Date of Award

May 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Organizational Leadership Development

Committee Member

Michelle Cook

Committee Member

Kristin Cook

Committee Member

Luke Rapa


Socioscientific issues (SSIs) are used to guide science instruction by presenting scientific real-world problems as multifaceted, consisting of social as well as scientific components that must be considered when constructing solutions to the issues. Using SSIs in classrooms can support students in developing scientific literacy by enhancing their understanding of the social implications of science and how science is guided by social values. It has been suggested that students rely on their Knowledge, Values, and Experiences (KVP) associated with an SSI when they reason about the issue, but this relationship has not been tested directly, nor has reasoning about SSIs been compared between topics of SSIs. Understanding the degree to which characteristics of students and the topic of the SSI contribute to students’ approaches to resolving SSIs may help inform teachers of how to capitalize on the KVP of their students to guide instruction about different SSI units.

In this study, I developed a tool to measure students’ KVP associated with two SSIs—genetic screening and environmental preservation—and used and revised an existing instrument to measure socioscientific reasoning (SSR), or reasoning about complex socioscientific issues. Using these tools, I assessed the hypothesized relationship between students’ KVP and their SSR and using structural equation modeling (SEM) and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). Additionally, I used multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) to assess differences in SSR for the two topics while controlling for demographic variables. Results suggested that students did use their KVP to engage with SSIs, and the degree to which the KVP aspects were associated with levels of SSR were in some ways similar and in some ways different depending on the topic of the issue. Implications for teachers includes providing opportunities for students to engage with the controversy of the issue and to critically examine their own perspectives and inherent biases. Recommendations for researchers based on this research includes suggestions for replication studies involving students of diverse populations and qualitative analysis to explain the patterns identified through this research.



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