Science Education for Citizenship. Thoughtful Decision-Making About Science-Related Social Issues

University of Bergen, Norway

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Does compulsory science education provide pupils with an adequate foundation for future participation in society as democratic citizens?

Scientific literacy is an important aim for school science. It therefore seeks to prepare the pupils to make decisions on controversial issues with a science dimension. The science involved in such issues is often characterised by uncertainty and expert disagreement. In schools science, the pupils nevertheless most often meet scientific knowledge believed to be valid and indisputable. However, disagreement, argumentation and discussion play a central role in scientific practice. Kolstø asserts in his theses that school science should put greater emphasis on this aspect of science. He also argues that knowledge about science as a societal institution should be given a more pronounced place within the science curriculum.

This thesis includes a qualitative study of how pupils make a decision on a ‘typical’ controversial issue: whether growing up near power transmission lines might increase the risk for developing childhood leukaemia. Kolstø describes different aspects of the pupils’ statements and thinking, i.e. how pupils judge the trustworthiness of different claims. In his thesis he also develops a model that describes how aspects of science related to trustworthiness, argumentation and evidence might be dealt with in school science.


Department of Physics and Technology

University of Bergen, Allegaten 55, N-5007 Bergen, Norway

tel: (47) 55 58 48 39, fax: (47) 55 58 48 52
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