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The Structured Controversy scenario is a learning activity that uses a controversial socio-scientific issue to engage students. The scenario essentially pairs inquiry-based science education with civic responsibility. Citizens in democratic societies should be involved in decisions regarding new technologies and scientific innovation when cultural, environmental, social, economic or ethical values are at stake.
To prepare students for this important civic responsibility, the Structured Controversy scenario is designed around a socio-scientific controversy that is argued by two opposing sides during a student debate. The controversy is structured in such a way that a compromise position exists in the middle and both opposing sides have a fair chance of contributing arguments towards this compromise.
The Structured Controversy scenario is divided into two lessons. In the first lesson, students work through an ILS to acquire relevant domain knowledge as well as learning to support arguments with empirical evidence. At the end of the ILS students are instructed to prepare for the debate which will occur in the second lesson. In the debate, students are split into two teams and work together to present their arguments following a prescribed debate format moderated by the teacher. After the debate, the teacher allows time for a collaborative group discussion about ways to resolve the controversy with a compromise solution.
The Structured Controversy scenario is mostly focused on providing students with the skills to evaluate science critically and giving them the opportunity to participate in a constructive dialogue about socio-scientific issues with their classmates. It assumes that students are able to prepare convincing arguments for their debate by searching for relevant information on their own or together with their team members.
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