Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 16

JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING

Research Article

What DoWeMean by Science Education for Civic Engagement?

John L. Rudolph 1 and Shusaku Horibe 2

1 Departments of Curriculum and Instruction, History of Science, and Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 225 N. Mills Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706 2 Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

Received 6 April 2015; Accepted 16 November 2015

Abstract: One of the most frequently cited goals for science education over the years has been to provide students with the understanding and skills necessary to engage in science-related civic issues. Despite the repeated insistence on the importance of this kind of democratic participation, there has been little effort in the research community either to define just what science-related civic engagement entails or to ask whether the research or practices in the field are suited to accomplishing this goal. In this paper we take a step toward this end by offering a precise definition of science-related civic engagement drawing on work from the fields of philosophy and political theory. We argue that such engagement can be found in instances requiring both the use and production of scientific knowledge and examine the various avenues of that engagement. We then explore some implications such a definition might have for thinking about science education research and practice. # 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach Keywords: civic engagement; democratic participation; science-related social issues

Most educators, policy makers, and researchers with even a passing interest in science education would agree that a central goal of teaching science is to prepare young people to deal with science-related issues they are likely to encounter in their lives as citizens. Explicit references to this civic goal are found nearly everywhere. In their landmark statement of scientific literacy, Science for All Americans (1989), Rutherford and Ahlgren, for instance, insist that science education should equip people to “participate thoughtfully with fellow citizens in building and protecting a society that is open, decent, and vital” (p. xiii). Nearly two decades later, we find policy documents making the same connection between science education and its value in civic settings. In the National Academy report Taking Science to School (2007), the ability to “know, use, and interpret scientific explanations” and “generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations” are among the key “strands of proficiency” necessary for individuals to “participate in society as educated citizens” (p. 2), and the Academy’s Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) similarly asserts that since “science, engineering, and the technologies they influence

Correspondenceto: J. L. Rudolph; E-mail: jlrudolp@wisc.edu DOI 10.1002/tea.21303 Published online inWiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com).

# 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

2

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

permeate every aspect of modern life,” some “knowledge of science and engineering is required to engage with the major public policy issues of today” (p. 7). This central argument, nearly unchanged in substance over the years, reflects the intuitively appealing idea that understanding science at some level of mastery or competence is essential for participating in the science-related civic issues we face on a daily basis. Moreover, implicit in these policy statements is the belief that such issues are growing in importance as advances in science and technology race forward, increasingly shaping all aspects of the society in which we live. However, moving from claims about the importance of science for civic participation in modern society to a picture of science understanding that could, at least in theory, actually enable individuals to be successful in such participation is no easy task. One of the key challenges to formulating that picture has been that the goal in question—civic participation around issues that intersect with science—has never been defined with any real precision. It appears to be a matter of faith among policymakers and researchers that high-quality science education (whether that includes doses of deep conceptual understanding, scientific epistemology, or the ability to justify claims with evidence) will, as a matter of course, result in producing students—and thus citizens—who can successfully navigate science-related civic issues as they arise later in their lives. However, there has been little effort over the past thirty years or so to specify in any principled and systematic way the various everyday abilities that would be necessary for such engagement to occur because we have only vaguely considered what that engagement looks like. One approach to this ill-defined target problem has been to shift attention from the top-down visions of science understanding found in policy-document prescriptions to the everyday interactions individuals have with science. This is the approach Ryder takes in his frequently cited article in which he lays out what he calls “functional scientific literacy” (2001). In this work, he draws together a host of case studies that detail assorted public interactions with science-related social issues and builds from them a framework for thinking about the type of science learning that would prepare people for those situations. In other words, rather than imagining how various elements of the science curriculum might theoretically be useful in daily life, Ryder examines the specific kinds of science-related knowledge the individuals in these case studies actually used in their encounters. More recently, Feinstein (2011) has surveyed the field and sought, in a similar way, to make sense of science education from the “everyday interaction” perspective, arguing that a focus on science in daily life has the potential to fundamentally change how we think about teaching and learning science. Although this shift to an empirical examination of how people use science in their lives is a move in the right direction, we argue that it doesn’t go far enough in helping us see what knowledge of or about science is necessary for the civic subset of those everyday interactions. Ryder’s (2001) definition of functional science literacy relates to interactions that cover a broad range of arguments for learning science, including the utilitarian, democratic, and social. And Feinstein’s piece concludes in the same vein, setting out a description of what he calls a “competent outsider” that would recognize that “people selectively integrate scientific ideas with other sources of meaning, connecting those ideas with their lived experience to draw conclusions that are personally and socially meaningful” (2011, p. 180). The vision there remains broad, including anything a person might deem relevant to his or her life. Neither formulation of science literacy, valuable as each is, gets us closer to the more specific goal of understanding what science- related civic engagement looks like. In what follows we attempt to offer some much needed definition by exploring what science- related civic engagement substantively entails. We draw on the work of researchers in philosophy and political theory to bring greater precision to our understanding of this mode of citizen

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

3

interaction. It is our hope that this clarity and specificity will move the field closer to understanding what is necessary to realize this fundamental and longstanding commitment to educating citizens for democratic participation in science-based public issues. To demonstrate how such a definition might support our efforts in conceptualizing science education, we explore the implications of this definition for what might go on in science classrooms that would prepare students to productively engage with science-related civic issues. What we find is that teaching science for civic engagement requires a much broader conception of education than any we have seriously entertained to date, one that embraces more than just content knowledge or even some understanding of scientific practice, but that includes as well understandings of epistemology and the social and institutional context in which science operates.

