How do pre-service primary teachers negotiate a socio-scientific issue through a prism of epistemic arbitrage?

Hannah Griffin-James, Stephen Day, Henry Maitles

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The concept of 'epistemic arbitrage' provides an understanding of how particular professionals are able to exploit differences in professional knowledge pools for strategic advantage by positioning particular forms of knowledge as the most appropriate to deal with particular problems (Seabrooke, 2014). This research utilises a small-scale, case study approach to investigate how Pre-Service Primary Teachers (PsPTs) negotiate the Socio-scientific Issue (SSI) of embryonic stem-cell research through a prism of epistemic arbitrage. Twenty-eight PsPTs studying a second-year module entitled Science in Society as part of their initial teacher education consented to participating within the study. Data was gathered using observation and semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews were audiotaped and transcribed for analysis. A non-linear iterative process of coding, comparing, and refining was employed (Glaser, 1978). This involved analysing categories emergent from the transcripts, which were generated by identifying common themes; integrating categories by comparing similarities and differences between the categories; then refining the categories around fewer, more encompassing categories to form a rich description of the students' experience. Findings suggest that PsPTs struggle to negotiate the SSI from perspectives that differ from their own and tend to privilege evidence aligned to their own epistemic understanding. This caused some PsPTs some cognitive dissonance resulting in them retreating to surface level emotive responses when discussing ideas that conflict with their epistemic belief. These findings suggest that PsPTs need to problematize the issue as a wicked problem and use appropriate inquiry skills (as part of their developing socio-scientific reasoning and argumentation skills) to support their engagement with such issues.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
EventScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference : Educational Futures in a Changing Landscape: Bridging Boundaries or "Mind the Gap"? - University of the West of Scotland, Ayr, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Nov 201724 Nov 2017


ConferenceScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleSERA Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • socio-scientific issue
  • wicked problem
  • knowledge types
  • power


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