Training more Socially-Conscious Physicists using Undergraduate Discussion Groups based around YouTube videos

Laura K. McKemmish, Rebecca L Coates, Frazina S Botelho, Harriet L Robertson, Gavin W Leong


This is a research article supported by a video. To read the article, please click on the pdf, to play the video, click on the link at the bottom of this page.

Physics students today need to learn about being a scientist, not just about science. They need to be exposed to, consider, discuss and debate the complex social and professional issues that go along with being a working scientist in the twenty-first century. The traditional physics training structure of lectures, laboratory sessions and problem-solving-focused workshops and/or tutorials does not allow this training to occur in any formal way. In this paper, we describe and analyse a new discussion-class format, based upon YouTube videos and similar in spirit to the tutorials so prevalent in the humanities. This format was extremely successful in stimulating a lively and thoughtful discussion between students on oft-neglected issues such as gender representation in physics and trust in experts. Students actively thought about these issues, articulated their viewpoints, considered the viewpoints of others and debated the issues.

Here, we analyse transcriptions of the discussion groups and observations from the classes to explore the reasons for the success of this model and how it can be expanded to encourage physicists to explore and develop their own views on the range of social and professional challenges they are likely to experience as working physicists, including environmental concerns, the relationship between media and science and even the influence on science of Brexit. We use a novel multimedia format here to present the results of this research, including both a traditional written report which incorporates analysis of the discussion group sessions themselves and a video presentation.


Physics; Education; Socioscientific

Full Text:

PDF Video


Berkowitz, M. W. and Bier, M. C. (2007) ‘What works in character education.’ Journal of Research in Character Education, 5(1), 29.

Brewe, E. and Sawtelle, V. (2016) Editorial: ‘Focused collection: Gender in physics.’ Physical Review: Physics Education Research, 12(2), 020001.

Chung, Y., Yoo, J., Kim, S.-W., Lee, H. and Zeidler, D. L. (2016) ‘Enhancing students’ communication skills in the science classroom through socio-scientific issues.’ International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 14(1), 1-27.

Duit, R., (2016) ‘The constructivist view in science education – what it has to offer and what should not be expected from it.’ Investigaçôes em ensino de ciências, 1(1), 40-75.

Hirsch, J. E. (2005) ‘An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16569-16572.

Hmielowski, J. D., Feldman, L., Myers, T. A., Leiserowitz, A. and Maibach, E. (2014) ‘An attack on science: media use, trust in scientists, and perceptions of global warming.’ Public Understanding of Science, 23(7), 866-883.

Jonassen, D. H. (1994) ‘Thinking technology: Toward a constructivist design model.’ Educational Technology, 34(4), 34-37.

Jonassen, D. H. and Kim, B. (2010) ‘Arguing to learn and learning to argue: Design justifications and guidelines.’ Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(4), 439-457.

Kahn, S. and Zeidler, D. L. (2016) ‘Using our heads and hartss*: Developing perspective-taking skills for socio-scientific reasoning.’ [*humanities, arts, and social sciences] Journal of Science Teacher Education, 27(3), 261-281.

Lee, H., Yoo, J., Choi, K., Kim, S.-W., Krajcik, J., Herman, B. C. and Zeidler, D. L. (2013) ‘Socioscientific issues as a vehicle for promoting character and values for global citizens.’ International Journal of Science Education, 35(12), 2079-2113.

Leiserowitz, A. A., Maibach, E. W., Roser-Renouf, C., Smith, N. and Dawson, E. (2013) ‘Climategate, public opinion, and the loss of trust.’ American behavioral scientist, 57(6), 818-837.

Murphy, P. and Whitelegg, E. (2006) ‘Girls in the physics classroom: A review of the research on the participation of girls in physics.’ Institute of Physics. Available at: (Accessed: 8 October 2017).

Nystrand, M. and Gamoran, A. (1990) ‘Student engagement: When recitation becomes conversation.’ Available at: (Accessed: 8 October 2017).

Oulton, C., Day, V., Dillon, J. and Grace, M. (2004) ‘Controversial issues-teachers’ attitudes and practices in the context of citizenship education.’ Oxford Review of Education, 30(4), 489-507

Palincsar, A. S. (1998) ‘Social constructivist perspectives on teaching and learning.’ Annual review of psychology, 49(1), 345-375.

Picoult, J. (2004) My Sister’s Keeper. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Reiss, M. J. (1999) ‘Teaching ethics in science.’ Studies in Science Education, 34, 115-140.

Retzbach, A. and Maier, M. (2015) ‘Communicating scientific uncertainty: Media effects on public engagement with science.’ Communication Research, 42(3), 429-456.

Sadler, T. D. (2004) ‘Informal reasoning regarding socio-scientific issues: A critical review of research.’ Journal of research in science teaching, 41, 513-536.

Sadler, T. D. (2009) ‘Situated learning in science education: socio-scientific issues as contexts for practice.’ Studies in Science Education, 45(1), 1-42.

Scheufele, D. A. (2013) ‘Communicating science in social settings.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110 (Supplement 3), 14040-14047.

Simonneaux, L. (2007) ‘Argumentation in science education: An overview.’ In: Argumentation in Science Education: Perspectives from Classroom-Based Research. Dordrecht: Springer, 3-27.

Spier, R. (2002) ‘The history of the peer-review process.’ Trends in Biotechnology, 20(8), 357-358.

Zeidler, D. L. (2016) ‘Stem education: A deficit framework for the twenty first century: a sociocultural socioscientific response.’ Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11(1), 11-26.

Zeidler, D. L., Sadler, T. D., Applebaum, S. and Callahan, B. E. (2009) ‘Advancing reflective judgment through socioscientific issues.’ Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(1), 74-101.



  • There are currently no refbacks.