Action Research

Introduction

To continuously improve teaching & learning, educators can use action research (AR) – a general model of which is shown at right (below on phones). Although AR by individual teachers can be helpful, collaborative AR (CAR) with educational researchers can increase diversity of approaches & learning outcomes. As described here, we have long used CAR to explore benefits of STEPWISE-informed pedagogies. If you would like to learn more about and/or become involved in our CAR, write to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.

Action Research Foci

Action researchers may focus on studying relationships between changes in ‘conditions’ (i.e., independent variables) and ‘outcomes’ (i.e., dependent variables) – such as those illustrated at right/below (and here). In education, a teacher may, for instance, change the number of students in group activities to monitor how that may influence outcomes like students’ abilities to analyze new situations. Foci more specific to STEPWISE are given here. Such foci also may arise from analyses of outcomes for aspects of the STEPWISE tetrahedral framework, here.

Some STEPWISE-related Action Research Outcomes

Action research can “improve the rationality and justice of [participants’] practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out” (Carr & Kemmis, 1986, p. 162). Referring to the schema at right/below, CAR can generate ‘Signs’; e.g., knowledge about how the ‘World’ (e.g., teaching & learning) works. It can also improve the ‘World’; e.g., new teaching & learning. STEPWISE has used CAR to address apparent harms linked to pro-capitalist science & technology education, some results of which are described below.

Action researchers may explore inconsistencies (“gaps”) in translations between World & Sign. Ontological gaps, due to differences in composition of World & Sign entities, often are hard to avoid. Ideological gaps (intentional inconsistencies) tend to be difficult to change; but, such changes seem essential.

Successful Student RiNA Projects

It is difficult to measure, but students whose teachers have collaborated with us in action research have generated what appear to be very creative and inspired (and inspiring) RiNA projects – such as the one that culminated in the educational video at right/below. This and many more such projects are highlighted at: Sample RiNA Projects. Also, several student RiNA projects are featured in three issues of the journal JASTE: 5.1; 9.1; 11.1; and, in several refereed publications – such as chapters in: Activist Science & Technology Education and STEPWISE.

Besides generating many RiNA projects, it seems – as indicated by the student interviews at right/below – that STEPWISE approaches can lead to long-lasting student understandings & commitments.

Important Goals & Effective Pedagogical Approaches

STEPWISE-related CAR has generated many pedagogical resources that our research (e.g., as suggested here and in our publications) indicate have worked well. As apparent in the videos at right, approaches have worked with younger, as well as older, school students.

Grade 3-4 RiNA Projects

Grade 10 STSE Education

Many perspectives & practices promoted by STEPWISE are not very commonly-used in schools. This is, indeed, a major reason to use action research for STEPWISE implementation; i.e., it requires continuous cycles of reflection, actions, reflections & revisions. Actor-network theory (ANT), while very important for understanding STSE relationships & RiNA projects, often is difficult for some students to understand and use. Teachers working with us have, accordingly, continuously revised their goals & approaches in this regard. In this video, Mirjan Krstovic, who has worked with STEPWISE since 2011, describes his such efforts.

STS-informed STEPWISE

It seems imperative to teach students about claims from STS, studies of any field connected to science & technology, to effectively educate them about STSE relationships & NoST. Some of our STS-informed educational resources are shown here.

Ban the Dust!

As with the above two video sets (on prosumption & sociotechnical imaginaries), we mostly use STS claims from published literature. For our Ban the Dust! graphic novel, however, we consulted with a science education researcher, Dr. Chantal Pouliot, who has extensively studied (largely based on STS concepts) citizens’ research & actions to eliminate toxic dust pollution from their local port. Of particular interest were our analyses of politics surrounding dust dispersal, using Foucault’s dispositif concept – focusing on conflicts between competing sets of living & nonliving actants. Accompanying the novel, linked at right/below, are some pedagogical suggestions – both of which are highlighted in this video.

STEPWISE-related Publications

Mainly for practitioners:

We share our research findings with many ‘stakeholders’ – such as other science education academics, teachers, student-teachers, administrators, and more. We do so through such outlets as workshops, seminars, conferences, articles and books. Our publications in these various forms have been sole-authored by me or written in collaboration with graduate students, colleagues and teachers. A full list of these is available through my online curriculum vitae. A few major publications from STEPWISE are highlighted on this page. We are particularly happy with publication of three issues of JASTE – noted at right/below – which feature articles written by high school students about their RiNA projects, along with articles by teachers, graduate students and me.

Each cover page links to the corresponding journal issue.

Teacher Resources for STEPWISE-informed Lessons & Student Activities
Since its development in 2006, we have collaborated with educators in primary, secondary & tertiary education contexts in action research to explore uses of the STEPWISE framework. Although most of our resources are suitable for secondary school students, we are now more actively recruiting educators to collaborate with us for development and field-testing of teaching & learning materials that may be best for students in elementary school contexts.

Online Resources in Different Formats
Online resources in development

For academics & practitioners:

The STEPWISE project has generated two ‘academic’ books that feature articles by educational researchers and teachers – the latter of whom have written documentaries about experiences using the STEPWISE pedagogy. Activist Science & Technology Education (2014), about which you can learn more here, was generated after some early publication work through JASTE – which included articles from the STEPWISE project and elsewhere. After a few years of further action research with STEPWISE, we then published ‘STEPWISE,’ a collection of documentaries of classroom practices and scholarly articles by several science education researchers. We are planning a follow-up book about our most recent action research – especially related to STS.