Using moral dilemmas to explore science’s place in personal, local and global issues: are there benefits for pre-service teachers?

Stephen Keast, Karen Marangio

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


With the new Australian science curriculum, one considerable change is the emphasis on science as a human endeavour. For many pre-service teachers, science at school and university was presented as factual, value free and without exploring science’s role in society. How can pre-service teachers be encouraged to critique scientific evidence in light of ethical, personal and socio-cultural issues to make informed decisions of their own? Drawing on Patry, Weyringer, and Weinberger’s (2007) Values and Knowledge Education (VaKE), we present a moral dilemma to pre-service teachers about a proposal to irrigate an Australian river system. The personal struggle of one family juggling declining farming income with their child’s tertiary ambition to study in the city. Pre-service teachers were asked to decide on whether or not the environmentally conservative family should irrigate their land. Using the lesson interruption method (Patry & Weinberger, 2004), data was collected on five occasions. The analyses of data revealed most pre-service teachers explored personal, local and global complexities, respecting different perspectives, with some changing their decision. Interestingly, the same science evidence was used to justify their decisions in favour or against irrigation. This raises further questions about the role of developing scientific literate citizens through education.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventAustralasian Science Education Research Association Conference 2014 - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 2 Jul 20144 Jul 2014
Conference number: 45th


ConferenceAustralasian Science Education Research Association Conference 2014
Abbreviated titleASERA 2014


  • Values and knowledge education
  • science pre-service teacher education

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