Science In a Social CONtext (SISCON)

Published by the ASE in 1983, SISCON was one of the early UK science courses to include topics with wide political implications. The aim of the course was to exhibit science as an endeavour rooted in the society which uses it.

The project team aimed to widen the scope of science teaching by helping learners to arrive at an understanding of some of the critical interactions between science and society. Topics covered included the role of government and industry in science; commercial applications of scientific findings; the role of scientists in the production of food; the fight against disease; the development of modern weapons; the responsibility of scientists for the outcomes of their work; and the effects of science and new technologies on people's daily lives.

Teaching approaches
Each unit contained some historical background, showing the interaction of science and society in earlier times, prior to a discussion of modern issues. Students were encouraged to follow new developments in science and technology and to express concern about contemporary problems related to their use in society.

Discussion was an important part of the lessons. The course team believed that more young people, and especially girls, could be encouraged to study science if courses allowed learners to give their own evaluation of the uses and abuses of science, while also offering more opportunities for free expressive writing.

The course was also pioneering in the way that it expected teachers to help their students to make reasoned, personal decisions about problems which may have several possible solutions. Teachers were regarded as guides and arbitrators rather than as purveyors of the ‘right answer’.

Resources

Space, Cosmology and Fiction

Beginning with the confrontation between Galileo and the Church, this book follows some of the discoveries which led to modern cosmology and technology, to the excitement of science fiction, and modern space technology.

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Ways of Living

Ways of Living, from the SISCON...

Energy: the Power to Work

This book from the SISCON series looks at past discoveries about energy, electricity generation, the hazards of nuclear energy and as stocks of fossil fuels run down, uncertainties about alternative energy supply.

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Evolution and the Human Population

This book from the SISCON series starts with Darwin's ideas about natural selection; including the religious and scientific reactions. It then discusses some of the achievements and problems of genetics up to the 1980s.

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