Beyond Banking Education: Approaching Uncertainty and Controversial Issues in the Science Classroom

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Much of the school curriculum represents science as a well- established body of knowledge and focuses on how this knowledge has been obtained. Whilst this is important, so are issues of a more controversial nature, such as those relating to sustainability, where knowledge is less well established and where scientific knowledge must be considered alongside other social, ethical, political and economic factors. Educating science teachers for sustainability necessarily involves preparing teachers to address these complex, controversial, and uncertain issues with their students. In this chapter, using the context of agricultural biotechnology, specifically genetic modification of plants for human consumption, we report on preservice science teachers’ perceptions of the importance of addressing controversial issues and their views on one dialogic practice, Philosophy for Children, in this context. We adopt a critical pedagogical framework to explore the appropriateness of learners constructing their own views about complex issues, contrasting this with what Paulo Freire refers to as ‘banking education’, where students are seen as empty vessels to be filled passively with information from the teacher. We analyse the responses of six preservice teachers participating in a workshop at an English university and argue that even when teachers are convinced of the value of dealing with controversy, it is difficult for them to engage in critical philosophical debate. To do so effectively, this needs to be developed as an ethos, with space in the curriculum created to explore controversial scientific issues; something these students noted is not currently a priority.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducating Science Teachers for Sustainability
EditorsSusan Stratton, Rita Hagevik, Allan Feldman, Mark Bloom
Number of pages420
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-16411-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-16410-6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameASTE Series in Science Education


  • Philosophy for Children
  • Controversial issues
  • Biotechnology
  • Teacher education

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