Defining Civic Engagement

Examinations of the science education needs of the general public, particularly around issues encountered in everyday life or from the perspective of the “citizen” have been made before (e.g., Hodson, 2003; Layton, Jenkins, Macgill, & Davey, 1993, Roth & Barton, 2004). But there is a difference between the interactions people have with science “from the perspective of” the citizen and the interactions they have (or that are available to them) “as” citizens defined in a political sense. The latter kinds of interactions are much more specific and make up only a subset of the former. Some of the seminal early works on science education and citizenship provide us with examples to illustrate this point. In Jenkins’s (1999) piece on science education, citizenship, and public understanding, he describes the function of science teaching toward this end as providing people with the necessary tools to go about their daily business in the world. His treatment of “citizen science” refers to a range of possible situations in which one might need to draw upon knowledge of science in order to successfully negotiate some desired outcome. These situations, Jenkins notes, might be personal, job related, or connected to some collective action. Another example is found in the work of Kolstø, who, in his “Scientific Literacy for Citizenship” (2001), refers to “decision making” and “socioscientific issues,” but is more explicit about the most desirable kinds of learning that might take place than he is about the types of science-related decisions or interactions an individual might encounter. Subsequent work on the topic of socioscientific issues (e.g., Sadler, 2009) and scientific literacy (e.g., Roberts “vision II” [2007]) similarly make few distinctions among the kinds of issues that a given citizen is likely to encounter. What is common to all of these approaches is that they bundle together the variety of interactions a layperson might have with some science-related issue including everything from personal health issues to domestic household concerns to local environmental worries. The use of “citizenship” in this way is useful to the extent that it provides a way of identifying a range of everyday science interactions; in each case the term “citizenship” is used to capture the scope of activities of the non-scientific public (that part of the populace not possessing professional expertise in the sciences). But we wish to make an important distinction; we want to separate from this bundle of socio-scientific topics those that are more specific to the idea of citizenship as it is commonly understood in the fields of political theory and civic engagement. That is, we are interested in the kinds of everyday encounters with science or science-related issues that relate to the general public interest or are political in nature. This isn’t to say that the other types of everyday encounters aren’t important, only that they likely entail different types of knowledge and skills, and so the type of science education one would provide may differ as well depending on the interaction in question. Bringing in perspectives from the field of civic education—a field concerned with the preparation of young people for citizenship in the collective or political sense—is instructive and

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

4

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

allows us to place a finer point on just what is meant by civic -minded science education. One of the more cogent writers on this topic is the philosopher and civic educator Peter Levine. Levine sees civic engagement as being composed of two parts. The first part relates to the ends of engagement. For an activity to be considered a form of civic engagement it should be concerned with what he calls “legitimately public matters” (2007, p. 13). Here the key distinction is between activities that relate to the common good rather than to personal or private interests. Levine identifies a number of different types of legitimately public matters. The major object of public concern relates to what he calls the “commons,” by which he means “all the goods and resources that are not privately owned” (2007, p. 4). Other political theorists have referred to these things as “public goods”—resources that are available to everyone in a given community, the use of which generally doesn’t diminish their availability to others. Typical examples include the air and the oceans and the stores of resources they contain, such as fish and timber. (These are things that the American ecologist Garrett Hardin famously referred to in his 1968 essay “The Tragedy of the Commons.”) Other goods such as national parks, highways, public-access internet, sanitation services, libraries, and even accumulated scientific knowledge also typically fall into this category. 1 These are things that provide some sort of general, non-exclusive (meaning freely available to all) benefit to the members of a community, either aesthetically (in the case of a national park) or as a means to achieve some other human-directed goal (a highway, for example, enabling one to travel to a destination). In addition to consideration of the maintenance and support of public goods, Levine treats decisions about how goods are distributed in society (the question of who gets what) and what behaviors should be promoted and which discouraged (the question of who should be allowed to do what) as other kinds of legitimate public concerns. 2 These ancillary aspects of the public good point to involvement in policy making or legislation in its various forms. In other words, recognizing and managing public goods requires activities that lead to the setting of rules of interaction for some broader segment of the public. These activities make up the second part of the Levine’s definition of civic engagement, which focuses on the means of setting these general policies or rules. “The actor,” he notes, needs to pay “appropriate attention to the consequences of his behavior for the underlying political system” (2007, p. 13). Common forms of engagement include “deliberation, persuasion, collaboration, participation in legal politics, civil disobedience, and the giving of time and money,” but usually excludes “coercion, violence, or deception” (p. 8). While civic forms of engagement (such as deliberation) support the expression of diverse views which in turn promote equity, non-civic forms of engagement (such as violence) tend to alienate groups. Putting these two parts together, then, civic engagement is the work of influencing legitimately public matters using means within the existing political structure. This definition begins to sharpen our thinking about what it might mean to prepare students for their civic activities in two ways. First, the definition narrows the range of things that typically have been considered under this rubric. For example, it would draw a line that excludes the activity of reading health articles about diet and exercise to enhance one’s personal appearance as an instance of civic engagement since such individual self-improvement is not a widespread public concern. The same would be true for anyone seeking to solve some personal problem, whether it be related to improving household energy efficiency or preparing for a career in a STEM-related field. In these instances, the focus of action is on the individual (and the immediate benefit is to the individual) rather than on the rules, regulations, or activities that influence the interactions of the broader public for some collective benefit. Second, in its focus on “legitimate public concerns” the definition opens up a range of new things that are often overlooked when thinking about science education for citizenship. Much depends, of course, on what counts as a “public concern” and how scientific knowledge comes to bear on that concern, a topic we turn to next.

