Preparing students for critical and pro-active civic engagement

Science & Technology Education Promoting Wellbeing for Individuals, Societies & Environments

As elaborated through links in the schema below (and summary video and PDF summaries), the STEPWISE pedagogy promotes education in five domains and, given political provocations, prepares them to self-direct research-informed & negotiated action (RiNA) projects to overcome STSE harms of their concern like the climate crisis, air, water & soil pollution, species losses & manipulative surveillance.

[Click on text in the graphic for details]


We recommend teachers often begin lessons by stimulating students to reflect on past experiences and express their current attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) relating to a topic (e.g., plant biology) to be learned & explored. Stimuli can involve any item(s) in STSE relationships, such as pictures of common commodities. About these, students might be asked questions like, 'What do you like/dislike about this?,' 'What people &/or groups may support/critique it?' and 'What could/should be done - and why - to overcome any harms you see related to this?' Providing such stimuli makes the Students Reflect phase somewhat teacher-directed, but the phase should be most student-directed & open-ended - to help ensure students' intellectual independence. Based on constructivist learning theory, such activities can help students to become more conscious of often-subconscious ASK that can greatly-influence their interpretations of experiences - such as different images people 'see' in this photograph. Commonly, students' expressed ASK in such activities are quite varied, which we suggest teachers must respect because of variations in students' abilities and cultural-social capital. Finally, an overall description of the Students Reflect phase of this pedagogy is available here.

Although some students may express ASK that may be helpful to them, those of many other students may not do so - often because of variations in students' abilities and cultural-social capital. Also, many STEM education initiatives tend to de-emphasize problems linked to STEM fields. For social justice reasons, therefore, it is necessary for teachers to ensure that all students develop ASK that may serve them well in societies. To accomplish this, we strongly urge teachers to directly teach students very important - but often difficult to discover through student-led inquiries - ASK. Particularly important to teach are STSE Harms that often are results of intense influences of capitalist individuals & groups on fields of science & technology and most other entities on earth. A major example in this regard is manipulation of government regulatory bodies (e.g., FDA) to favour businesses. Although very problematic, such influences often are hidden from people or discredited (e.g., Merchants of Doubt). In this regard, a common technique is subterfuge - based on actor-network theory (ANT), as with genetically-engineered salmon, commodities often are presented in reductionist ways (in ANT terms, punctualized), like a Trojan horse, hiding or distracting consumers from knowing about possibly-problematic networks to which they belong. Such purposeful networks are called dispositifs, assemblages of actants that largely cooperate in support of common purposes (e.g., for-profit consumerism). In addition to teaching about such problematic STSE relationships, however, students should be taught about RiNA projects undertaken by people to overcome STSE harms of their concern. Teaching ASK like that above must - based on knowledge duality theory - also, however, be accompanied by activities enabling students to apply newly-taught ASK, such as case methods activities like that for evaluating cell phones.

Although teachers may have 'taught' - in the Teacher Teaches phase - students about curriculum 'content,' including about Products, Skills, STSE relationships, STSE Harms, possible STSE Actions and Sample RiNA projects, again in light of knowledge duality theory, students' learning may not be very deep or committed until they have opportunities to more independently design & conduct practice RiNA projects to help overcome STSE harms of their concern. For this Students Practise phase, accordingly, the teacher can given students an assignment to complete a small-scale RiNA project to overcome an STSE harm of their choice. Such an assignment should be mostly student-directed & open-ended, except in terms of assistance provided by the teacher for aspects of such projects about which many students may be unfamiliar. Students may benefit, for instance, from lessons & resources relating to: STSE Issues; correlational study methods; and, STSE action types.

Although students may have developed & implemented effective RiNA projects in the Students Practise phase, again referencing knowledge duality theory, it is essential for them to be allowed/encouraged to self-direct such projects; that is, for them to be as student-directed & open-ended as possible. Sample student RiNA Projects are reviewed here. In design & conducting such projects, students may be well-prepared for functioning independently as critical and action-oriented community members. To promote such independence, teachers may limit their influences over student projects to ensuring student safety and, perhaps, again providing them with lists of possible STSE issues to address.

The STEPWISE pedagogy is based on several theoretical conceptions. Of particular importance are variations in control-of-learning - as recommended by Roger Lock (1990). As explained in this summary, teacher and student control over procedures and conclusions in the STEPWISE pedagogy should vary, as follows: Students Reflect: activities should be mostly SD/OE; Teacher Teaches: lessons should be very TD/CE, while application activities may be somewhat more SD/OE; Students Practise: mostly, depending on student needs, SD/OE. Student-led RiNA projects should, of course, be very SD/OE. Reasons for such variations in learning control also are based on constructivist learning theory. As elaborated in this summary, although students always construct ASK based on those in their brains/bodies, directions of their constructions tend to be limited the more teachers control procedures and conclusions. So, while the STEPWISE pedagogy does promote TD/CE instruction in the Teacher Teaches phase, the other two phases - and, of course, student-led RiNA projects - are to err on the side of SD and OE experiences. Finally, learning control variations can influence students' conceptions of the nature of science & technology (NoST). As explained in this summary, students may develop more holistic - and, likely, realistic - NoST conceptions if teachers balance TD/CE & SD/OE lessons & activities.

Open-access STEPWISE-influenced Pedagogical Resources
Through our action research activities with educators in primary, secondary & tertiary education contexts since 2006, we have developed & field-tested numerous relevant teaching & learning resources. Because our project is publicly-funded, most of these are provided freely through this website and through our Twitter™ & YouTube™ accounts. We also share & explain them in seminars & workshops. Many also are listed in my curriculum vitae.

Resources for Elementary Schools

Although we have developed some teaching & learning resources for elementary school contexts, we need to add to them. If you would like to help us with this, please contact:

Teachers Talking About Their Implementation of Parts of STEPWISE