Biology doctoral students’ examination of a deterministic claim in a media article
Several educators have emphasised that students need to understand science as a human endeavour that is not value free. In the exploratory study reported here, we investigated how doctoral students of biology understand the intersection of values and science in the context of genetic determinism. Deterministic research claims have been critiqued for their conceptual limitations as well as social implications. The study details the criteria used by 30 Indian students in their critical evaluation of a deterministic claim in a media article related to neurogenetics. Based on literature that discusses values in science, we categorise students’ responses into those motivated by epistemic and ultimate values, and make some qualitative inferences regarding their value-loaded critical thinking. We find that students exhibit varying levels of sophistication while critiquing foundational assumptions of the fallacious claim with a few resorting to narrow, discipline-based frameworks. Students proposed linear cause–effect models of the genotype–phenotype relationship and drew on disciplinary knowledge that is elementary in nature when discussing this relationship. We also find that only a few students critiqued these claims from social and ethical perspectives.
Raveendran, A., & Chunawala, S. (2015). Values in science: Making sense of biology doctoral students’ critical examination of a deterministic claim in a media article. Science Education, doi: 10.1002/sce.21174
Feminist critique of a higher secondary biology textbook chapter
The aim of feminist critiques of science has been to challenge and dismantle symbolic masculinity in the mainstream, positivist discourse of science that is projected as value-free, objective, context-free and rational, reflecting ‘the truth’ about reality. A large number of these critiques have focused on uncovering androcentric values in scientific theories, raising larger questions on the fact–value dichotomy and pointing out how all fact is essentially value-laden. Our analysis has drawn from this tradition and argues how the science curriculum documents and the NCERT class XII textbook reflect the masculine, positivist discourse of science that upholds the fact–value dichotomy and in doing so communicates mainstream values through the facts that are propounded. In the context of the chapter on reproductive health, we argue that the textbook endorses the patriarchal, reductionist science designed to interfere with the menstrual cycle and technologies that pose risks to the woman’s body. Interviews with three teachers who teach the textbook also reveal that they view the topic as value-laden. The article suggests that textbook writers and teachers reflect on and make explicit the value-frameworks that underpin the ‘facts’ that they communicate to students.
Raveendran, A., & Chunawala, S. (2015). Reproducing values: A feminist critique of a higher secondary biology textbook chapter on reproductive health. Indian Journal of Gender Studies 22(2), 194-218.
The above projects formed part of a doctoral thesis:
Raveendran, A. (2017). Conceptualising critical science education using socioscientific issues. Doctoral Thesis. Mumbai: HBCSE, TIFR Deemed University.