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

5

Legitimate Public Concerns and Science

One useful way to think about public concerns that involve science is to assign them to one of two categories: The first includes public concerns that require the use of scientific knowledge , and the second is focused on concerns that relate to the production of scientific knowledge . In the scientific-knowledge-use category we find public issues that require for their resolution the application of specialized knowledge, skills, and experience derived from our interactions with the natural world. The scientific-knowledge-production category includes instances where decisions need to be made about the kinds of knowledge that might be produced and the circumstances of its production (knowledge itself being a common public good, as noted above, and thus an area of legitimate public concern). The distinction we make here between public issues related to scientific-knowledge use and scientific-knowledge production is by no means hard and fast, there are certainly gray areas where these two things bleed into one another in the course of grappling with some public issue, but the distinction helps in outlining an initial framework that can be used to classify science-related civic issues. A note should also be made about the definitions of science, scientific knowledge, and expertise that we’re using in this work. We recognize that when people either individually or in groups confront problems in need of resolution they at times look to a variety of sources of expertise. These sources may include established communities of researchers in what we typically think of as scientific fields (e.g., physics, biology, meteorology, etc.) as well as individuals and groups who have expertise based on practical experience or alternative sources of knowledge (Collins & Evans, 2007). For our purposes, our references to science and scientific expertise focus primarily on the former category, the fields of scientific research as defined commonly by their presence as school subjects and as identified by various funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health in the United States, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council in the UK, and the Swedish Research Council. This view of science is aligned as well with the disciplinary core ideas and characteristics of scientific practice described in the US Next Generation Science Standards (NRC, 2012) as well as of the key subject areas identified in the UK STEM Programme Report (Department for Children, Schools, and Families, 2006). In this way we are following a naturalistic definition of what counts as science— the research fields recognized as such by our civic agencies and institutions and those advanced by the prominent science education policy groups—which we feel makes sense given the dominance of this type of science in the world today and the goals and purposes of science education.

Scientific Knowledge Use

Using science knowledge to help make a decision related to some public concern is probably the most common instance where science and the public interest come into contact with one another. Areas of legitimate public concern where scientific expertise is often sought out include public health, public safety, the environment, national security, and the economy, nearly all areas with established roles for government regulation and oversight. This isn’t surprising given that the very reason governments exist is to ensure the protection of legitimate public interests in these areas (among others as well). Examples of scientific-knowledge-use civic issues abound. In the area of public health one could point to the battle over scientific temperance instruction in schools—the movement in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America to educate school children about the evils of alcohol. Concern over the dangers of alcohol consumption during this era culminated in the complete prohibition of drink in the US in 1920. Battles over the desirability and legality of alcohol consumption provide a classic instance in which scientific knowledge was variously

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

6

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

drawn on to enact policies at both the state and federal levels, with Prohibitionists citing evidence of the detrimental physiological effects and social costs of alcohol consumption and opponents highlighting data that showed limited examples of abuse (Zimmerman, 1999). Similarly, the decision by local governments in the United States in the 1950s to add fluoride to drinking water to reduce tooth decay was based on scientific knowledge from the fields of medicine, dentistry, and chemistry. Science was also invoked (in different forms and from different sources) by skeptics at the time to challenge the practice (Martin & Groth, 1991). More recently, when residents of Woburn, Massachusetts in the late 1970s faced the presence of local toxic waste and high incidents of childhood leukemia in their community, they worked with professional epidemiologists to define and address their concern (Brown & Mikkelsen, 1990), and, as Wynne (1992) described in his now classic case study of science and the public, government experts in radiation poisoning were brought in to assess the contamination of sheep stocks in the United Kingdom following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The arenas of public safety and national security are replete, as well, with instances in which scientific knowledge is used to address issues of civic import. Forecasts provided by seismic experts and meteorologists are used to alert the public to earthquake and storm dangers using various types of early warning systems. Building codes are drafted with input from all manner of experts, from structural engineers to electricians. Research at the deepest levels of particle physics is used to develop weapon systems and surveillance technologies for national defense, and virologists’ assessments of the potential threats of biological weapons potentially wielded by terrorists or unfriendly governments are used to develop policies for containment and counter- measures. Less threatening activities where scientific knowledge is used to guide collective action are found in things such as forest and fisheries management (where fish and timber stocks are carefully monitored, studied, and supported) and the economy (where social-science knowledge is used to guide policy actions related to things like monetary supply or the regulation of markets). Each of the examples above represents a key area where specific decisions were made or government policies shaped and implemented based upon existing knowledge from the relevant disciplines, be those physiology, chemistry, physics, geology, radiology, economics, or what have you. Decisions made and actions taken in such instances, it should be noted, occur at multiple levels, from town boards to local school districts all the way up to national legislative bodies. Experts from various research communities are routinely solicited by those in positions of leadership or governance (as well as by local citizen groups and activist organizations) so that the decisions under consideration can be informed by the best understanding of how certain natural processes work or would be likely to unfold under one condition or another. In all these cases, scientific knowledge functions in an instrumental sense, as a tool to be used to accomplish some particular goal or end state collectively determined to be in the public interest.

Scientific Knowledge Production

The use of scientific knowledge to address public problems naturally presumes the existence of various bodies of knowledge that might be drawn on for that purpose. This highlights the vast realm of scientific knowledge itself as an area of legitimate public concern. And here we are specifically interested in the circumstances of its production and dissemination. One way to think about this is to see scientific-knowledge use as the selection of different, existing tools (in the intellectual sense) to apply to a given public concern and scientific-knowledge production as the work of conceptualizing and developing new tools for the problems we face or anticipate facing some time in the future. Since its emergence as a recognizably distinct human activity, Western science has generated new knowledge for a wide range of reasons from the instrumental to the humanistic and even

