Rigorous Investigations of Relevant Issues [RI]² is an instructional model that highlights key dimensions of teaching with socio-scientific issues (SSI) for three-dimensional science learning. We use the phrase "Relevant Issues" to reference SSI, which are societally relevant issues with conceptual, procedural and/or technical connections to science. SSI are complex problems whose solutions are informed, but undetermined, by scientific ideas and evidence. We have developed a number of tools to describe and justify the [RI]² model. Follow the links below to learn more about these tools.

[RI]² Teaching & Learning Framework: Provides a framework for how to develop the lesson plan through rigorous investigations of relevant issues.
Conceptual Framework for SSI: Provides a framework for operationalizing SSI (i.e., “Relevant Issues”) and connections between these issues with science and society.
[RI]² Theory of Change: Explains why the [RI]² approach to instruction can be useful for science teaching and learning.


Overlap and Distinctions with Other Approaches

A number of instructional approaches within science education and integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education are similar to the [RI]² model. Some examples include problem-based learning, project-based learning, context-based teaching, science-technology-society (STS) approaches, and case-based education.

A challenge in distinguishing the [RI]² model from the other approaches is the varying ways in which these approaches have been operationalized and implemented. For example, the [RI]² model is consistent with some but not all instantiations of problem-based learning. An important point is that the [RI]² model adopts certain emphases that may be a part of some of the other approaches but the framing of these emphases may differ across approaches. For example, the STS approach calls for connections to social issues, but the issue is not always presented as the central organizing feature of instruction.

We take this central positioning of the issue as a fundamental component of the [RI]² model. Another example of varying emphases relates to the issues selected. Other approaches prioritize real world problems or questions as contexts for instruction, but some of these questions are not socially contentious or complex. For example, a context-based chemistry unit may be framed around understanding the chemical makeup of household cleaning products.

While identifying the chemical components of solutions found in students’ homes may serve as a useful context for chemistry learning, this is not representative of an SSI because it lacks connections to societally relevant impacts and concerns. A unit of instruction could be framed around the phosphorus content of household detergents, the environmental impacts of surplus phosphorus, and decisions about whether the manufacturing of phosphate detergents should be curtailed. This adjustment in the framing of an instructional unit such that social and personal issues associated with detergent purchasing and manufacturing are highlighted would be more aligned with the [RI]² model.