Learning about Vaccines in Middle School Using Socioscientific Problem Based Learning Modules
Abstract: This NIH-funded pilot study took place in spring 2021 to evaluate socioscientific issues (SSI) problem-based learning (PBL) modules to engage middle school students in ill-structured problems in science and health modules as a scientific literacy teachable moment. Data included questionnaires, Zoom interviews, and other correspondence. This pilot case study investigated how two teachers integrated a Covid-19 related SSI into their middle school classrooms, support needed, and their perceptions about the nature of science using a qualitative, multiple case study design. Both teachers chose the same module about who gets a vaccine, perceived their students' high degree of success, and reported the module was easy to use and deliver. The teachers reported that the SSI PBLs engaged their students with the science content involved in their study of viruses, the immune response and vaccines, and the ill-structured problem. The SSI PBL provided a viable solution, or a way for middle school teachers to implement previously developed Covid-19 modules into their teaching that aligned with other curriculum topics despite challenges of time, lesson availability, and professional development limitations. The larger project includes an immersive learning simulation with supporting material, including curricula including SSI PBLs, career opportunities, and teacher training for middle school students to learn about human body systems impacted by natural disasters.