Science Education: Fit for the Future
Guest Editors: Peta White and Russell Tytler
In a fast changing world, science education must change too, refining its practices and purposes. Understanding socio-ecological challenges and appreciating the urgency required to address the current polycrises (such as the climate crisis and biodiversity loss) (IPCC, 2023) is the critical challenge that school-based science education must now attend to. Our young people face increasing challenges associated with the multiple uncertainties of the Anthropocene and changing perspectives on the social entanglements of post-normal science (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 2018). In recognising the critical role of science in addressing Anthropocene challenges – indeed being implicated in them – our science education needs to shift to include science-society dynamics (Resnick & Elliot, 2016) including multiple and diverse perspectives and ways of knowing that are part of our science (Bartlett, Marshall & Marshall, 2012). There is increasing acceptance that solutions cannot be technical alone. The crises, and required approaches, are fundamentally socio-ecological in nature.
The recently launched 2025 PISA Science Framework (https://pisa-framework.oecd.org/science-2025/) recognises these challenges and the support document titled “Agency on the Anthropocene” (White et al, 2023) strongly signals such a shift. Those with agency in the Anthropocene work individually and collectively with hope and efficacy to understand diverse perspectives on socio-ecological systems and act to create a more just and resilient future (White et al, 2023).Consistent with the concerns driving the new PISA Science Framework is the recently released report that found only 31% of survey science teachers globally agreed that science education was ‘fit for the future’ (Oxford University Press, 2022). Additionally, the Science education in an age of misinformation report (Osborne et al, 2022) makes clear the associated contemporary challenges of misinformation and distrust of expertise. This places a fresh burden on school science and emphasises the call for innovation and action to educate students for these future challenges and uncertainties.
Educating school science students, our future leaders, decision-makers, and citizens, about socio-ecological challenges now is critical (IPCC, 2023). We can no longer treat the study of science as independent of its societal / ethical entanglements (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 2018), for instance in relation to energy transitions, social justice issues facing marginalised communities often associated with climate impacts (Thomas, 2022), circular economy and materials extraction, or health and bioethics. However, research has shown that while many teachers are keen to include explorations of socio-scientific challenges in the classroom (Friedriksen et al., 2020), they may lack the knowledge, confidence, or pedagogical orientation to do so effectively (Zeidler et al., 2011). In addition, teachers feel that they do not have the time required within an already crowded curriculum to include these critical socio-ecological challenges in their science teaching and learning. Nevertheless, these challenges can be seen as an opportunity for innovative pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment.
Given the overwhelming, arguably existential, challenges presented by the history of human impacts, now patently global, on our environment and on human wellbeing, is it time for science education to take up the epistemological, pedagogical, methodological and theoretical perspectives that have been central to the development of environmental education as a field?
This special issue will focus on contemporary and innovative approaches to science education aimed at preparing students for complex and uncertain futures. This may include approaches that go beyond traditional classroom teaching constrained by restricted interpretations of prevailing curricula. The intended contribution is to progress scholarship on how socio-ecological challenges are being undertaken in new and creative ways within and outside of the constraints of a traditional science curriculum/classroom.
Transdisciplinary opportunities (Raphael et al, 2021) can meaningfully engage students through learning opportunities that thoughtfully entangle the science with the sociological through diverse disciplinary practices. It has been argued that targeted climate change education is a critical first step in enabling meaningful environmental action i.e. the ability to critically assess approaches to reducing emissions at a personal and/or collective level (Ross et al., 2021). Existing research documents that educational programs which focus specifically on climate change can be effective in increasing awareness, understanding, hopefulness and agency (Monroe et al., 2019; ASSA, 2023). Contributions may focus on collective action and agency, energy democracy, social justice climate activism, SS4C (White et al 2021), ethics of care, relational ontologies, socio-political approaches to SSI (Bencze, 2022) or socially acute questions (Morin, Simonneaux & Tytler, 2017).
We invite researchers to contribute original articles whichexamine innovative ways in which a futures-focused science education can respond to socio-ecological challenges. The context may be early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary, workplace, or informal learning research. We expect articles to engage with empirical evidence, but we would also consider authoritatlve thought pieces well grounded in the science education research literature. Contributions from all geographical locations are welcome.