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

7

spiritual (Dear, 2008; Donnelly & Ryder, 2011; Lindberg, 2007; Porter, 2009). For much of this time, scientific work was supported by private means, either by individual benefactors, private foundations, or even religious orders. A turning point came, however, in the middle of the twentieth century when the federal government in the US and, indeed, governments worldwide recognized and focused primarily on the instrumental value of specialized knowledge (Dupree, 1986; Lowen, 1997; Stokes, 1997) and actively worked to cultivate research in various domains, initially in the hard sciences during the era of heightened national security during World War II and the Cold War and then more broadly as security concerns gave way to economic concerns in the 1970s and 1980s (Berman, 2012). As a result, the public, through its various governing bodies and federal agencies, has taken a prominent role in interacting with the scientific-knowledge- production enterprise—a role that’s often overlooked in the science-public equation. The most significant ways that the public interacts with scientific knowledge production is in the promotion of various fields of research and through the regulation of research. These two modes of engagement we highlight as the most immediate and direct types of interaction that still maintain a distinction between science and the non-scientific public. Other, less direct forms of engagement include, of course, science education and training (which may lead to the actual participation in research by those so trained) and the provision of general infrastructure for research such as college and university facilities. These latter two forms of engagement, however, are less central to the argument we’re making in this paper. The public role in advancing certain fields of research over others is perhaps the most prominent of the two modes of public involvement in this area. This is commonly accomplished by the allocation of research funds through agencies in the United States like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Departments of Defense and Energy among others. The resource-allocation process, typically through the provision of grants, is much the same in other modern industrial democracies, and in this way, the public ensures that we are collectively adding to our store of scientific knowledge. Through this mechanism of governmental appropriation, the public has exercised varying levels of influence over the direction of scientific research. During the nineteenth century, for example, the US invested heavily in the scientific work of the US Coast Survey and US Geological survey as the country sought to gather information about its territorial holdings during an important period of early American imperialism (Pauly, 2002; Slotten, 1994). In a similar way, the federal government dramatically backed research in the physical sciences in the years after World War II (Galison & Hevly, 1992) and then lined up public resources to wage a war on cancer via the field of medical research in the 1970s (Proctor & Sellers, 1995). At times the public has acted to reign in research as well. In the early 1990s, the US Congress cut off funding for the Superconducting Super Collider, effectively curtailing a significant line of research in particle physics (Riordan, 2001), and, more recently, Congress sought to reduce funding for research in the social sciences (Weigel, 2013). Despite scientists’ desire for an autonomous research enterprise in which they themselves make decisions about how to allocate research funds (see Hollinger, 1990; Kleinman, 1995), the fact is that the public, through the allocation of material resources, has a great deal to say about the kinds of knowledge scientists produce. Beyond active public support or neglect, the public also interacts with science through the setting of regulations. Examples of this type of interaction include things such as the 1950s US- government restrictions on the publication of sensitive information related to the production of nuclear weapons and even on the freedom of certain scientists to travel abroad (Wang, 1999). More recently biosecurity issues have arisen in relation to research conducted on strains of certain avian influenza viruses. Government officials, in this case, sought to suppress the publication of information that might be exploited by terrorist groups (Kraemer & Gostin, 2012). Other forms of

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

8

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

regulation include the oversight of research involving human subjects, the guidelines for which began to be formalized in the 1970s (Office for Human Research Protections, 1993), as well as the placing of restrictions on the use of certain research materials, as was done in 2001 when President Bush announced his decision to limit which STEM-cell lines could be used in federally funded research—a decision that was subsequently reversed by President Obama in 2005. All these regulations clearly affected scientists’ everyday working environment, and, as such, it’s not hard to see that the public (through government agencies in these examples) routinely plays a regulatory role managing the conditions under which knowledge is produced.

Avenues of Engagement

There are a number of different ways the public engages with the science-related civic issues within these two domains, many of which are evident from the examples listed above. The fact that civic engagement is defined as dealing with issues of legitimate public concern inevitably leads to activities that fall under what Berger terms political engagement—“activities that we normally associate with political participation or citizenship: voting, contacting representatives, contribut- ing financially to representatives or interest groups,” and so on (2009, p. 341). In other words, these are the kinds of activities citizens normally undertake when they seek to express their preferences in the political sphere. Although governmental structures provide the predominant venue where science and the public meet, non-governmental avenues to engage with science- related civic issues exist as well in the realm of private philanthropy and through collective action to effect change in markets or industry. In the realm of political engagement, activities available to the broadest swath of the public would be things such as voting, contributing financially to one candidate or another, volunteering to get out the vote, working with some science-issue-related interest group, participation in citizen panels, public forums, and so on. This sort of engagement—sometimes referred to as “grassroots” activity—is admittedly more diffuse in that individual or smaller group interests must necessarily work through representatives in government who themselves are constrained by the slow-turning wheels of the democratic process. Engagement at this level might target county boards making decisions about the classification of wetlands, for example—that is, engagement focused on some specific decision in the scientific-knowledge-use category. Or it might involve lobbying Congress, either individually or as part of an interest group, to restore appropriations to fund research activity in one or another area of science (scientific knowledge production). One of the more dramatic episodes in the history of public engagement in this vein (influencing knowledge production) was documented by sociologist of science Steven Epstein (1996) in his classic study of AIDS research in the 1970s and 1980s. During early drug trials for the disease, groups of committed AIDS activists lobbied hard and actively protested outside the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) building in Washington, DC to force the National Institutes of Health to rethink the manner in which clinical studies were conducted and for the FDA to revise the general process of drug approval in the US. Drug approvals up until then had required demonstration of efficacy through studies using double-blind, placebo-controlled protocols. In the eyes of the AIDS community, such studies amounted to death sentences for those patients unknowingly in the control group. Drawing on expertise they developed about virology, immunology, and bio-statistics, activists were able to persuade officials to adopt a model of testing that was more ethical in including a broader range of participants, greater opportunity for patients to benefit from the trial medications, as well as a faster timeline for the dissemination of results and overall approval. In this case, activists marshaled their self-generated science expertise (scientific knowledge use) to materially alter government-agency processes of scientific knowledge production.

