This page provides rationale for and examples of the three phases of the STEPWISE pedagogy that can be – and, indeed, have been – used in secondary school science education contexts. It should be stressed that very well-researched and complex RiNA projects like that depicted in the video at right (below on phones) likely was possible largely because the teacher had provided students with STEPWISE-informed lessons & application & practice activities prior to students undertaking a RiNA project dealing with a topic of their concern or interest.
Why Ask Students to Reflect Prior to Being Taught?
A basic priority of the STEPWISE pedagogy is to facilitate students’ expressions (e.g., verbally or in writing, etc.) of their reflections on their current ‘attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) that may apply to one or more topics to teach (e.g., plant structure & function) prior to being taught main ASK of professional science & technology. We recommend this because of constructivist learning theory, which suggests that everyone’s learning will be influenced – perhaps negatively – by ASK they already possess in their brains (& bodies) due to their previous (and varied) experiences. People observing the image at right (below on phones), for example, often construct different meanings from it. Expressing their pre-instructional ASK also can make students (and the teacher) more conscious of existing ASK that may influence their learning.
Stimulating Student Reflections
The teacher can encourage such reflections / expressions by providing students with stimuli – e.g., pictures of STEM products as at right/below – about which students would then be asked to reflect on/express their existing ASK. To ensure students are free to express their ASK and not try to guess responses the teacher might desire, such activities should be largely student-directed & open-ended – as described here. Teacher instructions and questions should, in other words, err on the side of divergence – allowing for many different responses. Questions asked might include: ‘What do you like/dislike about the commodity, and why?,’ ‘What other people & groups might like/dislike the commodity, and why?,’ and, ‘For harms related to the commodity, what should be done to overcome them and what work might be necessary to do so?’
Encouraging & Respecting Controversy
Very often, as generally expected, students will express different – sometimes strongly conflicting – ASK about commodities (and other phenomena related to STSE relationships). An approach that may appeal to many students in this regard is to have them react to and share their ASK with classmates about Issue Comics, like that at right (below on phones). Reasons for differences in students’ ASK are complex and varied. A common reason is a student’s (and/or parents’, etc.) more general socio-political views (e.g., as via the Political Compass survey). Clearly, although the teacher may adhere to certain ASK about phenomena, it seems critical in such reflective work to ensure that it is mostly student-directed (with some necessary teacher stimuli) and open-ended.
Students’ pre-instructional ASK, as expressed in the Students Reflect phase of the STEPWISE pedagogy, must be honoured. Having said that, teachers’ jobs require them to teach students particular ASK in official curriculum documents. In Ontario, where I work, students are expected – in every “unit” (e.g., Animal Physiology) in every grade – to learn ASK in 3 main ‘domains’; i.e., STSE Education; Skills Education; and, Products Education (called “Concepts” in Ontario). Interestingly, not all curricula in the world include STSE education (or facsimile); and, so, students in Ontario may have very broad education in science & technology; not just learning knowledge developed by these fields and how they are developed; but, perhaps, most importantly for most students, how fields of science & technology relate to other members of societies and ways in which they interact with living & nonliving environments.
About Needs for Direct Teaching
Although teachers should, likely, accept – and, indeed, celebrate – students’ diverse ASK in the Students Reflect phase of the STEPWISE pedagogy (see above), some of them being very different from those accepted by professional fields of science & technology, it also seems very necessary for teachers to later directly teach students very important ASK. This is because, as explained here and via the summary linked to the graphic at right (below on phones), many students often struggle – e.g., because of intelligence and socio-cultural capital differences – to discover important ASK through inquiry-based learning activities and because capitalists often have limited public access – e.g., in popular culture & via many STEM education initiatives – to many possibly-problematic STSE relationships.
Needs to Directly Teach About Often-hidden Powerful ASK
Students may be limited in IBL activities by their intelligence &/or sociocultural capital. But, we also need to directly teach certain ASK because much of it is hidden from most people so that rich & powerful people & groups continue to benefit. There is much evidence & argument indicating that most living, non-living & symbolic (semiotic) entities are assembled into a global dispositif that mainly works to support – and normalize ideals of – capitalist individuals & groups. Commonly-used in this regard is the Trojan horse concept for consumerism – e.g., like supposed food abundance from GM salmon (and related actions) and as perhaps clear from the video at right/below.
Teaching About Actor-Network Theory
Many or most possibly-problematic STSE relationships can be understood in terms of actor-network theory (ANT) – which conceives of all living, nonliving & symbolic entities (‘actants’) as being part of a (likely global) network of actants, each pair of which is in 2-way relationships with each other. In the video at right (below on phones), two secondary school science teachers explain some history of ANT, some key concepts like (de-)punctualization and some examples of actor-network maps. The first four videos below illustrate a teacher’s effort to teach about ANT and network making, while the fifth provides a brief sample of students’ ANT-mapping activities.
