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Allgaier PhD Thesis - Representing science education in UK newspapers: A case study on the controversy surrounding teaching the theory of evolution and creationism in science classes


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KN11066
26 February 2008
27 February 2008 by Mariano Rico, originally uploaded on 26-Feb-2008

The thesis examines representations of science education in UK newspapers and focuses on the role of expert sources in a controversy about the teaching of creationism alongside the theory of evolution in science classrooms. The newspaper reporting revolved around the City Technology College Emmanuel College in Gateshead, mainly in Spring 2002.

The empirical research focused on two connected media elements: newspaper content and newspaper production. A quantitative and qualitative approach to analysing media content examined 287 newspaper articles from 20 UK newspapers, from 1 January 2002 to 20 February 2004, inclusive.

The production analysis was based on semi-structured interviews with media professionals. The analysis of media content shows that the debate around Emmanuel College consisted of several related controversial issues. A range of expert sources were quoted in the articles, using various argumentation lines to address the issues of the controversy.

The way expert sources were described by the journalists mainly seemed to enhance the credibility of those supporting the scientific consensus. Further analysis shows that some experts formed heterogeneous coalitions of experts calling for action. Collaborative networks of experts appeared as efforts to enhance credibility and gain access to the media.

The evidence presented in this thesis points to the importance of understanding expertise not only in individual but also in collective terms and to investigate expertise in terms of the argumentation lines reported. The analysis of semistructured interviews with media professionals demonstrates that the specialism of correspondents (e.g. on covering science or education) could influence which expert sources were selected, how they were represented and whether newspaper accounts were balanced or not. This influenced how reports were framed.

Overall, the thesis demonstrates a more complex conceptualisation of expertise, one where experts are mobilised to conduct boundary work in key sites: media reporting and the National Curriculum for Science.

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