The Decision is in The Details: Justifying Decisions about Socioscientific Issues



Scientific literacy goals, such as the ability to utilize scientific content when making decisions, have been developed to create responsible societal players. Yet, controversial scientific issues, or socioscientific issues (SSIs), demand the consideration of more than scientific content when constructing decisions. Individuals may justify their SSI decisions through reflecting upon personal sources of information (JPS; e.g., personal experiences), authoritative sources of information (JAS; e.g., academic topic), or multiple sources of information (JMS; e.g., corroboration between information sources). Research exploring what drives these justifications is limited. This study explores how SSI features guide the justifications used when supporting SSI decisions. Participants (N=199), recruited from multiple sections of a science discovery course, responded to a modified Decision-Making Questionnaire via Qualtrics about two SSI context scenarios: fetal tissue uses in research and climate change. Participants responded to open-ended prompts asking whether they agreed or disagreed with the SSI decisions presented and to explain why. We qualitatively analyzed responses through two rounds of coding. Within both SSI contexts, we found various information sources within each justification. Within the JPS justification, we found the presence of “self”, or a gut feeling, as an information source. This suggests that despite sources of content knowledge, the nature of being plays an essential role in SSI decision-making. We also found that SSI features, such as context, ignites specific identity commitments that provides a vehicle toward the selection of justifications when supporting SSI decisions. The results of this study provide insight on the information sources students rely upon when justifying SSI decisions. Understanding the use of these sources may guide instructors when integrating SSI decision-making within the curriculum.


First Name Last Name
Melissa Aikens
Andrew Coppens
Diya Anand
Beverly Allen
Kelsey Ahearn
Jordan Bader

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Submission Details

Conference GRC
Event Graduate Research Conference
Department Biological Sciences (GRC)
Group Leitzel - Oral
Added April 17, 2021, 1:34 p.m.
Updated April 19, 2021, 11:24 a.m.
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