The Drama of Science Education
How public understanding of biotechnology and drama as a learning activity may enhance a critical and inclusive science education

University of Oslo, Norway

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In the context of this study, I seek to inform and transform ideas of science education by exploring knowledge of public understanding of science, together with knowledge of the value of drama in the teaching-learning process. The vision I propose is a critical science education that is inclusive of all students. This study shows that respondents to a survey demonstrate a complicated relationship to modern biotechnology. Even though many of the respondents think biotechnology will make our lives better in the future, they still often refer to it in negative ways. Philosophical and ethical issues are frequently mentioned as the reasons for such perceptions. I suggest that science educators ought to take this picture into consideration. An analysis of a role-play about genetic testing indicates that in a contextualized and personalized situation scientific issues are discussed in ways where the learners’ imagination is encouraged and different views and arguments are revealed. The analysis also indicates that the ethical discussion depends on the scientific knowledge available to the learners at the time of the deliberations. It is suggested that with professional guidance, learners may reflect on a role-play experience and relate personally to the scientific issue involved. The prediction is that a combination of an active experience and personal, critical reflection will empower learners in science education. The dissertation consists of four papers, a video-documentation, and a presentation and discussion of the research questions involved. It is organized as follows: After an introduction, selected debates in education and science are presented in Chapter 2. The notions of the Norwegian expression ‘allmenndannelse’ and the English ‘liberal education’ are discussed. Ideas of critical pedagogy and feminist pedagogies are seen in light of the situation of science education in Norway. Studies of the public’s relationship to science are reviewed. And, finally, ideas on how these debates may inform a critical and inclusive science education are offered. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies are utilized to address the research questions raised in the context of the various studies presented. In each paper the methodologies are presented, with a brief outline in Chapter 3. A summary of the papers is offered in Chapter 4. Paper I is a study based on a survey of the Norwegian public’s relationship to modern biotechnology. The respondents’ associations to the notion of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering are categorized and analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. The public shows a complex relationship to modern biotechnology, and the paper recommends that ethical, emotional and philosophical elements should be taken into account in the learning and teaching process. Paper II offers an elaboration of how drama can enhance science learning. Ideas of culture sensitive science education are viewed together with features of learning through drama based on educational debates. It is shown how through the use of drama ~ which combines cognitive, affective, and active learning ~ that students’ enhance their abilities of meta-reflection and simulating realities. Paper III is a critical review of drama and science projects. A structured survey based on different dimensions of science education and drama activity is offered. The study suggests that drama may help create meaningful and empowering learning environments. Paper IV focuses on educational values of imagination, collaborative action, and critical reflection, and gives an example of how a role-play about genetic testing may serve these interests. Role-play dialogues involving groups of students from upper secondary school are deconstructed. The deconstruction illustrated that students think critically and creatively in the role-play situation. Role-play is recommended as a motivating, engaging and empowering learning activity. The submitted video-documentation and the drama project Gen-Gangere are described briefly. The project was a collaboration between me, as a science education researcher, a drama educator, and his drama students in upper secondary school. Using results from Paper I and IV, Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic works, and their own understandings of science, a dramatic presentation was made. The translated manuscript is presented in Appendix 3. Implications and conclusions of these studies are discussed in chapter 5. It is suggested that in addition to factual scientific knowledge, there should be an emphasis on political, ethical and philosophical relationships between science and society. In order for science education to be critical and inclusive it is important for the learners to position themselves with reference to science, and to build the learning on learners’ lived experiences. Drama may provide students with contextualized and personalized shared experiences on scientific and socio-scientific matters, which might form a basis for challenging, engaging and empowering learning.


Department for Teacher Education and School Development,
University of Oslo, Box 1099, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, NORWAY
tel: (47)22 85 41 52, fax: (47)22854409,
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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