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

9

Not to be overlooked is public engagement on the part of individuals in positions of political authority or who operate within the existing power structure. This would include those in positions from the presidency of a country (in the United States for example) to elected posts and appointments in bodies at the federal (Senate, Congress), state (various state senates and assemblies), and local (county board, city council, school district) levels. Citizens occupying positions of leadership such as these have a much more direct impact on science-related civic issues of both the scientific-knowledge-usin g and scientific-knowledge-producing varieties through their ability to take administrative and executive action (such as President Bush’s decision to restrict the availability of certain STEM-cell lines) and pass legislation related to the allocation of public funds for scientific research (for example, the passage of the US National Cancer Act in 1971, which authorized $1.5 billion dollars for cancer research). These examples illustrate an important point about who the “public” is or can be in interacting with science as it comes into play with legitimate public concerns. When science education and other social-science researchers talk about science and the public, what comes to mind often is the non-expert person on the street and her everyday concerns, someone going about her business outside of the normal structures of power. But it is important to remind ourselves that, when thinking about science-related civic issues, the public includes anyone outside the community of scientific practice. This includes those in positions of leadership and public trust who regularly confront important issues that can be productively managed with insights from science. 3 From a science education perspective, it would be extremely shortsighted to neglect consideration of those students who are likely to occupy such positions in society at some point in the future. These are the people who are, after all, most likely to have a say in how science is used or viewed in key social contexts. Although not as common or even as effective, perhaps, as engagement through direct or indirect interaction with governmental structures, engagement opportunities exist in the realm of civil society as well, that is, in the sphere of public activity that happens apart from government (Edwards, 2009). Private philanthropic organizations occupy this space and regularly make research grants to scientists working in areas of their interest, a trend that has increased of late (Broad, 2014). Individuals and groups of lesser means can seek to influence science-related issues of legitimate public interest too through collective action targeted directly at individuals or organizations using or producing scientific knowledge. Grassroots engagement of this type might involve organized boycotts of companies that produce foods using genetically modified organisms or other undesirable ingredients such as trans-fats or high-fructose corn syrup in the hopes of changing commercial practices in the public interest (Doubleday, 2004; Iles, 2004; Shah et al.,

2007).

Table 1 offers an outline of how we conceptualize science-related civic issues and the manner of public engagement in such issues.

How Does This Help Us Think About Science Education?

Using this framework to look at the science education enterprise can help us identify and highlight areas for new work as well as re-think some longstanding assumptions and practices in the field. If we maintain that effective science teaching contributes to civic goals, that is, if we truly intend that such teaching should result in the ability of citizens to engage productively in discussions of social issues that draw on or relate to science in important ways, then understanding just what that activity entails allows us to be more thoughtful in designing research and instruction that might move us toward accomplishing those goals. One of the areas in which a better understanding of science-related civic engagement would be helpful is in research that explores how students (or members of the general

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

10

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

Table 1 Types and forms of science-related civic engagement

Contexts

Avenues of Engagement

Scientific Knowledge Use

Scientific Knowledge Production

 

Grassroots

State/Govt.

 

Leadership

Grassroots

Civil Society

 

Leadership

Voting for or contributing funds to a city council member who does (or does not) support fluoridation Decision about fluoridating city water supply (made by municipal official)

Consumer boycott of genetically modified foods Company executive decision to produce and sell only organically grown foods

Voting for or contributing money to candidate who favors (or opposes) expanding cancer research Presidential initiative to fund (or defund) research on cancer

Crowd-sourced funding of research on space exploration Private foundation funding of research on space exploration

public) reason in everyday contexts. As we have noted previously, there has been a tendency in this work to conflate the wide variety of science-related interactions and issues individuals confront under a single heading, such as socioscientific issues or science for citizenship. Using the conceptual framework above, though, we can see that while having student groups lobby local community leaders to embrace green-energy technologies as described recently by Birmingham and Calabrese Barton (2014) or to consider whether a government agency should actively work to eradicate invasive species (Liu, Lin, & Tsai, 2011) are clearly instances of science-related civic engagement, exploring why individuals make particular lifestyle choices such as choosing to eat or avoid fast food (Ideland & Malmberg, 2012) or whether to vaccinate a child (Lundstr om, Ekborg, & Ideland, 2012) are not. It is important to note that important public issues (like vaccination and dietary choices) conceptually straddle the public/personal divide; this is the case where the accumulation of many individual decisions can have serious consequences for the public at large. But the distinction we make here is between the science understanding parents might need to decide whether to have their child vaccinated given the perceived risks to that child (which is a personal choice) and the understanding one would need to decide to support (as a citizen) or to draft and advocate (as a policymaker) legislation requiring that all children be vaccinated, for instance. As the framework makes clear, issues or concerns that have only personal relevance or that lead only to private gain are fundamentally not civic issues in the political sense we are advancing. There is, indeed, much to learn about what sort of reasoning might be characteristic of individuals engaging in authentic science-related civic issues. It would be interesting to know, for instance, whether individuals make different decisions or rely on different intellectual, social, emotional, and moral resources when they encounter a legitimate public concern as opposed to a situation that directly affects their own lives, such as living with a disability or some medical condition (see Feinstein, 2014, for example) or facing a decision to vaccinate their children or whether to stop for lunch at a fast-food restaurant. Might individuals require a lower standard of knowledge validity for decisions that affect only their own lives than they might about, say, a decision that results in a public policy that affects everyone—or perhaps the opposite? These are interesting questions about the differential treatment and use of science based on a

