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About this module

In a first step, this module draws on ideas and conceptualisations of science communication and scientific literacy originally stemming from STEM fields and highlights connections to and implications for dealing with controversial issues. In a second step, the module allows exploring how controversial issues can be addressed at school. Lessons 4 and 5 are devoted to the identification of controversial topics and the development of ways to deal with them: What makes a topic controversial, why do controversial topics evoke strong emotions and sometimes even lead to conflict? 

The module is composed of two interrelated sections. While the whole module can provide substantive ideas for students of teacher education, the second part focusing on controversial issues can be used in various fields of study/disciplines and as a basis for the implementation of other modules related to controversial issues (5G, migration, climate change, conspiracy myths, …) as it allows for an examination of controversial issues on a more general level.

Upon completing the module, the student will be able to:

  • identify controversial issues, critically assess, analyse and discuss controversy and address existing problems
  • recognise biases;
  • deal with emotional discussions;
  • identify alternative interpretations and viewpoints;
  • weight evidence and arguments;
  • ease tension that often accompanies controversial topics;
  • take over responsibility and develop consensus, compromises and conflict solutions;
  • gain the ability to withstand contradictions and develop tolerance of ambiguity;
  • expand knowledge and critical understanding of language and communication;
  • obtain a deeper knowledge and critical understanding of politics, interests, history, media and economy;
  • create lesson plans to address freedom of speech and the role of science in societal discourses in class;
  • explain which documents and guidelines regulate freedom of expression and why the right is important and which elements should be included;
  • to critically differentiate between necessary and illegal restrictions;
  • to identify threats to and violations of the right to freedom of expression;
  • to develop the skills to defend freedom of expression.

Upon completing the module, the student will be able to:

  • Adapt the most appropriate communication means for a given context (DigiComp)
  • Apply a variety of referencing and attribution practices (DigiComp)
  • Apply different strategies for different discussion situations (On/Offline, Social Media…) (DigiComp)
  • Apply individually and collectively cognitive processing to resolve different conceptual problems and problem situations (DigiComp p. 42)
  • Decide which are the most appropriate ways to improve or update one’s own competence needs (CDC)
  • Express respect for people who hold different political opinions from himself/herself (CDC)
  • Select the most reliable sources of information or advice from the range available (CDC)
  • Initiate communication to help solve interpersonal conflicts and to deal effectively with other people’s emotional stress, anxiety and insecurity in situations involving conflict (CDC)
  • Reflect critically on his/her own prejudices and stereotypes/on his/her own perspective(s) on the world and what lies behind them as well as on his/her own emotions and feelings in a wide range of situations (CDC)
  • Reflect critically on the different communicative conventions that are employed in at least one other social group or culture (CDC)
  • Express willingness to tolerate uncertainty / be comfortable when dealing with ambiguous situations (CDC)
  • Reflect critically on the nature and purposes of democratic political processes (CDC)
  • Reflect critically on diverse narratives from different perspectives about the historical forces and factors that have shaped the contemporary world (CDC)

For the exploration of conceptualisations of scientific literacy and science communication, it is recommended that the lecturer consults the following sources prior to the implementation:

  • Brossard, D. and Lewenstein, B. V. (2010) A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science, Using Practice to Inform Theory. In: Kahlor, L. and Stout, P. (eds.), Communicating Science, New Agendas in Communication, New York: Routledge, pp. 11-39,
  • Lewenstein, B. V. (2003) Models of public communication of science and technology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118. e1912436117. doi:10.1073/pnas.1912436117.
  • Schmid-Petri, H. and Bürger, M. (2020) 5 Modeling science communication: from linear to more complex models. In: Leßmöllmann, A., Dascal, M. and Gloning, T. (eds.), Science Communication, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 105-121.
  • Howell, E. and Brossard, D. (2021) (Mis)informed about what? What it means to be a science-literate citizen in a digital world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118. e1912436117. doi:10.1073/pnas.1912436117.
  • Roberts, D. (2007) Scientific literacy/science literacy. In: Abell, S. and Lederman, N. (eds.): Handbook of research on science education, Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 729-780.
  • Siarova, H., Sternadel, D. and Szőnyi, E. (2019) Science and scientific literacy as an educational challenge. Research for CULT Committee. Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union (European Parliament). doi:10.2861/2088