Action Research

Science & technology educators can greatly improve learning outcomes with ongoing cycles of action research. Regarding the schema below, this involves cycles of research to develop ‘Signs’ (e.g., teaching strategies) and uses (‘actions,’ like new teaching practices) of new Signs to affect changes in the ‘World’ (e.g., student learning).

As described below, student learning can be greatly enhanced through collaborative action research (CAR).

STEPWISE-informed Collaborative Action Research

Since 2006, graduate students and I have engaged in CAR cycles, like that depicted at right/below, with many educators in elementary, secondary & tertiary education and in after-school contexts. Broadly, after “Reviewing Teaching & Learning” (e.g., asking teachers what methods seem to work well and not so well, and for what reasons), we may suggest they consider using our STEPWISE framework and/or related Resources for the “Planning and Developing” AR stage. Then, for the “Teaching and Data-collecting” phase, we – for example – collect samples of teachers’ & students’ work, interview teachers and students and, perhaps, observe class activities. Often, in such CAR, we also collaborate with teachers in educational publications – several of which are highlighted below.

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., 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 have interests in inconsistencies (“gaps”) in translations between World & Sign. Ontological gaps, due to differences in composition of World & Sign entities, are often hard to avoid. But, Ideological gaps (intentional inconsistencies), although difficult to change, may be worth revising.

Students’ 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.

Pedagogical Goals & Approaches

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

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, is a particularly difficult topic for 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.

Working with Us in Collaborative Action Research

To work with us in collaborative action research and on publications, contact me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca. Also, please help us recruit teachers and others to uses of our resources and/or CAR with us – perhaps using this flyer. We are also interested in working with scholars in Science & Technology Studies to co-develop and study educational applications (like these) – as outlined here.