Mapping controversies: A pedagogical approach for communicating about socioscientific issues

Willeke Rietdijk, Antri Christodoulou, Paul Davies, Marcus Grace, Ralph Levinson, Joanne Nicholl

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperAcademic


The aim of this study was to investigate how a pedagogical approach designed to promote productive discourse and undistorted communication (Habermas, 1984) can enable secondary school students to communicate about socioscientific issues (SSIs). A small-scale qualitative study design was employed to explore how a group of 13 Biology students communicated about the badger – cattle controversy in the UK and which types of knowledge they use in this process. A pedagogical approach based on students mapping controversies in combination with asynchronous online communication was designed and implemented across 3 lessons to facilitate their communication process. The approach followed a familiarisation (mapping), exploration (discussing) and consolidation (mapping) stage. Our findings suggest that the approach was effective. Students’ controversy maps during the consolidation phase were conceptually different from those in the familiarisation phase, showing that they had a more developed understanding of the complexity of the SSI. The themes found during the consolidation phase were extensively discussed during the exploration phase. The online exchange allowed them to elaborate on their views and thinking, question each other, and draw on a range of knowledge types in deciding what should be done about the controversy. Implications for classroom practice and teacher education are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2017


  • socioscientific issues
  • secondary school
  • teaching learning sequences


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