases and recent developments. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 10, 285-296.

Stuckey, M., & Eilks, I. (2014). Raising motivation in the chemistry classroom by learning about the student-relevant issue of tattooing from a chemistry and societal perspective. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 15, 156-167.

Stuckey, M., & Eilks, I. (forthcoming). Chemistry under your skin? - Experiments with tattoo inks for secondary school chemistry students. Journal of Chemical Education accepted for publication.

Stuckey, M., Heering, P., Mamlok-Naaman, R., Hofstein, A., & Eilks, I. (forthcoming). The philosophical works of Ludwik Fleck and their potential meaning for teaching and learning science. Science & Education accepted for publication, DOI 10.1007/s11191-014-9723-9.


Stuckey, M., Marks, R., Mamlok-Naaman, R., Hofstein, A., & Eilks, I. (2012). Chemieunterricht, Allgemeinbildung und Gesellschaft - Blicke über den Gartenzaun [Chemistry lessons, Allgemeinbildung and society – Views beyond the garden fence]. Praxis der Naturwissenschaften - Chemie in der Schule, 61(8), 10-14.

Stuckey, M., Sperling, J., Hofstein, A., Mamlok-Naaman, R., & Eilks, I. (published online first). Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis von Relevanz des Chemieunterrichts [A contribution on understanding relevance in chemistry education]. Chemkon. DOI: 10.1002/ckon.201410227

Eilks, I., Belova, N., von Döhlen, M., Burmeister, M., & Stuckey, M. (2012). Kommunizieren und Bewerten lernen für den Alltag am Beispiel der Energydrinks [Learning to communicate and evalute for everyday life aling an example in energy drinks]. Der Mathematische und Naturwissenschaftliche Unterricht, 65, 480-486.

Stuckey, M., Witteck, T., & Eilks, I. (2013). Chemie, die unter die Haut geht: Tätowierungen [Chemistry that goes under your skin: Tattoos]. Praxis der Naturwissenschaften Chemie in der Schule, 62(3), 30-34.

Stuckey, M., & Eilks, I. (2014). Tätowierungen - Chemie, die unter die Haut geht [Tattoos: Chemistry that goes under your skin]. RAABits Chemie Sekundarstufe I, Stuttgart: Raabe.

Thesis (cumulative thesis based on articles in English and German language)

Stuckey, M. (2014). Understanding and promoting the societal dimension of relevant science education. Dissertation University of Bremen.


Dr. Marc Stuckey

University of Bremen

Leobener Str. NW2

28334 Bremen


E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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