Teaching Controversial issues for active citizenships and sustainability.
Professional development for teachers, classroom activities and issues of
Gray, D.S., Bryce, T.G.K., Colucci-Gray, L., Camino, E., Marchetti, D.
In the last twenty years scientific knowledge has been going through major changes in the
processes concerning its production and its application. According to Funtowicz & Ravetz
(1999), the research environment has gradually changed, from ‘academic’, curiosity-driven
science to ‘industrialized’, mission-oriented science. “Post-normal science” as defined by
the authors is science embedded with values, it contains a dimension of risk and
uncertainty and it calls for individual and collective responsibilities. When dealing with the
controversial aspects of the applications of science and technology therefore it is important
that citizens are able to recognise the conflict of values and the competing interests at
stake and take active role in decision-making processes. Hicks (1996) takes this point
even further, addressing the implications that such science would have for global policy.
Especially in relation to sustainability of certain courses of action, he remarks, it is
important that citizens acquire cognitive and social skills for creative and collaborative
actions. Such scenario is certainly challenging for research in science education.
During an evaluation of a Summer School aimed at preparing Scottish teachers to deal
with the topic of biotechnologies, Gray and Bryce found that similar to other models
existing in Europe, a great effort is made on updating scientific knowledge and practical
skills of the teachers, but it does not provide them with the necessary pedagogical tools to
effectively address the moral and ethical issues in science.
In search of such pedagogical tools, Marchetti and Camino present the findings of a
research project on the use of interactive activities to deal with controversial socio-
environmental issues with secondary school students.
Finally from the long-lasting experience of working with interactive activities for teaching
about socio-environmental controversial issues, both in the school context and in refresher
courses for teachers, Colucci and Camino argue that in order to teach about the
complexity of the relationships between science, technology, environment and society,
also a more complex and holistic method of research and development, which takes into
account plurality of perspectives and variety of experiences is required.
Funtowicz S. & Ravetz J. post-normal science – an insight now maturing. Futures 31 (7),
Hicks D. (1996) Envisioning the future: the challenge for environmental educators. Env.
Educ. Res. 2 (1), 101-108.