Science and technology have significant influence over the everyday lives of ordinary citizens. As these two disciplines have become more advanced, their influence has only become more pronounced, leading to many socioscientific issues and bioethical dilemmas that society and scientists must grapple with. In order to create informed, thoughtful citizens and effective future scientists, science educators must provide students with the skills they need to assess, evaluate, and address bioethical controversies. To do this, educators must explicitly teach students about bioethics and scientific argumentation. However, currently, this content is not commonly taught in science classrooms. Instead, science is presented as a discipline in which there are clear answers. Students are often expected to memorize lists of facts and are not made aware of the impact that science has on their own lives and those of others. This three-lesson unit seeks to help students make the connections between science content and its social implications and teach them the scientific argumentation skills necessary to critically evaluate and defend their positions regarding bioethical dilemmas. In the first lesson, students learn about bioethics and practice developing potential solutions to hypothetical bioethical dilemmas. In the second lesson, students are introduced to scientific argumentation and use their new skills to create mini-arguments regarding the bioethics of what happened to Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cervical cancer cells were used in research without her consent. Finally, in the third lesson, students work in groups to create fully developed arguments that support their position regarding the issue of tissue ownership. The last two lessons of the unit were implemented in a high school science classroom. After implementation, it was found that students have strong opinions regarding scientific controversies and enjoy learning and arguing about the social implications of science. However, students struggled to understand the mechanics of scientific argumentation and had trouble clearly expressing their ideas and opinions via argumentation. Additionally, students were very dogmatic in their positions and displayed a lack of understanding of the nuance of bioethical controversies.
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- Ethical or Not: Teaching Bioethics in a High School Science Classroom
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