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

11

personal/political distinction that have yet to be explored as far as we know. While we make no value judgments as to whether science education for personal goals is more or less desirable than science education for public concerns, we think it is important to point out that they are indeed different, and that reasoning in each area likely requires different sorts of knowledge, perhaps different cognitive skills, and may well be shaped by different affective and motivational factors. Equally important is the need to look carefully at research and educational initiatives that are asserted by scholars to have important consequences for public engagement with science-related civic issues. We should be wary of claims that certain activities are in and of themselves significant factors in moving students toward competency in this area. Some researchers claim, for example, that understanding basic scientific concepts and terminology constitutes a form of understanding that is important for civic engagement (e.g., Trefil, 2007). Others have argued that developing skills in scientific argumentation or explanation helps achieve civic goals (e.g., Baram-Tsabari & Osborne, 2015; National Research Council, 2007, 2012). Indeed, the ability to form questions, consider and weigh evidence, and use evidence to support or refute knowledge claims effectively has long been viewed as essential to public participation in science-related discussions of civic import (see, e.g., Rudolph, 2005; Rudolph & Meshoulam, 2014). We should consider carefully whether such claims can be reasonably substantiated. Work on the nature of science, another example, is often justified on the grounds that such understanding is important for democratic decision making. As Lederman (2007) astutely notes, though, there is little empirical evidence to support this rather common assertion. It may very well be the case that certain kinds of knowledge or skills do improve the quality of democratic deliberation about science-related social issues. But we should devote at least as much time to establishing the validity of those claims as we do understanding student learning in these areas. There is a great deal of productive work on multicultural science education (Larkin, 2013), culturally relevant pedagogy (Patchen & Cox-Petersen, 2008), place-based and urban science education (Calabrese Barton, Tan, & O’Neill, 2015; Chinn, 2007; Emdin, 2012) that aligns with the civic view we’ve sketched above. This work seeks to engage students in science using issues that originate from the local communities in which they live and problems that are meaningfully connected to their everyday experience. Chinn (2007), for example, describes how teacher professional development focused on indigenous Hawaiian knowledge and local, place-based concerns contributed to the development of lessons that, in her words, supported “the goal of educating a scientifically literate society able to participate in decision making in an increasingly complex and interdependent world” (p. 1264). Calabrese Barton’s Green Energy Technology in the City project (GET City), similarly demonstrates the importance of connecting with students and community members where they live as a means of promoting civic engagement around issues with a strong science component. Students in this project were able to successfully mobilize scientific knowledge to persuade administrators in their school to make an operational change in the lighting system used throughout the building. Exploring culturally relevant pedagogies that leverage local community issues and problems furthers our understanding of the most effective ways that all students (particularly those from marginalized or underrepresented groups) can begin to see how science intersects with and functions in civic life (Calabrese Barton et al., 2013). Finally, perhaps the most important implication of our framework lies in what it suggests for the focus of the school curriculum. If we take seriously our repeated claims that science education should prepare students for civic responsibilities, then there needs to be a shift in emphasis from science content and practice to epistemology and socio-institutional context. First, understanding scientific epistemology—how it is that science generates reliable knowledge about the world— becomes important in scientific-knowledge-use situations where citizens (indirectly) and those in positions of political power (more directly) draw upon technical expertise and information to

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

12

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

make informed decisions that affect our collective future. The primary need in these instances isn’t the ability to make any “first-order” evaluations of scientific knowledge (a task that many concede is beyond the capability of the non-expert [see Norris, 1995a, 1995b]), but rather to recognize which individuals and associated research communities should be relied upon to provide the relevant knowledge required (see Collins & Evans, 2007; Rudolph, 2014b; Shapin, 2008). What’s needed, in other words, is the “second-order” ability to locate and use expert knowledge as a means to public ends, public ends that are grounded in issues that are relevant to the community in question. An essential precondition for that ability, we would argue, is understanding the various ways that scientists and other experts—across a wide range of disciplines and fields—go about building knowledge based on the empirical evidence they gather from nature, to recognize, for instance, that randomized controlled trials, while appropriate for some questions, are not methodologically appropriate for others, which might be better answered using historical or epidemiological methods. This implication, in many ways, ties closely in to work done by Allchin (2011), Kolstø (2001), Norris (1995a), and Ryder (2001, 2002). Recent work by the first author goes into considerable detail on this point, offering a series of examples and case studies that illustrate this important aspect of public understanding of science and its civic implications (Rudolph, 2007, 2014a,b). Second, and equally important, is the need to attend to the social and institutional context of science, a learning outcome often noted (see, e.g., Rutherford & Ahlgren, 1989) but rarely pursued in any sustained or concrete way in everyday classroom practice. This is a natural consequence of the recognition in our framework of the significance of scientific knowledge production as a legitimate public concern. If citizens are to exercise informed judgment about how to support and regulate scientific research and development, which is a central public (governmental) responsibility in countries across the globe, then it is essential for them to understand the relevant institutional structures, processes, and contexts that constitute and sustain the scientific enterprise. Among the many key ideas that need to be conveyed is an understanding that scientific knowledge is a tool for meeting human needs and that decisions about which tools to develop (funding priorities), under what conditions (research oversight and regulation), and for what ends (social goals) are decisions in which everyone should have a voice (see Jasanoff, 2005; Kitcher, 2011). The argument here is for expanding the targeted learning outcomes of science education beyond the conceptual or even epistemological to the social and political, which could happen within the school science curriculum or could be accomplished in concert with other school subjects such as social studies (see, e.g., Feinstein & Kirchgasler, 2015).

Conclusion

The definition of science-related civic engagement that we’ve outlined in this paper provides an explicit framework to help us think about what teaching science for this particular goal should entail. The focus on scientific knowledge use and scientific knowledge production as the central elements of this type of public engagement point out key areas that, we argue, require greater attention within both the research field and in the delivery of instruction in schools if we hope to realize the oft-repeated goals of teaching science for democratic decision making. In this way we are taking up the challenge to think carefully about the skills and knowledge necessary for someone to become what Feinstein (2011) has referred to as a “competent outsider” to science. We recognize that this is not the only goal of science education and that other goals, such as technical training (i.e., moving students into the STEM workforce), learning how to use science in personal situations, and even developing a broad cultural appreciation for science and what it has accomplished from a humanistic perspective, are all reasonable goals that might be pursued in developing science instruction. But what we often fail to realize is that, despite the range of

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

13

rhetorical arguments typically offered in favor of more and better science teaching, a single curricular approach, however nuanced and carefully designed it may be, is unlikely to meet all of these goals. Our point in this paper is not to argue that science education should have primarily a civic focus in the sense we laid out above (though it’s clear where our preferences lie). The point is simply to push the field to be more precise. That is, if we are going to talk about the teaching and learning of science for civic purposes, then it would be useful to be clear about what that means and to recognize that such a goal may require us to teach differentthings and in different ways. This goal may very well exist alongside and in harmony with a range of other goals for science education. It is important to appreciate as well that different levels and forms of schooling should be matched to the goals we hope to achieve. Our focus in this work is on the kind of science education we believe is essential to a broad vision of general education for the public, the kind of education that elementary and secondary schools and even liberal-arts colleges have long aimed to provide, rather than on the sort of technical training provided in graduate research institutions, technical schools, or advanced science classes for STEM career development. Indeed, it is in the context of talking about public school education and university education for the non-science major that calls for a citizenry educated in science for the purposes of democratic participation or civic engagement are most often made. An essential first step in the realization of that vision is understanding just what the target is we are trying to hit.

