Saturday, October 31, 2015

Teaching Controversial Issues: Resources from GSA Short Courses

The resources housed on this site are associated with a pair of half-day short courses offered at the 2015 Geological Society of America Meeting in Baltimore. The courses were held on Saturday, October 31. The courses were designed so that they were complementary and several participants attended both the morning and afternoon sessions. The same instructors taught both courses. 


Instructors: Don Duggan-Haas, (dad55@cornell.edu), Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth; Scott Mandia, (mandias@sunysuffolk.edu), Suffolk County Community College; Glenn Dolphin, (gdolphin@ucalgary.ca), University of Calgary; Richard Kissel, (richard.kissel@yale.edu), Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History; Minda Berbeco, (berbeco@ncse.com) National Center for Science Education; Robert Ross, (rmr16@cornell.edu), Paleontological Research Institute and its Museum of the Earth

Cosponsors: National Association of Geoscience Teachers; GSA Geoscience Education Division
Where: Hilton, Carroll Room

524 Teaching Controversial Issues 1: Climate and Energy

When: Sat., 31 Oct., 8 a.m.–noon

Cost: $35. Limit: 35. CEU: 0.4.



Abstract: Climate and energy are topics rife with controversy, which provides challenges and opportunities for teaching. This is one of two connected courses on controversial issues that may be taken separately or together. Questions addressed include: Why are certain issues controversial? How do controversial issues differ from one another? How can we help learners focus on deepening understandings rather than fortifying positions? What does the history of controversy teach us about dealing with these issues? Both courses will investigate the teaching of controversial issues from theoretical perspectives and provide nuts-and-bolts strategies to make teaching such topics more effective and less divisive.




529 Teaching Controversial Issues 2: Evolution of Life and Earth




When: Sat., 31 Oct., 1 - 5pm

Cost: $35. Limit: 35. CEU: 0.4.



Abstract: Evolutionary history and and the age of the Earth are rife with controversy, which provides challenges and opportunities for teaching. This is one of two connected courses on controversial issues that may be taken separately or together. Questions addressed include: Why are certain issues controversial? How do controversial issues differ from one another? How can we help learners focus on deepening understandings rather than fortifying positions? What does the history of controversy teach us about dealing with these issues? Both courses will investigate the teaching of controversial issues from theoretical perspectives and provide nuts-and-bolts strategies to make teaching such topics more effective and less divisive.



This was the third time the courses have been taught. Resources from 2013 and 2014 are here

Agenda:

8:00 Introductions of instructors and participants - Everybody


8:30 Teaching Controversial Issues - an introduction to types of controversy, classroom approaches, and special opportunities in the Earth Sciences. - Don & Rob
  • Why should we teach controversial subjects?
  • Strategies
  • Rules of Thumb for Teaching Controversial Issues: http://bit.ly/ThumbGSA2015
9:15 “Communicating Climate Change: Sometimes It's Not about the Science” Scott
10:05 Break

10:20 Hydrofracking as a gateway drug for energy literacy - Don
10:50 “Scientific argumentation vs. debate - what’s the difference?” Minda
11:30 Panel Discussion (all participants) - Discussing Discussion & Debate 1


12:00 Lunch

1:00 Very brief introductions

1:15 Teaching with controversy: The role of the history and philosophy of science - Glenn

2:00 Public Understanding of Evolution and Evolutionary Relationships - Richard & Rob

3:00 Break

3:20 Panel discussion: Discussing Discussion & Debate 2

  • Know your audience
  • The role of worldview and cognitive biases

4:50 Concluding Remarks/Evaluation


Possible questions for panel discussions:
  • Are there elements that all controversial issues share?
    • Other than the scientific content, how should the approach to climate and energy differ from the approach to evolution (if it should differ)?
  • What would go into a taxonomy of controversial issues?
  • What goals do you have for your work related to controversial issues?
    • What’s needed to meet those goals?
    • What are the biggest obstacles to meeting those goals?
    • How long will it take to meet those goals?
  • Are there strategies that apply broadly to teaching controversial issues?
    • Are there strategies to universally avoid?
  • How does our work change for different audiences?
  • What does worldview have to do with controversial issues?
  • What is the role of scientific literacy?
  • What is the role of cognitive bias?
  • How does confidence in a position help and hurt the messenger?
  • Boundaries of controversy -
  • Discuss how much time is needed for effective programming and the the role that short programs can play in meeting goals.  
  • Controversial issues are emotional issues. Perhaps the most conspicuous emotion is anger. What other emotions are important? How?

Important issues/cross-cutting themes:
  • Worldview; and not everyone within a worldview sees the science in the same way
  • Providing tools and strategies to be the messenger
  • Controversial issues are always dealing with more than one thing
  • Popular vs. scientific controversy
  • Reverse tribalism/group think
Links and images we like (in no particular order):
On arguing to learn:

Workshop: Transforming Geoscience Preparation for K-8 Pre-Service Teachers
On Logical Fallacies:

Why we ignore the obvious:


Want to Win a Political Debate? Try Making a Weaker Argument

Gun control? Abortion? The new social science behind why you're never able to convince friends or foes to even consider things from your side.

Some books:

The Science Beneath the Surface: A Very Short Guide to the Marcellus Shale

Authors:
Don Duggan-Haas; Robert M. Ross, Warren D. Allmon

Evolution and Creationism: A Very Short Guide, 2nd ed.

Author:
Warren D. Allmon




List of cognitive biases

The politics of teaching evolution, science education standards, and Being a creationist



EPA study on fracking and drinking water says whatever the hell you want it to. Thanks to Ken Klemow for sharing (and to Facebook for putting it together). 



  • From Galileo: One day I was at the home of a very famous doctor in Venice, where many persons came on account of their studies, and others occasionally came out of curiosity to see some anatomical dissection performed by a man who was truly no less learned than he was a careful and expert anatomist. It happened on this day that he was investigating the source and origin of the nerves, about which there exists a notorious controversy between the Galenist and Peripatetic doctors. The anatomist showed that the great trunk of nerves, leaving the brain and passing through the nape, extended on down the spine and then branched out through the whole body, and that only a single strand as fine as a thread arrived at the heart. Turning to a gentleman whom he knew to be a Peripatetic philosopher, and on whose account he had been exhibiting and demonstrating everything with unusual care, he asked this man whether he was at last satisfied and convinced that the nerves originated in the brain and not in the heart. The philosopher, after considering for awhile, answered: "You have made me see this matter so plainly and palpably that if Aristotle's text were not contrary to it, stating clearly that the nerves originate in the heart, I should be forced to admit it to be true." 

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