At the heart of my research agenda, is a commitment to scientific literacy – in its broadest sense – as a guiding principle for science education. Over the past two decades, ‘scientific literacy’ has become increasingly significant to discussions about the aims and purposes of school science education, impacting on national and international education policy, and the development of science curricula. More recent calls for scientific literacy advocate a science education for all students – including acquiring and developing conceptual and theoretical knowledge, developing expertise in scientific inquiry and problem-solving, and developing an understanding of the complex interactions among science, technology, society and environment (STSE). My research focuses on the latter – STSE.
In my work, I argue that the often-disparate goals of scientific literacy (i.e., education of future scientists, the preparation for responsible citizenship, a means of responding to economic needs, to social needs, to environmental concerns) can be subsumed and achieved under calls for STSE education. Broadly speaking, STSE education is an umbrella term that explores the interplay between science and society. STSE promotes the development of a critical, scientifically and technologically literate citizenry, one that is capable of understanding complex events and issues arising from the interplay amongst science, technology, society and environment. It includes the ability to thoughtfully negotiate events and socioscientific issues (such as stem cell research, waste management, genetically modified organisms), contribute to discussion about these topics, and prepare for active participation in society. In other words, STSE is about helping students and the general public (in museums, science centres, butterfly conservatories etc.) to consider science in a larger social, cultural and political context, equipping them to make informed and responsible decisions and empowering them to take action. My work firmly positions STSE as central to science education, examining theoretical and practical issues in both school and non-school environments.
Recent publications include studies of issues-based exhibitions and learning in science centres and development and implementation of multimedia case studies in teacher education programs, and a co-edited book (with S. Alsop and L. Bencze, 2005, Open University Press) entitled: Analyzing Exemplary Science Teaching.