How do we decide whether to vaccinate our children? Or eat genetically engineered foods? Accept human causes of climate change? Determine whether to take narcotics for pain? Know whether nuclear energy is safe? Democracies depend on educated citizens who can make informed decisions about important scientific topics relevant to their own lives and others’. The vast scientific information available in our digital society can be complex, confusing, and often conflicting – and leads to one meta-question: how do we foster public understanding of science?
Two scholars who investigate how the public learns about science and then chooses to trust it (or not) address that question in this hour-long webinar sponsored by the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences and its parent organization, the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS). The scholars, Barbara K. Hofer and Gale M. Sinatra, co-wrote an article — “Public Understanding of Science: Policy and Educational Implications” — that appears in the current issue of Policy Insights. In that article, and in this webinar, the pair not only discuss some of the more widely bemoaned instances of public mis-understanding of science, but they discuss ways to create ‘instructional scaffolds’ to combat this threat to informed policy choices.Sinatra is the associate dean for research and professor of education and psychology at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She is the past editor of the journal, Educational Psychologist and former Vice President of AERA’s Division C, Learning and Instruction. She is a fellow of American Psychological Association, American Educational Research Association, and the Society for Text and Discourse. She heads the Motivated Change Research Lab, which aims to understand the cognitive, motivational, and emotional processes that lead to attitude change, conceptual change, and successful STEM learning.
Hofer is a professor of psychology at Middlebury College in the areas of developmental, educational, and cultural psychology, and is a fellow of the American Psychological Association. She received of national awards for both teaching and research, receiving the Review of Research Award from the American Educational Research Association (with Paul Pintrich) and the McKeachie Early Career Teaching Award from the American Psychological Association. In addition to publishing several dozen articles and book chapters, she co-edited the book Personal Epistemology: The Psychology of Beliefs about Knowledge and Knowing.