This symposium features four studies that implement complex socio-scientific topics into inquiry science instruction. The studies explore the role of collaboration, the added value of online simulations, and the challenges of evidence-based argumentation.
The studies all use the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment to take advantage of scaffolds for knowledge integration, interactive simulations, student generated scientific notebooks, logs of student interactions, and embedded assessments. The WISE units are implemented in Chinese and English. They are used with undergraduates, middle school, and high school students.
Together these studies document that collaborative exploration of socio-scientific issues ensures that learners consider a wider range of ideas than they would if working alone. Under most circumstances simulations support more sustained and generative reasoning than the discussion of similar problems, likely because the simulations readily support hypothetical reasoning. All the studies show that students gain insight into the scientific concepts associated with the socio-scientific issues. And, studies conclude that students have great difficulty using evidence to resolve tradeoffs, engage in compensatory reasoning, or link evidence to complex arguments about contemporary scientific issues.
Focusing on nuclear energy and radiation pollution, Chang & Tsai used simulations and discussion activities to promote middle school students’ socio-scientific reasoning. Gerard, Vitale & Linn adopted an online Notebook to support 8th-grade students constructing arguments about fuels and climate change. Fauville, Vitale, Martinez & Linn utilized interactive models and peer collaboration to promote middle and high school students’ understandings of biodiversity. Fang & Hsu employed a decision-making framework and incorporated visualization tools to explore undergraduates’ multi-disciplinary thinking and compensatory reasoning about water resources.