Needs to Teach About Capitalist Influences on Fields of Technoscience
In democracies, students should be taught about effects of capitalist influences on fields of science and technology, especially in the neoliberal period – in which governments & transnational organizations (e.g., WTO) take active roles in setting laws & regulations to assist capitalists in making profits. Neoliberal capitalism has been extremely successful, assimilating myriad living & nonliving things and symbolic actants into a global dispositif oriented towards profit-making for a few people & groups, often at expense of wellbeing of most other living & non-living things. In extreme neoliberal cases, as depicted in the schema at right/below, ‘Science’ is regulated for profit-making, as is ‘Technology,’ which tends to focus on development of harmful for-profit products & services (e.g., see Union of Concerned Scientists).
Further Reading About Pro-capitalist Technosciences
Needs to Teach About Student/Civic Actions
Although teaching students about different STSE relationships and harms are essential, students also should learn about sociopolitical actions that people – including students and other citizens – have taken to overcome some of them. The video at right/below may be a good starting point, especially perhaps because of student enthusiasm and diversity of projects. Teachers also can get other examples from our page of RiNA project examples. Teachers may use such examples to teach students about fundamental STSE relationships and RiNA projects.
Often Combine ‘Pragmatic’ Teacher Input & Application
As may be concluded from the above sections of the Teacher Teaches component of the STEPWISE pedagogy, there is much ‘content’ for students to learn – both from official curricula and regarding more de-punctualized & problematized aspects of them (e.g., about capitalist influences on S&T). Teaching many ASK, often in short time periods, can be overwhelming for students – especially for those disadvantaged in terms of intelligence and socio-cultural capital differences. To enable depth & breadth of learning, therefore, it seems teachers must be ‘pragmatic,’ choosing more essential ASK to teach and giving students opportunities to apply such teaching to their personal contexts. Choosing ‘essential’ ASK to teach may not be easy, but it may help teachers (in Ontario, at least) to know that they are only mandated to evaluate Overall Expectations, having freedom to choose Specific Expectations to teach. To help with this, we have prepared an example of a Teacher Input lesson combined with a Student Application activity that addresses many learning expectations.
Some Other Resources for Student Application Activities
Multi-Actant Commodity Arrays
Students who have learned about actor-network theory, dispositifs, capitalist influences, etc., can read the short summaries of roles of some actants related to a commodity, further investigate them and possibly propose and develop related RiNA project plans. More detail & examples here.
Multi-Actant Documentaries (MADs)
Students who have learned about actor-network theory, dispositifs, capitalist influences, etc., can review video and text-based summaries of roles of different actants in relation to a commodity, further investigate such relationships and possibly propose and develop related RiNA project plans. More detail, with several examples, are given here.
STSE Case Methods
Students who have learned about actor-network theory, dispositifs, capitalist influences, etc., can review written documentaries of STSE relationships involving a commodity, answer questions and respond to suggestions, further investigate such relationships and possibly propose and develop related RiNA project plans. Several more such case methods are available here.
School-based Issues of JASTE
Students who have learned about actor-network theory, dispositifs, capitalist influences, RiNA projects, etc., can review one or more reports in JASTE that were written by high school students of their RiNA projects relating to particular commodities, further investigate such relationships and possibly propose and develop related RiNA project plans.
Teacher-supported Student Practice RiNA Projects
After being taught about possibly-problematic STSE relationships & related sample RiNA projects, students could be ready to try developing & implementing – likely small-scale – RiNA projects to overcome STSE harms of their interest. Such practice projects should largely be student-directed & open-ended, although the teacher may provide supports, as seem necessary. Initial ‘support’ may come in the form of a detailed assignment sheet. These often may be accompanied by different assessment & evaluation forms. Although the teacher may have provided examples of RiNA projects, students may still benefit from lists of STSE isssues; e.g., here. Also, although students may have been shown a variety of RiNA projects, they still may benefit from some lessons & activities regarding skills for science inquiry & technology design (especially about studies), library uses for secondary research and about civic actions. Finally, students may benefit from our RiNA Projects Tools page.
Students Reflect About STSE Relationships & RiNA Projects
After students have completed an initial, perhaps practice, RiNA project, it can be very helpful to facilitate activities that encourage and enable them to analyze & evaluate characteristics of STSE relationships, harms in them, and RiNA projects. Using such analyses, students can then apply some or all of such characteristics to design & implementation of their next RiNA projects. A model for such reflection and actions on RiNA projects is given here. Our research suggests that students engaged in such meta-analyses and actions greatly improve their understanding and uses of RiNA project work.
Student-directed & Open-ended RiNA Projects
Eventually, after one or more sets of 3-phase lessons and activities like those above, the teacher may feel students are ready to self-direct (SD/OE) RiNA projects to address STSE harms of their interest/concern. Although students’ self-directed RiNA projects cannot, of course, be entirely predicted, some examples of such projects – such as that in the video at right – may help teachers to imagine possibilities. As in the Students Practise phase of the STEPWISE pedagogy, students may use the RiNA Projects Tools for their student-led projects. Such independent RiNA projects are the ultimate goal of STEPWISE – hopefully helping students to become critical and civically active community members aimed at increasing wellbeing of individuals, societies & environments.