Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Dana L. Zeidler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael J. Berson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sami Kahn, J.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl R. Ellerbrock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Karl G.Jung, Ph.D.


Elementary Science Education, Scientific Literacy, Socioscientific Reasoning, SSI


The purpose of this study was to determine if informal reasoning skills associated with socioscientific issues (SSI) transferred to controversial issues in a social studies context. The principal researcher developed three controversial issues derived from social studies education to create social studies context issues (SSCI). This acronym has been termed by the principal researcher, as controversial issues in social studies have not been evaluated beyond the social studies classroom. Twenty-one, fifth grade students participated in this three-month study, which featured three specific SSI units (A Need for Speed? – speed limit reduction, Roller Coaster Ban – preventing injuries to children, “Mined” over Matter – mining rare earth elements). Participants filled out pre and post student questionnaires for each SSI unit resulting in six SSI questionnaires for each individual. Students also answered three SSCI questionnaires after reading two or three short articles in either their language arts or social studies classroom. This resulted in nine questionnaires for each participant that were qualitatively analyzed by the principal researcher. Results from this study indicate that some informal reasoning skills associated with SSI transferred to a social studies context. The findings of this study have important theoretical implications for elementary education. It confirms SSI can and should be implemented at the elementary level. It provides evidence that skills associated with SSI go beyond the science classroom and can affect learners on a deeper level. Finally, it adds to the growing body of literature regarding SSI and advocates for its inclusion at all levels of elementary school.