Notes

1 Brian Pusser (2006) offers a thoughtful discussion of higher education as a public good in his essay “Reconsidering Higher Education and the Public Good: The Role of the Public Sphere.” On the history of this concept, see Mansbridge (1998).
2

The distinction between public goods and private goods in education can be found in Labaree (1997). 3 The public can even include individuals who are part of some scientific community of practice in instances where they encounter an issue of public interest that intersects with scientific knowledge that lies outside of the particular field of which they’re a part. On the complexity of the idea of the public, see Einsiedel (2000).

References

Allchin, D. (2011). Evaluating knowledge of the nature of (whole) science. Science Education, 95,

518–542.

Baram-Tsabari, A., & Osborne, J. (2015). Bridging science education and science communication research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52, 135–144. Berger, B. (2009). Political theory, political science and the end of civic engagement. Perspectives on Politics, 7, 335–350. Berman, E. P. (2012). Creating the market university: How academic science became an economic engine. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Birmingham, D., & Calabrese Barton, A. (2014). Putting on a green carnival: Youth taking educated action on socioscientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51, 286–314. Broad,W. J. (2014). Billionaires with big ideas are privatizing American science. New York Times. Brown, P., & Mikkelsen, E. J. (1990). No safe place: Toxic waste, leukemia, and community action. Berkeley: University of California Press. Calabrese Barton, A., Birmingham, D., Sato, T., Tan, E., & Calabrese Barton, S. (2013). Youth as community science experts in green energytechnology. Afterschool Matters, 18, 25–32. Calabrese Barton, A., Tan, E., & O’Neill, T. (2015). Science education in urban contexts. In N. G. Lederman & S. K. Abell (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 246–265). New York:

Routledge.

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

14

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

Chinn, P. W. U. (2007). Decolonizing methodologies and indigenous knowledge: The role of culture, place and personal experience in professional development. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44,

1247–1268.

Collins, H., & Evans, R. (2007). Rethinking expertise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Dear, P. (2008). The intelligibility of nature: How science makes sense of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Department for Children, Schools, and Families. (2006). STEM Programme report. The Department for Children, Schools, and Families. London, United Kingdom. Donnelly, J., & Ryder, J. (2011). The pursuit of humanity: Curriculum change in English school science. History of Education, 40, 291–313. Doubleday, R. (2004). Institutionalizing non-governmental organisation dialogue at unilever: Framing the public as “consumer-citizens”. Science and Public Policy, 31(2), 117–126. Dupree, A. H. (1986). Science in the federal government: A history of policies and activities, revised edition. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Edwards, M. (2009). Civil society. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Einsiedel, E. (2000). Understanding ‘‘publics’’ in the public understanding of science. In M. Dierkes & C. von Grote (Eds.), Between understanding and trust: The public, science, and technology (pp. 205–216). Amsterdam: Harwood. Emdin, C. (2012). Reality pedagogy and urban science education: Towards a comprehensive understanding of the urban science classroom. In B. J. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. J. McRobbie (Eds.), Second international handbook of science education (pp. 59–68). Netherlands: Springer. Epstein, S. (1996). Impure science: AIDS, activism, and the politics of knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press. Feinstein, N. (2011). Salvaging science literacy. Science Education, 95, 168–185. Feinstein, N. W. (2014). Making sense of autism: Progressive engagement with science among parents of young, recently diagnosed autistic children. Public Understanding of Science, 23, 592–609. Feinstein, N. W., & Kirchgasler, K. L. (2015). Sustainability in science education? How the Next Generation Science Standards approach sustainability, and why it matters. Science Education, 99, 121–144. Galison, P., & Hevly, B. W. (1992). Big science: The growth of large-scale research. Stanford, CA:

Stanford University Press. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243–1248. Hodson, D. (2003). Time for action: Science education for an alternative future. International Journal of Science Education, 25, 645–670. Hollinger, D. A. (1990). Free enterprise and free inquiry: The emergence of laissez-faire communitari- anism in the ideology of science in the United States. New Literary History, 897–919. Ideland, M., & Malmberg, C. (2012). Body talk: Students’ identity construction while discussing a socioscientific issue. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7, 279–305. Iles, A. (2004). Making seafood sustainable: merging consumption and citizenship in the United States. Science and Public Policy, 31, 127–138. Jasanoff, S. (2005). Designs on nature: Science and democracy in Europe and the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Jenkins, E.W. (1999). School science, citizenship and the public understanding of science. International Journal of Science Education, 21(7), 703–710. Kitcher, P. (2011). Science in a democratic society. New York: Prometheus Books. Kleinman, D. L. (1995). Politics on the endless frontier: Postwar research policy in the Unit ed States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Kolstø, S. D. (2001). Scientific literacy for citizenship: Tools for dealing with the science dimension of controversial socioscientific issues. Science Education, 85, 291–310. Kraemer, J., & Gostin, L. O. (2012). The limits of government regulation of science. Science,

1047–1049.

Labaree, D. F. (1997). Public goods, private goods: The American struggle over educational goals. American Educational Research Journal, 34, 39–81.

