Reading a novel in middle school science: the impact of socioscientific issues
Dobkins, Susie Ellen
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This study was conducted at Eileen Johnson Middle School, a 6-8 public middle school with about 400 students located in Billings, Montana. Since the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, schools have been under increased scrutiny to raise their student test scores in reading and math. Many schools have begun taking away students' science, social studies, and elective courses if they are testing below average in reading and/or math and placing them in an additional reading and/or math intervention course. This study aimed to see if incorporating a novel in a seventh-grade life science class could have a positive impact on students' enjoyment of reading, science content understanding, build 21st century skills such as perspective-taking and global-mindedness, as well as increase students understanding of socioscientific issues. Students were given a pre and post survey before beginning their Traits and Reproduction Unit. Students read between five to eight pages of the book per day at the beginning of class. The class then discussed what had occurred during that section and the discussion flowed wherever students wanted it to. Students in the treatment group showed a medium normalized gain in science content understanding whereas students in the non-treatment group showed a low normalized gain. Students showed a 75% increase in the answer response that showed an understanding of socioscientific issues, empathy, and a desire to be the scientist who cures malaria. Students showed an overall increase in responses that related to socioscientific issues such as who owns scientific information. Students who read the book had a large increase in seeing reading as useful in science. This study showed larger normalized gains in science content knowledge for the treatment group than the non-treatment group meaning reading a book on socioscientific issues could have helped students understand science content information. It also showed an increase in students understanding of socioscientific issues and global mindedness. In addition, students who read the book had an overwhelming increase in ability to see reading in science as useful in building their knowledge about the world and understanding of science content.