Skills Education

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This page provides some information and resources for enabling teachers to help students to develop skills for science inquiry, technology design & related communications. Teachers can use these within the STEPWISE pedagogy, as described below, perhaps best in the Students Practise phase, just before students are expected to design & implement a small-scale RiNA project to overcome harms of their interest/concern in STSE relationships. After a brief overview of a suggested pedagogy, examples of some key topics to teach are provided on this page.

Skills Apprenticeship Model

The ‘apprenticeship’ schema below can be used to help students to increase their expertise, confidence & motivation for skills like those in the model below. This schema is based on constructivist learning theory, which assumes that learners ‘construct’ new attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) by combining those they currently possess with stimuli from their experiences. It may be used as students are proceeding through ‘conceptual’ (e.g., about laws, theories & technologies) lessons & activities. As shown below, apprenticeships can begin by diagnosing (Phase 1) students’ current ASK – which can help students & the teacher to become more conscious of students’ existing ASK so that, when exposed to new ones, they might re-construct them. Soon afterwards, though, the teacher would use lessons & activities to teach students specific skills, first by modeling (Phase 2) skills and then allowing students to practise (Phase 3) them. Such lessons & activities should be mostly teacher-directed (less so in Phase 3), although always open-ended (see Learning Control). After such lessons & activities, students should then be motivated and able to use them (often in adapted ways) once back in the ‘conceptual’ learning loop (Phase 4).

Skills & Processes of Science & Technology – A Model

Scholars in Science & Technology Studies (STS) have studied the work of scientists, engineers and related workers to document & explain the nature of their work. Although it may seem that scientists, etc. follow highly systematic and logical skills & processes, , as suggested by the schema at right/below, STS research strongly suggests – e.g., in Feyerabend’s Against Method – that methods of scientists, etc. often are highly contextual & unpredictable. Nevertheless, the schema at right may be helpful to students (as ‘Concepts of Evidence‘) – while reminding them of its likely limitations. Some highlights of their uses are provided below.

Stereotypical Conception of Skills & Processes of Science & Technology

Skills Apprenticeship Handbook

The Skills Apprenticeship Resources handbook, linked at right/below, provides lesson suggestions & student activities to help students to develop expertise, confidence & motivation for designing & conducting science inquiry & technology design projects and related communications. These resources are based on the above stereotypical model for science & technology. They were developed in the early 1990s – when I worked as a science consultant for my school district and was not aware of STSE relationships, STSE Harms, STSE Actions or RiNA Projects. If students are to think of science & technology skills as enabling them to carry out RiNA projects, I recommend revising lessons and activities in this handbook so that they are situated in STSE contexts.

An example of such contextualization is shown below for teaching about compromise that is inherent to technology design. The de-contextualized parachute design activity on the left, below, can be contextualized by relating it to two different STSE contexts, as at right, below.

PDF version is at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PpbtRxzhgmS0GSpRCP5koVmhzytpla_S/view?usp=sharing

Skills & Processes to Teach

‘Science’ vs. ‘Technology’

It is common to claim that science & technology (or engineering) are different fields. It is thought, for instance, as indicated at right/below, that their goals differ – with scientists aiming to document & explain existing ’cause’ (C) -> result’ (R) relationships, while technologists/engineers seek to invent new C->R relationships. Roth (2001) suggested, however, that – as illustrated below – ‘science’ & ‘technology’ co-affect each other and, so, perhaps have much in common.

Stereotypical Conception of Science vs. Invention

Skills for Science Inquiries

With reference to the above stereotypical model of skills & processes of science & technology, predictions & hypotheses can be tested empirically either with experiments or correlational studies. As shown at right/below, the former involves monitoring results of ‘forced’ changes in ’cause’ (independent) variables while the latter involves studies of possible causal correlations between naturally-changing independent variables and dependent variables. As well, changes in values of the independent variable in experiments usually have regular intervals (e.g., 0, 5, 10oC, etc.), but those in studies are typically collected in irregular intervals (and, so, must be added to graphs pre-arranged to have regular intervals for the independent variable). In inquiries into STSE Harms that may occur in RiNA projects, although investigators may use experimentation, they should – perhaps – choose correlational studies, particularly if experimentation would generate harmful results (e.g., increased cigarette smoking as that affects amounts of finger discolouration.

Skills for Technology Designs

As indicated in the above stereotypical model of skills & processes of science & technology, technological invention, with reasons for designs, may be comparable to predictions about changes in dependent variables that may result from changes in independent variables in science inquiries. In science inquiries, investigators often attempt to ‘control’ (keep unchanged) all independent variables except one; but, in technology design/invention, it is typical to change several independent variables at once – to, in a sense, determine a ‘formula’ of several variable changes that may give rise to optimal sets of results. As shown at right, for instance, making a suitable tent (e.g., that is waterproof, light-weight & strong) may require a balance of uses of certain chemical, fiber weaving & fibre materials. Such designs are complex because changes in some independent variables can positively affect changes in some dependent variables, but negatively affect others. Such compromises can be problematic, such as when waterproofing is more valued than tent toxicity.

Note: This is a hypothetical tent design scenario.

Skills for Communications & Actions

Throughout the processes depicted above for science & technology, investigators need to possess or develop different communication skills – such as: clear statements of possible cause-result variable relationships, development of bar vs. line graphs, and techniques for report-writing. Many of these are relatively common. But, for social actions that appear necessary after research in RiNA projects, some new skill development may be necessary. Writing styles may, for instance, be more expository if purposes are educational; but, writing may need to be more persuasive, if the actor is recommending certain ideological and/or behavioural changes (e.g., reduced cigarette smoking). Adding to complexity of skill development is that – based on the dispositif concept – getting results is most likely if activists work to influence multiple living & non-living actants.