Born on May 24th, 1970 in Briançon (Alps, France)
Nationality : franco-italian
last up date : octobre 20, 2021


Cette tête, c'est la mienne !...y'a longtemps !!

Associate professor, University of Lyon (France)
SSI Education and Communication

PhD, Ecole normale supérieure, University of Lyon (France)

Contact :
Tél. : 0033 - 07 9 69 61 70


Communication and Education on Climate change and Evolution

Controversial issues, Socioscientific communication, media contexts, and Science Attitudes
Implications for scientific citizenship and K-12 critical education


là... j'ai beaucoup vieilli !! j'ai 37 ans


Me and My Little Giulia
(Born on June 12th, 2012)

Lyon, 2014

Benoit Urgelli is associate professor in Socioscientific Communication and Science Education at the University of Lyon (East France). Following undergraduate studies in Earth sciences (volcanoes, tectonics, and riks), he conducted a master of research in the area of Mount Etna (Sicily, 1996 ; supervision: Geoffroy L. and Pr. Le Pichon X.).

As he was engaged in this work, his interests shifted to K-12 science teaching and communication about socioscientific issues. He spent several years teaching high school science before earning a Ph.D. on Science Communication at the University of Lyon (2009 ; supervision: Pr. Le Marec J. and Simonneaux L.).

Since 2011, he currently works with pre-service science teachers for the elementary and secondary levels (K-12). His research explores why and how teachers and scientists are involved in socioscientific communication and controversial issues. He discusses the implications for professional postures in classroom and other public media contexts, implications for teachers' personal development related to science citizenship and critical education (Hess, 2005 ; Sadler, 2009).

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from BBC News , Nature and Science

 TEDx TALK - Feb 2014 - LYON (FRANCE)


  • Planet-Terre; Online November 1999; Earth science education and scientific ressources for secondary teachers
  • Geodynamica; Online November 2001; Scientific and educational ressources on Mount Etna Volcanoe
  • EDD-Climat; Online November 2004 ; Educational ressources on climate change issues and sustainable development.
  • Enseignement secondaire; Online November 2007 ; Scientific ressources for secondary students and teachers
  • Enseignement primaire; Online November 2011 ; Scientific and didactic ressources for primary teachers training.


which Ethical and responsible communication is facing socioscientific issues
Some case studies around climate change, health and evolution controversies

Main results of research...

My research shows three different postures that teachers assume when they are involved in SocioScientific Education :

(1) an exclusive neutrality focused only on scientific and disciplinary contents in order to avoid promoting their own opinions and to discuss controversial media discourses Teachers then develop a positivist approach;
(2) committed education to make students aware of "environmental emergencies" and/or to promote science. They adopt an exclusive partiality, especially when they are facing some controversial media discourses;
(3) critical education which does not avoid controversies about socio-scientific issues and promotes responsible decision-making in the students. In this case, with committed impartiality, teachers develop a balanced treatment of media coverage. This position is more frequently adopted when an interdisciplinary team of teachers collaborate in a project with declared social epistemological and citizenship aims.

The last group of teachers' commitment is controversial, related to the fact that teachers are supposed to be politically neutral and impartial in their communication with students and the public. If science education aims to promote students’ empowerment, this posture must be discussed using the teachers' expertise. In other words, the question is : which democratic values and attitudes could teachers adopt to encourage students facing socioscientific issues?

Another important result is that teachers adopt an approach in relation with three personal representations of :
1. their educational mission,
2. the social epistemology of the issue they have to teach ;
3. their representation of the lay public and its capacity to understand science and engage socialy themselves.

Contact for critical review : Benoit URGELLI

A few words about my research activities

From 2004 to 2010, I worked with Laurence Simonneaux for the socioscientific issue movement related to science education and citizenship. My research question was why and how secondary school teachers are involved in Education for Sustainable Development, especially around the question of global climate change.

The take-home message of our movement is well expressed in the article of Gray and Bryce (2006) (refering also to : van Driel et al., 2001 and Sadler et al., 2006) :

because beliefs play a central role in organizing knowledge and defining behaviour [...] because beliefs and knowledge are closely interwoven [...] because they provide a filter through which knowledge are interpreted and subsequently integrated into the conceptual frame-works [...] We can no longer accept that science education is treated as if it is only a body of facts or formulae to be delivered, or even artificially discovered through laboratory-based practical experiments and experiences. This awareness […] requires greater emphasis on discussion and appreciation of values, risks and uncertainties in relation to those aspects of science which have the greatest potential impact on society, culture and environment. School science must reflect modern thinking about nature of science and it should give young people confidence to engage in political debate about SSI and related ethical reasoning. (Gray and Bryce, 2006, p. 186).

Analytical framework proposed by Zeidler and al. (2005, p. 361) using the exploration of researches on socioscientific education. Four entry points have been identified by authors to promote students empowerment and personal cognitive and moral development. This framework is related to a constructivist-learning theory.

The political horizon of my research...

