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Scienza Attiva: deliberative democracy methods to improve high school students’ engagement with S&T

13/01/2017

In a paper just published on JCOM, Federica Cornali, Gianfranco Pomatto and Selena Agnella present the analysis of the outcomes of Scienza Attiva, a project started in 2008 and implemented by the Agora Science Inter-University Center in Turin (Italy).

Engaging teachers and high school students aged 14–18, Scienza Attiva focuses on stimulating a constructive dialogue with professors, researchers and industry experts, learning and sharing opinions about future scenarios on complex, topical scientific and technological issues.

Presented as a collection of “deliberative democracy tools to address innovative scientific and technological topics of great social impact”, according to the authors the Scienza Attiva project has contributed to raise awareness of the importance of discussion in forming an opinion, it has ameliorated class interactions, as well as improved students and teachers understanding of relevant socio-scientific issues.

Evaluation outcomes of the seventh session (2014–2015) of the project, using a “combination of standardized procedures (such as questionnaires) and non-standardized procedures (such as in-depth interviews and focus groups)”, show that the deliberative process taking place in Scienza Attiva activities not only can be correctly implemented even in a school setting, but it contributes to “spread critical knowledge and train students for active citizenship”.

A past commentary published on JCOM has also explored the issues of deliberative democracy in educational processes: “Reflections on the impact of (playful) deliberation processes in contexts of responsible research and innovation”, by Marjoleine G. Van der Meij.

Students' acquisition of critical thinking and collaborative learning skills, as well as involving students and teachers in reflecting on the role of research and innovation are also a key tool of the Responsible Research and Innovation concept, as explored in the “RRI in practice” Handbook for teachers, produced by the RRI Tools project and available at: https://www.rri-tools.eu/-/rri-in-practice-for-schools-handbook-for-teachers-. An interesting paper on RRI principles is also available on JCOM: “Science communication and Responsible Research and Innovation. How can they complement each other?” by Victor Scholten et al.