Science & Technology Education Promoting Wellbeing for Individuals, Societies & Environments
After lessons & student activities based on the STEPWISE Pedagogy, students can design & conduct effective research-informed & negotiated action (RiNA) projects like that at right/below to help overcome STSE harms of their concern.
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.
Teaching & Learning Resources for Secondary School Teachers
Since inception of the STEPWISE schema in 2006, our research & publication teams have mostly worked with teachers of science in secondary school contexts to develop and/or encourage development by them of teaching & learning resources based on the schema. We have arranged these resources in different forms, including online, in a downloadable teacher resource booklet and online for implementing STEPWISE in distance education contexts. We hope teachers will make uses of these resources, including by revising them and creating new ones, to suit their particular teaching & learning contexts (e.g., needs & interests of students).
Teaching & Learning Resources for Elementary School Teachers
Although the STEPWISE pedagogy has been most widely-adopted in secondary school science contexts, some teachers in elementary schools also have had some wonderful successes. We would love to see more teachers in elementary school situations adopt our pedagogy and contribute to the resource collection here. We suspect, though, they may want to collaborate with us in doing so. If this interests you, contact me at: email@example.com.
Theoretical Bases for STEPWISE Pedagogy
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.
History of and Rationale for STEPWISE
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.
STEPWISE is Necessary Where Governments Have Failed
Humanity is facing myriad harms – like those linked to petroleum-fueled climate disruption – in STSE relationships. Because governments often have not been successful in overcoming them, perhaps largely due to priorities they give to serving capitalists, fields of science & technology education have prime responsibilities and capabilities to educate students about harms and to prepare them to engage in socio-political actions to overcome harms of their concern.
The STEPWISE project began in 2006 with development of the theoretical framework shown at right/below. This schema arranges learning domains of Ontario science & technology curricula into a tetrahedron to emphasize 2-way relationships among all domains (e.g., STSE Education). Clicking on text in the graphic links to details about each learning domain. Although any one domain could be placed in the centre of the tetrahedron, STSE Actions was placed there to indicate that the framework encourages students to ‘spend’ some of their cultural & social ‘capital’ (e.g., learning in the peripheral domains) on altruistic civic actions to help overcome STSE Harms of their concern. Prioritizing altruistic civic action through science & technology education appears necessary because governments tend to serve capitalist interests such as through promotion of civic possessive individualism and commercialization of fields of science & technology, often at expense of wellbeing of most other living & nonliving things. Although I believe this schema is theoretically-sound, it has been difficult to implement and, so, needs further action research. Consequently, until we learn how to implement it, most teachers use the STEPWISE pedagogy above.