Towards bridging the gap between science and humanities for first year science students

McLoughlin, Eilish, Finlayson, Odilla and Murphy, Padraig (2011) Towards bridging the gap between science and humanities for first year science students. [Conference Proceedings]


In general, first year science students follow a programme of lectures, tutorials and laboratories in the science and mathematics disciplines, without any consideration of the social or ethical issues of science from the humanities and social science perspectives. In this project, a first year cohort of science students participated in a twelve week module, where they were required, by working in small groups (4-5 people), to tackle a sequence of problems which addressed a broad spectrum of scientific concepts and issues. In particular, an interdisciplinary team of colleagues from the Schools of Chemical Sciences, Physical Science, and Communications developed a problem scenario to engage students in the complex socio- scientific issue of screening embryos for genetic disease. The objective of this problem was to enable students to gain an appreciation of the diversity of opinion, develop a better understanding of ethical issues in real-world situations, and to develop a perspective on the science profession entangled with moral issues in society and rhetorically argue this perspective. The students were presented with seven different viewpoints on the use of Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) for genetic screening within the context of a family being diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia; Friedreich's ataxia is an inherited disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system and results in early death. Each of the student groups were asked to defend a particular stance in the form of a written speech and an inter-group debate. The group assessment of these activities included the evaluation of the arguments presented based on scientific fact as well as moral, social and philosophical arguments. In this presentation, an analysis of the student feedback on this problem will be presented and the outcomes of this project, which has been implemented with >700 students over a four year period, will be discussed.

[thumbnail of NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf]
NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf

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