If we hope to stimulate and develop students’ moral reasoning abilities, then we must provide students with rich and varied opportunities to gain and hone such skills. The present argument rests on the assumption that using controversial SSI as a foundation for individual consideration and group interaction provides an environment where students can and will increase their science knowledge while simultaneously developing their critical thinking and moral reasoning skills.

  • Simmons, M. L., & Zeidler, D. L. (2003). Beliefs in the nature of science and responses to socioscientific issues. In D. L. Zeidler (Ed.), The role of moral reasoning on socioscientific issues and discourse in science education. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, p. 83.

Students who are able to carefully consider SSI and make reflective decisions regarding those issues may be said to have acquired a degree of functional scientific literacy. Accordingly, these individuals may cultivate a positive skepticism concerning the ontological status of scientific knowledge. Their decisions ought to be tempered by an awareness of the cultural factors that guide and generate knowledge. [...]
If educators structure the learning environment properly, then opportunities for the epistemological growth of knowledge as fostered by the SSI framework will help students recognize that the decisions we all face involve consequences for the quality of social discourse and interaction among human beings, and our stewardship of the physical and biological world. Moreover, if we as science educators wish to cultivate future citizens and leaders who care, serve the community, and provide leadership for new generations, then we have a moral imperative to delve into the realm of virtue, character, and moral development.

  • Zeidler et al., 2005, p. 373

Teaching socioscientific issues: a controversial proposition for the French Republican schools...

Some could say that our movement asks for a breakdown on professional development, teachers’ practices and educational reforms, like a "revolution around a dream", expressed in these terms : Education for future citizens (also for potential specialists of science) must include dealing with socioscientific issues. But some others could say that is a postulate, that's why it seems important to discuss it, especially with teachers.
The experiment I conducted during the scholastic year 2006-2007, with eight teachers, showed the diversity of teachers' educational aims. Related to a question about Education for Sustainable Development asked by the French governement and UNESCO, I showed that there is a controversy related to objectives and practices for teaching socioscientific issues.

How the nature of science should be taught ? Against the disciplinary structure of teaching ?

We notice that many researchers said that in teaching socioscientific issue, we must take in account teachers representations of the nature of science, their personal beliefs and values about science, education and communication. In my research, I showed that the nature of science is interpreted in relation with the body of stabilized knowledge described in each discipline : complexity of the socioscientific issue is divided on different disciplinar approaches, leaving students alone to reconstruct a interdisicplinar wiew of the issue.

Teachers' communicational postures facing socioscientific controversies...

We notice also that there is a consensus between teachers (except maybe philosophy teachers...) on the fact that personal beliefs don't have to be discussed or exposed to students, in order to avoid indoctrination and strong influences on students' opinions. And that is probably an other important result of my research : the socioscientific issue movement must also take in account teachers' representations of the communication effects on reception across didactic and social situations. That was highlighted in my research looking at the teachers' practices related to media supports and the teachers' postures facing climate change controversies.


All this results are related and I propose for our future research to deal with educational questions in relation with communication sciences. I ask for a didactic research that integrate questions of communication in science teaching. This are a proposition for my project to supervise doctoral researches....




  • Cotton, D. R. E. (2006). Teaching controversial environmental issues: neutrality and balance in the reality of the classroom. Educational Research, vol.48, n°2, June 2006, p223-241.
  • Gayford, C. (2002). Controversial environmental issues: a case study for the professional development of science teachers. International Journal of Science Education, vol.24, n°11, p.1191-1200.
  • Giroux, H. (1987). Citizenship, public philosophy and the struggle for democracy. Educational Theory, vol.37, p.103-120.
  • Gray D. S. and Bryce T. (2006). Socio-scientific issues in science education: implications for the professional development of teachers. Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 36, No. 2, June 2006, pp. 171-192.
  • Hess, D. (2005). How do teachers' political views influence teaching about controversial issues? Social Education, vol. 69, 47-48.
  • Johsua S., Lahire B. (1999). Pour une didactique sociologique. Éducation et Sociétés, n° 4, p.29-56.
  • Kelly, T. (1986). Discussing controversial issues: four perspectives on the teacher’s role. Theory and Research in Social Education, vol.14, p.113-138.
  • Sadler T. D. (2009). Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion, by Diana E. Hess. Book reviews. Science Education, 94, 760-762.
  • Sadler, T.D., Amirshokoohi, A., Kazempour, M. and Allspaw, K.M. (2006). Socioscience and ethics in science classrooms: Teacher perspectives and strategies. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, vol. 43, p.353-376.
  • van Driel J. H., Beijaard D., Verloop N. (2001). Professional development and reform in science education: The role of teachers' practical knowledge. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Vol. 38, Issue 2, February 2001, pp. 137–158.
  • Zeidler, D.L., Sadler, T.D., Simmons, M.L. and Howes, E.V. (2005). Beyond STS: A research-based framework for socioscientific issues education. Science Education., Vol. 89, Issue 3, pp. 357-377.