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

SCIENCE EDUCATION FOR CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

15

Larkin, D. B. (2013). Deep knowledge: Learning to teach science for understanding and equity. New York: Teachers College Press. Layton, D., Jenkins, E., Macgill, S., & Davey, A. (1993). Inarticulate science? Perspectives on the public understanding of science and some implications for science education. Driffield, East Yorkshire, UK: Studies in Education. Lederman, N. G. (2007). Nature of science: Past, present, and future. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 831–879). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. Levine, P. (2007). The future of democracy: Developing the next generation of American Citizens. Medford,MA: Tufts University Press. Lindberg, D. C. (2007). The beginnings of Western science: The European scientific tradition in philosophical, religious, and institutional context, prehistory to AD 1450 (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Liu, S-Y., Lin, C-S., & Tsai, C-C. (2011). College students’ scientific epistemological views and thinking patterns in socioscientific decision making. Science Education, 95, 497–517. Lowen, R. S. (1997). Creating the cold war university: The transformation of Stanford. Berkeley:

University of California Press. Lundstom, M., Ekborg, M., & Ideland, M. (2012). To vaccinate or not to vaccinate: How teenagers justified their decision. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7, 193–221. Mansbridge, J. (1998). On the contested nature of the public good. In W. W. Powell & E. S. Clemens (Eds.), Private action and the public good (pp. 3–19). New Haven, CN: Yale University Press. Martin, B., & Groth, E. (1991). Scientific knowledge in controversy: The social dynamics of the fluoridation debate. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. National Research Council. (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8. R. A. Duschl, H. A. Schweingruber, & A.W. Shouse (Eds.).Washington DC: National Academies Press. National Research Council, (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas.Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Norris, S. P. (1995a). Learning to live with scientific expertise: Toward a theory of intellectual communalism for guiding science teaching. Science Education, 79, 201–217. Norris, S. P. (1995b). Reaching the “Hardwig limit”: Nonscientists’ ability to sniff out scientific bias and to judge scientific research methods (response to Grandy). Science Education, 79, 223–227. Office for Human Research Protections. (1993). History of the human subjects protection system. In Institutional review board guidebook. Office for Human Research Protections. Retrieved 2014-07-15. Patchen, T., & Cox-Petersen, A. (2008). Constructing cultural relevance in science: A case study of two elementary teachers. Science Education, 92, 994–1014. Pauly, P. J. (2002). Biologists and the promise of American life: From Meriwether Lewis to Alfred Kinsey. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Proctor, R. N., & Sellers, C. C. (1995). Cancer wars: How politics shapes what we know and don’t know about cancer. New York: Basic Books. Pusser, B. (2006). Reconsidering higher education and the public good: The role of the public sphere. In W. G. Tierney (Ed.), Governance and the public good (pp. 11–27). Albany, NY: SUNY. Porter, T.M. (2009). How science became technical. Isis, 100, 292–309. Riordan, M. (2001). A tale of two cultures: Building the superconducting super collider, 1988–1993. Historical Studies in the Physical & Biological Sciences, 32, 125–144. Roberts, D. A. (2007). Scientific literacy/science literacy. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 729–780). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Roth,W. M., & Barton, A. C. (2004). Rethinking scientific literacy. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Rudolph, J. L. (2005). Epistemology for the masses: The origins of “the scientific method” in American schools. History of Education Quarterly, 45, 341–376. Rudolph, J.L. (2007). An inconvenient truth about science education. Teachers College Record. Date Published: February 9, 2007. http://www.tcrecord.org. ID Number: 13216. Date Accessed: 11/3/2015.

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

16

RUDOLPH AND HORIBE

Rudolph, J. L. (2014a). Why understanding science matters The IES research guidelines as a case in point. Educational Researcher, 43(1), 15–18. Rudolph, J. L. (2014b). Dewey’s “science as method” a century later: Reviving science education for civic ends. American Educational Research Journal, 51, 1056–1083. Rudolph, J. L., & Meshoulam, D. (2014). Science in high schools. In H. R. Slotten (Ed.), The Oxford encyclopedia of the history of American science, medicine, and technology (pp. 503–523). New York:

Oxford University Press. Rutherford, F. J., & Ahlgren, A. (1989). Science for all Americans. New York: Oxford University Press. Ryder, J. (2001). Identifying science understanding for functional scientific literacy. Studies in Science Education, 36, 1–44. Ryder, J. (2002). School science education for citizenship: Strategies for teaching about the epistemology of science. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 34, 637–658. Sadler, T. D. (2009). Situated learning in science education: Socio-scientific issues as contexts for practice. Studies in Science Education, 45(1), 1–42. Shah, D. V., McLeod, D. M., Kim, E., Lee, S. Y., Gotlieb, M. R., Ho, S. S, & Breivik, H. (2007). Political consumerism: How communication and consumption orientations drive “lifestyle politics”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 611, 217–235. Shapin, S. (2008). Science and modern world. In E. J. Hackett (Ed.), The handbook of science and technology studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Slotten, (1994). Patronage, practice, and the culture of American science: Alexander Dallas Bache and the US Coast Survey. New York: Cambridge University Press. Stokes, D. E. (1997). Pasteur’s quadrant: Basic science and technological innovation. Washington, DC:

Brookings Institution Press. Trefil, J. (2007).Why science? New York: Teachers College Press. Wang, J. (1999). American science in an age of anxiety: Scientists, anticommunism, and the cold war. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Weigel, D. (2013). The Republican war on social science: They’re winning it. Slate, April 30, 2013.

national_science_foundation_and_tom_coburn_the_republican_effort_to_cut.html. Wynne, B. (1992). Misunderstood misunderstanding: Social identities and public uptake of science. Public understanding of science, 1, 281–304. Zimmerman, J. (1999). Distilling democracy: Alcohol education in America’s public schools, 1880– 1925. Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas.

Journal of Research in Science Teaching