College students' scientific epistemological views and thinking patterns in socioscientific decision making

Shiang Yao Liu*, Chuan Shun Lin, Chin Chung Tsai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to test the nature of the assumption that there are relationships between scientific epistemological views (SEVs) and reasoning processes in socioscientific decision making. A mixed methodology that combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches of data collection and analysis was adopted not only to verify the assumption but also to explore the patterns of interaction between the two constructs. A total of 177 college students (60% science and 40% non-science majors) completed a SEVs survey and a decision-making instrument. The decision-making instrument contains expository text introducing the environmental management issue of an invasive species, and a series of open-ended questions to elicit participants' reasons and judgments on the issue. Analyses revealed that tentativeness and creativity of SEVs are the significant components directly manifested in the socioscientific decision-making process. Students who held changing and tentative beliefs about scientific knowledge were more likely to recognize the complexity, take multiple perspectives, and question omniscient authority in the decision-making process. It was also found that over one-half of the college students, especially those who were science majors, make decisions based on a single disciplinary perspective. The findings suggest that educational programs should encourage students to actively participate in issue investigation and decision making by utilizing multiple reasoning modes and interdisciplinary thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-517
Number of pages21
JournalScience Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 May

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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