Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Dana Zeidler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Benjamin Herman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl Ellerbrock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Darlene DeMarie, Ph.D.


Controversy, Epistemology, Identity, Nature of Science, Scientific Literacy, Socioscientific Issues


The purpose of this investigation was to explore how aspects of identity, perceived levels of controversy, and the strength of a student's attachment to their controversial identity relate to conceptual understanding and knowledge acquisition during socioscientific issues (SSI) based instruction in a biology classroom. The knowledge gained from this study will have the capacity to enhance our understanding of the role that attachment to identity plays during SSI negotiation. Additionally, insight was gained into the role played by aspects of identity in conceptual understanding of scientifically controversial topics during SSI based instruction.

This study contributed to the existing knowledge base in science education by illuminating processes involved in socioscientific issue navigation among students of differing perceptions of controversy as well as students who held aspects of controversial identity that may or may not interact with the specific issues chosen. Students demonstrated evidence of variations of reasoning, justification, perception of controversy, and aspects of knowledge gain as they negotiated the issues of marijuana safety and fast food legality. Additionally, evidence was provided that showed general knowledge gain throughout the group during socioscientific issues instruction.

It has been said that one of the appeals of the SSI instructional model is that is serves not only as a context for the delivery of content, but acts as a catalyst for various forms of epistemological beliefs and research into the development of conceptual and psychological knowledge structures (Zeidler, 2013). This investigation supports the deeper understanding of the contribution of controversy perception to epistemology as well as conceptual and psychological knowledge structures during SSI navigation.