The decision is in the details: Justifying decisions about socioscientific issues


Controversial scientific issues, or socioscientific issues (SSIs), demand the consideration of more than scientific content when constructing decisions. The Justification for Knowing framework (JFK) was developed to categorize the information sources drawn upon when making SSI decisions within the academic domain of natural sciences. These information sources stem from personal sources (JPS), authoritative sources (JAS), or multiple sources (JMS). However, these sources may not explain the array of knowledge claims reflected upon during SSI decision making. This qualitative study aims to explore each JFK belief dimension across two SSIs and asks how contextual features are contributing to the selection of these beliefs. College students (N = 199) from various disciplines at a research-intensive public institution responded to a modified Decision-Making Questionnaire consisting of two SSI context scenarios. Participants responded to open-ended prompts asking them if they support the proposed SSI decision and to explain their decision. Through two rounds of thematic coding, we found several subdimensions of JAS and found how students are utilizing JPS. Although the frequency of these broad sources did not differ between contexts, we saw differences within the types of sources reflected upon within each context. We also found that SSI context may ignite specific identity commitments that operate as a vehicle to the selection of knowledge sources when an individual is supporting their SSI decisions. The results of this study provide insight into specific information sources students rely upon when justifying their knowledge. Furthermore, this work emphasizes how identity commitments may be contributing to the selection of these information sources during SSI decision-making tasks.



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Journal of Research in Science Teaching



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