Future scenarios to introduce sustainability-related SocioScientific Issues in science education
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This study explored the design and educational potential of six future scenarios for introducing sustainability-related Socio-Scientific Issues (SSIs) in secondary science education. It is an important aim in science education to have the competence to deal with these issues as a thoughtful citizen, described as a component of scientific literacy. SSIs are controversial issues that have no clear-cut answers and include scientific, societal, and personal elements. Therefore, well-informed opinion-forming and decision-making on both the scientific and the social aspect and thinking about future possibilities is required when dealing with these issues as a thoughtful citizen. Introducing sustainability-related SSIs in the classroom is challenging because of their interdisciplinary and complex content and their future character that is often being experienced as abstract and difficult to comprehend. Presenting them in a narrative way using future scenarios can provide a concrete and realistic view of an SSI and connect the complex content and future character to students’ daily lives. This can evoke students’ engagement and motivation, stimulate future thinking about sustainability on a deeper level, and encourage students to ask questions and explore their own and others’ emotions and values required to negotiate these SSIs. Six future scenarios were designed based on criteria derived from literature. They covered different themes such as energy policy, biodiversity, and food production. The scenarios were read by Dutch lower secondary high school students (N=24, 11 females, 13 males; average age 12.3 years old), and they were interviewed both individually and in focus groups (12 individual interviews and three focus groups of four students) to explore their reactions to the scenarios. Participants’ reactions to the scenarios were analysed by distinguishing questions, emotions, values, and types of reasoning. Findings show an educational potential for all six future scenarios to introduce sustainability-related SSIs in science education, for they evoked questions, emotions, values, and reasoning among the participants, required for opinionforming and decision-making when negotiating these issues. It is recommended to carefully select one scenario or to combine two or more scenarios for further research on the development of teaching and learning methods for implementing future scenarios in education.