Scientific literacy, PISA, and socioscientific discourse: Assessment for progressive aims of science education

Authors

  • Troy D. Sadler,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Teaching & Learning, University of Florida, 2403 Norman Hall, P.O. Box 117048, Gainesville, Florida 32611
    • School of Teaching & Learning, University of Florida, 2403 Norman Hall, P.O. Box 117048, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
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  • Dana L. Zeidler

    1. Department of Secondary Education, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, Florida 33620
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Abstract

In this article, we explore the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) with a lens informed by the socioscientific issues (SSI) movement. We consider the PISA definition of scientific literacy and how it is situated with respect to broader discussions of the aims of science education. We also present an overview of the SSI framework that has emerged in the science education community as a guide for research and practice. We then use this framework to support analysis of the PISA approach to assessment. The PISA and SSI approaches are seemingly well aligned when considering general aims. Both approaches emphasize preparing students for life and citizenship, complex reasoning and reflective practices, and robust understandings of the nature of science particularly as it is practiced in society. However, as the focus of comparison moves from the conceptual to more specific, the connections between PISA and the SSI movement become more tenuous. For instance, many of the PISA test items, at least those that have been released publicly, seem quite removed from the intent of the SSI movement. The article concludes with a discussion of recent trends in research associated with SSI, which may provide alternative avenues for assessing progressive aims of science education. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 46: 909–921, 2009

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