Pedagogy for Learning About Products of Science & Technology (or ‘STEM’)
This page provides perspectives, pedagogical suggestions and resources regarding ‘products’ – e.g., laws, theories & inventions – of fields of science & technology (and perhaps engineering & mathematics [STEM]) that may help them in life.
Educational research suggests that science education tends to focus on teaching & learning of ‘products‘ of professional science – such as laws & theories, with some emphases on functioning of technologies (or inventions, innovations) that may relate to science products. Although learning such ‘products’ is essential for making personal & social (including political) decisions, there has been so much knowledge generated that students (particularly disadvantaged ones) can be overwhelmed – and, consequently, it seems essential that greater balances in learning outcomes are promoted, such as those suggested by Hodson (2003) and in Ontario curricula. This page provides some considerations for decisions about essential products to teach. Pedagogically, as with all learning outcomes, we recommend uses of our 3-phase, constructivism-informed, STEPWISE schema.
Given that fields of science (and technology/engineering, often involving mathematics) have generated ‘massive’ amounts of knowledge over their histories, including variations across different cultures (e.g., ‘Indigenous vs. ‘Western’), it can be helpful to have conceptions of broad categories of ‘products.’ As illustrated at right/below, we can imagine products as ‘Signs’ (e.g., chemical equations) and/or as new phenomena of the ‘World’ (e.g., drugs).
World –> Sign: ‘Science’ Products
As indicated by the above model, science & technology/engineering processes are reciprocal – each influencing the other – and, so, have similarities. Nevertheless, it seems helpful to think of them as being somewhat different – with ‘science’ mainly focused on generating products like laws & theories, as explained in the video at right/below. For example, a solid (e.g., ice) can change ‘state’ to a liquid (e.g., liquid water) and then a gas (e.g., invisible water vapour in the air), which can be explained in terms of the ‘particle theory‘ – in that, for example, in liquid –> gas changes, particles can separate from each other as they they gain heat energy.
Sign –> World: ‘Engineering’ Products
Again, as indicated in the above model, ‘science’ & ‘technology’/’engineering’ co-affect each other, suggesting they can have similar products. However, very broadly, some evidence suggests that engineers mainly aim to generate phenomena of the ‘World’ that hadn’t existed. As noted in the video at right/below, generating new products & services often is not straightforward, however, often requiring much ‘trial-and-error.’ This can create compromises. Many engineering products, such as cell phones, are appreciated by many people – although there may be some harms linked to them. But, such technologies often are worth learning about, including in terms of science knowledge used to develop them – like the particle theory explaining hot air balloons.
Science Education Subjects
Political jurisdictions have typically grouped myriad ‘products’ of science & technology into larger ‘subjects’ and unit ‘topics,’ like those shown at right/below for grades 6-9 in the Ontario science curricula (where I work). Doing so can send semiotic messages about priorities for Products Education over that for other leaning domains (e.g., STEM-SE relationships). Such siloing also can limit students’ awareness & uses of concepts, skills, attitudes, etc. inherent to other subjects e.g., physics & biology) and topics (e.g., chemical reactions & climate change). This problem can be exacerbated by shifting teaching/learning through a series of unrelated topics – which can be confusing to students because of lack of continuity. A solution to problems like those above has been to promote theme-based curriculum arrangements – which allow for much subject/topic integration.