Institute of Education


Promoting Teachers Understanding of Risk in Socio-Scientific Issues (TURSS)

Enhances the teaching of risk in secondary school science and mathematics by developing teachers’ inter-disciplinary knowledge, and supporting them to motivate students' learning about risk.

risk pic

9 June 2016


This research promotes and supports the teaching of risk in mathematics and science, with a view to developing a coherent theory for the teaching of risk. Risk is regarded in the mathematics curriculum as an application of probability, and as a key element of the science curriculum in areas such as nuclear physics, genetics, obesity and immunisation. This study, funded by the Wellcome Trust with a budget of £128k, aimed to provide mathematics teachers with inspirational contexts for teaching probability, and science teachers with themes that would require risk as a powerful explanatory tool.                              


Worked with four pairs of science and mathematics teachers from different schools to co-develop decision-making scenarios, drawing on both personal heuristics and probabilistic reasoning involving the modelling of socio-scientific issues. Through this development process we were able to gain insight into teachers’ own knowledge about risk, and how they think about the teaching and learning of risk. The scenarios, supporting materials and research papers are available on this website. Used teachers’ experiences of working on modelling tools and tasks to develop a deeper understanding of the pedagogy of risk, with potential for later development into tools and activities aimed at classroom use.


An elaboration of pedagogical principles of teachers’ knowledge and understanding in working with scenarios involving risk-based scenarios. One complete decision-making scenario, Deborah’s Dilemma, within a software environment that incorporates expressive tools; the scenario was designed as a development tool for teachers, but has also been shown to be usable with students in prompting discussion about personal values and assessing risk probabilities and impacts. Additional scenarios involving risk-based dilemmas for teachers to develop in the classroom. Dissemination activity: Deborah’s Dilemma was presented as part of a professional development workshop for science and mathematics teachers on interdisciplinary working, jointly organised with the National Science Learning Centre, the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, and the Nuffield Curriculum Programme. 

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