A sample student-led RiNA project:
Traditionally, and to a large extent today, science & technology education systems (often led by governments) tend to emphasize teaching & learning of ‘products’ (e.g., laws, theories & inventions) and processes (e.g., experimentation) of science & technology – apparently because of powerful capitalist influences. However, as argued in the video at right (below on phones), because of many STSE Harms, community members must be educated to critically evaluate processes & products of science & technology and develop & take sociopolitical actions to help overcome harms of their concern in STSE relationships. The STEPWISE framework & related resources are meant to help in this regard!
Students are given 'stimuli,' such as pictures of common commodities (e.g., cell phones), and asked to reflect on and express their current attitudes, skills &/or knowledge (ASK) related to them. They can be asked, for instance, what they like & dislike about them, what other people or groups would support or oppose them and what might be done to overcome any harms associated with them.
Students are given an assignment that asks them to design and carry out a small-scale RiNA project to overcome an STSE harm of their choice. Teachers may help students in apparent need, but such practice projects should not be overly-led by the teacher and the teacher should allow conclusions to be open-ended; that is, not planned, depending on available data and students' abilities, knowledge, etc. - as judged by the teacher.
The teacher uses direct instructional methods (e.g., lectures, with multimedia aids) to ensure all students can learn about very important, but often hard-to-discover, attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) - such as roles of powerful people & groups (e.g., corporations) in influencing science & technology, and related personal, social & environmental harms. They teacher also teaches about sample civic actions (including by other students) to overcome such harms. To deepen students' understanding, though, the teacher then asks students to complete activities that allows students to apply ASK just taught.
After the teacher feels that students have sufficient expertise, confidence & motivation, such as from the 3-phase STEPWISE pedagogy, students - often in small groups - can be asked to complete student-directed & open-ended RiNA project to overcome an STSE harm of their choice. Teachers should limit their involvement in such projects to providing resources as requested by students and ensuring activities are safe for everyone involved.
Since its inception in 2006, graduate students and I have worked with teachers and others to develop and evaluate STEPWISE-informed teaching & learning resources – linked at right/below that we share with teachers and others. Using many of these and other resources, we also have created two comprehensive teacher resources, described & linked below:
NOTE: Most of our resources are mostly suitable for uses in secondary school contexts. We are now, however, seeking to collaborate with teachers of science & technology to, at first, mainly develop ‘classroom-ready’ teaching & learning resources for uses in elementary school contexts. Check details here.
As discussed in the first video at right (below on phones) and the one for elementary school teachers, based on constructivist learning theory, many lessons should begin by encouraging students to first reflect on and express (e.g., by saying or writing) their pre-instructional attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) regarding topics. The teacher can encourage such reflections / expressions by providing them with stimuli (e.g., pictures of STEM products), 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?’ In practice, as shown in the sample in-class discussion depicted in the video at right/below, teachers may encourage group reflections.
Teacher Teaches – An Overview
A major priority of the STEPWISE pedagogy is to enlighten students about harms in STSE relationships and RiNA projects that others have implemented to overcome harms of their concern. Many such harms and RiNA projects are not easy to discover – as elaborated here. Accordingly, the STEPWISE pedagogy prioritizes direct teacher instruction of important, difficult-to-discover STSE relationships and RiNA projects. Such direct instruction should, however, as discussed below, be accompanied by relevant application activities to help students to deepen their understandings of just-taught STSE relationships & RiNA projects. The video at right/below (& that for elementary school teachers), elaborates on these points.
Teacher Teaches: Input, A.
Problems with Inquiry-based Learning
A commonly-encouraged movement is inquiry-based learning (IBL). Such activities seem fine if pedagogy control is more student-directed & open-ended; but, problematic (I suggest) if they are meant to be more closed-ended; that is, meant to support specific, predetermined, conclusions (e.g., laws & theories). As explained here and illustrated at right/below on phones), such discovery or confirmatory activities seem highly problematic. If teachers ‘scaffold’ student decisions, they may be treated like marionettes – with less real control (and learning depth). Perhaps most importantly, students lacking intelligence and/or cultural & social capital often struggle with discovery – such as being able to ‘see’ Jesus in this image – and, so, IBL can be discriminatory. So, I recommend teachers use ‘application-based learning, as elaborated here.
Teacher Teaches: Input, B.
Needs to Teach Often-hidden Powerful ASK
Although IBL is problematic due to limitations of some students’ intelligence &/or sociocultural capital, another crucial reason to directly teach certain ASK is 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. Excerpts from a teacher’s efforts at such expository education are provided below:
Four videos here (starting below, then viewed clockwise from right/below) review efforts of a teacher of tenth-grade science to teach students about actor-network theory (ANT) & ANT mapping, with a fifth video of students’ later in-class ANT mapping shown below, right.
Teacher Teaches: Input, C.
Needs to Teach About Capitalist Influences on Technosciences
As suggested by this simple STSE model, fields of science & technology have 2-way relationships with (other members of) societies & environments. However, deeper and more critical analyses suggest needs to teach students about influences of powerful societal entities on most everything else – using actor-network theory and the dispositif concept. Especially important is education about adverse influences of capitalists on fields of S&T (also see A, B, C, D, E, F & G) – as illustrated at right/below, which would be part of STSE and NoST education and education about sociology of science & technology and teaching about STSE Harms. Students have, indeed, used such concepts to, for instance, develop more ecojust technologies (e.g., here).
Teacher Teaches: Input, D.
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 (e.g., as here).
Teacher Teaches: Applications.