This special issue relates to RISE’s aims to “promote science education research in all contexts and at all levels of education.” Specifically, the special issue centres around the future of science education, in light of Anthrpopocene challenges (human induced climate change, the sixth mass extinction and other coterminous socio-ecological challenges).
Proposed time schedule
- Abstract submission deadline: 15th December 2023 (Please email abstracts to email@example.com)
- Notification and feedback from guest editors, via email: 20 December 2023
- Full manuscript submission deadline: 30th June 2024
- Publication: December 2024.
Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) (2023). Climate Change Education. Canberra, Australia. https://socialsciences.org.au/publications/climate-change-education/
Bartlett, C., Marshall, M., & Marshall, A. (2012). Two-eyed seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2, 331-340.
Bencze, J. L. (2022). Politicized Socioscientific Issues Education Promoting Ecojustice. In Innovative Approaches to Socioscientific Issues and Sustainability Education: Linking Research to Practice (pp. 351-365). Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore.
Dawson, V., & Carson, K. (2020). Introducing argumentation about climate change socioscientific issues in a disadvantaged school. Research in Science Education, 50, 863-883.
Friedrichsen, P. J., Ke, L., Sadler, T. D., & Zangori, L. (2020). Enacting co-designed socio-scientific issues-based curriculum units: A case of secondary science teacher learning [Article]. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 32(1), 85-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/1046560X.2020.1795576
Funtowicz, S., & Ravetz, J. (2018). Post-normal science. In Companion to environmental studies (pp. 443-447). Routledge.
Hsu, Y-S, Tytler, R., & White, P.J. (2022). Innovative Approaches to Socio-Scientific Issues and Sustainability Education – Linking Research to Practice. Springer. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-981-19-1840-7
IPCC. (2023). Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). Retreived from https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/syr/
Monroe, M. C., Plate, R. R., Oxarart, A., Bowers, A., & Chaves, W. A. (2019). Identifying effective climate change education strategies: A systematic review of the research. Environmental Education Research, 25(6), 791-812.
Morin, O., Simonneaux, L., & Tytler, R. (2017). Engaging with socially acute questions: Development and validation of an interactional reasoning framework. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(7), 825-851
Osborne, J., Pimentel, D., Alberts, B., Allchin, D., Barzilai, S., Bergstrom, C., … & Wineburg, S. (2022). Science education in an age of misinformation. Stanford University Press. https://sciedandmisinfo.stanford.edu/
Oxford University Press (2022). The evolution of science education. Oxford University press. https://www.oup.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0028/186832/The-evolution-of-science-education-Oxford-University-Press.pdf
Raphael, J. & White, P.J. (2021). Transdisciplinarity: Science and Drama Education Developing Teachers for the Future In P.J. White, J. Raphael, & K. van Cuylenburg (Eds) Science and Drama: Contemporary and creative approaches to teaching and learning. (Chapter 9, pp. 145-162). Springer.
Resnik, D. B., & Elliott, K. C. (2016). The ethical challenges of socially responsible science. Accountability in research, 23(1), 31-46.
Ross, H., Rudd, J. A., Skains, R. L., & Horry, R. (2021). How big is my carbon footprint? Understanding young people’s engagement with climate change education. Sustainability, 13(4), 1961.
Rousell, D., & Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A. (2020). A systematic review of climate change education: Giving children and young people a ‘voice’ and a ‘hand’ in redressing climate change. Children’s Geographies, 18 (2), pp. 191-208.
Thomas, L. (2022). The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to dismantle systems of oppression to protect people + planet. Souvenir Press.
White, P.J., Ardoin, N.A., Eames, C., Monroe, M.C. (2023), Agency in the Anthropocene: Supporting document to the PISA 2025 Science Framework, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 297, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/8d3b6cfa-en.
White, P.J., Ferguson, J.P., O’Connor Smith N., & O’Shea Carré, H. (2021). School Strikers Enacting Politics for Climate Justice: Daring to think differently about education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education. 1–14. http://doi.org/10.1017/aee.2021.24
Zeidler, D. L., Applebaum, S. M., & Sadler, T. D. (2011). Enacting a socioscientific issues classroom: Transformative transformations. In Socio-scientific issues in the classroom: Teaching, learning and research (pp. 277-305). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
Zeidler, D. L., Herman, B. C., & Sadler, T. D. (2019). New directions in socioscientific issues research. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research, 1(1), 1-9.