After the teacher has taught students about particular RiNA projects to overcome harms in STSE relationships, students should be asked to evaluate such taught ASK – in activities that are somewhat more student-directed and open-ended. A good example of such an evaluative activity is to engage students in one or more STSE-RiNA case methods – following, perhaps, the general model at right, which combines lower through higher order instructions & questions to get students to learn about an issue like those regarding cell phones (refer to full example, here).
As elaborated here (& in the video for elementary school teachers), to deepen students’ expertise, confidence and motivation for them, students should be asked to develop and implement practice RiNA projects to address harms they determine in STSE relationships — getting help from the teacher, as needed. The teacher may provide students with an assignment sheet (e.g., here), with deadlines and mark values for stages of a RiNA project. Although such practice projects should be mainly student-directed & open-ended, teachers may need to provide some students with ideas, prompts, suggestions upon request, etc. Students may, for instance, be given a set of possible STSE issues. The teacher also may provide a series of lessons and student activities to help students develop expertise and confidence for different science, technology & communication skills, such as concepts of evidence, science inquiry, technology design, reporting and civic actions. A good starting point would help in library use, as depicted in the first video at right/below. Given possible harmful effects of experiments, teaching about correlational studies – e.g., via the lessons here – is very important.
After students have experienced lessons & activities to further develop their expertise, confidence & motivation for research & actions, they typically work in groups to design & conduct (with teacher supports, as they request) RiNA projects to address STSE harms of their concern – such as with commercial shampoos, as depicted in the videos below.
To help students to develop – perhaps collaboratively – RiNA projects, either as practice (in this stage) or as student-led projects (in the next stage of the STEPWISE pedagogy), we have provided links to a series of online tools – as illustrated at right/below – for carrying out such projects. As suggested here, the tools are generally arranged in order of conduct of RiNA projects, as illustrated below. Students may choose to use these tools in different orders and repeatedly, as required.
STUDENTS REFLECT ABOUT STSE-RINA
Students’ Reflections on & Revisions of 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-led RiNA Projects
As elaborated here, 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.
Constructivist Learning Theory
The STEPWISE pedagogy above is based on constructivist learning theory; which, as elaborated here, suggests that learners may – sometimes reluctantly – construct unique (although influenced by societies) attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) by combining ASK in their brains/bodies with information from sense experiences (e.g., the image below, in which some people see Jesus). As elaborated here, this theory has different implications for each phase of the above STEPWISE pedagogy.
At this extreme end of the Procedures continuum, the teacher makes all decisions - such as for topic choice, investigation procedures and analyses methods.
At this end of the Conclusions continuum, decisions about conclusions from investigations, etc. depend on available data & theory, for instance, and can vary from one person to another.
At this end of the Conclusions continuum, there is only one - pre-determined - conclusion.
At this end of the Procedures continuum, students control all (except for safety, for example) decisions - such as for topics, investigation procedures and analyses methods.
Antirealists - more or less on this spectrum - believe that scientists (& engineers) cannot develop claims (e.g., laws, theories, etc.) that exactly match phenomena of the world.
Rationalists believe - more or less on this spectrum - that scientists' (& engineers') topics & methods (e.g., experiment/study design, measurements, etc.) are highly systematic, logical, unbiased, unemotional, etc.
Realists believe - more or less on this spectrum - that scientists (& engineers) can develop claims (e.g., laws & theories) that match phenomena of the world.
Naturalists believe - more or less on this spectrum - that scientists' (& engineers') topics & methods (e.g., experiment/study design, measurements, etc.) often are, while somewhat systematic & logical, influenced by personal (e.g., emotional) and social (e.g., economic, political, interpersonal, cultural, gender, racial, etc.) factors.
Education as Instrument of Capitalism
As suggested by Ken Robinson in the video at right/below, education seems embedded in dispositifs that promote economization. Key pro-capitalist roles, as elaborated here, seem to be played by fields of science & technology education – which appear to emphasize: identifying & educating small cohorts of students who may pursue higher education & careers in science & technology (or ‘STEM‘) and many more students who may – to varying extents – function as compliant workers and enthusiastic & unquestioning consumers.
The STEPWISE project began with development of a theoretical framework. Given that governments tend to serve elite (e.g., capitalists) much more so than general populations and, consequently, struggle to adequately address most STSE Harms, it seems clear that science & technology education must become more highly politicized – enlightening students about problems associated with science & technology (S&T) and preparing them to engage in civic actions to overcome harms of their concern/interest. Accordingly, in 2006, I adapted the three overall goals of Ontario’s science curriculum to generate the tetrahedral model at right/below. Although the 2-way arrows indicate reciprocal relationships among all five learning domains (hovering over the graphic provides details), the model is oriented to encourage, in sharp contrast to possessive individualism promoted by capitalists,students to altruistically ‘spend’ some of their S&T ‘capital‘ (e.g., in peripheral domains, like STSE Education) on STSE Actions to try to improve their worlds. Although I believe this schema is theoretically-sound, it appears difficult to implement in practice; and, so, most teachers use the STEPWISE pedagogy above.
Students learn about relationships (e.g., 'good' & 'bad') among fields of science & technology and societies & environments (STSE); and, they learn about the 'nature' of processes & products of science & technology (NoST) and characteristics of societies (e.g., politics) and environments (e.g., ecology).
Students learn mental, emotional & physical skills for science inquiry & technology design - such as design & conduct of experiments, studies and engineering design projects; and, about skills for sociopolitical actions.
Students design & conduct their own science research projects to evaluate predictions and/or possible inventions (or innovations).
Students learn about 'products' of science & technology, such as laws, theories and functioning of technologies (i.e., inventions or innovations).
Students use 'resources' from the peripheral categories (e.g., Students' Research & STSE Education) and from their backgrounds and personal characteristics & priorities to design & carry out sociopolitical actions to overcome harms of their interest in STSE relationships.