This page provides educators with ideas and resources for facilitating student-led science inquiry and/or technology design (e.g., invention or innovation) projects. In the STEPWISE schema, such inquiries & designs should be used – as ‘RiNA’ projects – to investigate and act upon potential STSE Harms.
Such projects are meant to be, as much as is feasible, student-directed & open-ended. As shown at right (below on phones), such projects allow procedures (and topics) that are chosen or developed by students and conclusions that are not pre-determined; but, rather, arise from each student’s (or student group’s) data, available theory, etc. (e.g., emotional state). Allowing such SD/OE research & innovation seems necessary in democracies, contributing to students’ (citizens’) intellectual independence.
In formal schooling contexts, the teacher typically gives students an ‘official’ assignment sheet (or sheets). Again, in STEPWISE, we suggest encouraging students to use findings of their research as part of RiNA projects to help them develop appropriate sociopolitical actions to overcome STSE Harms of their concern. A sample RiNA project assignment set is provided here. Designing such assignments can be difficult, particularly to minimize teacher-directedness; i.e., to make them as student-directed & open-ended as possible – while still ensuring students complete ‘diligent’ projects.
Negotiating Teacher Supports
For most classes, there will be variation in extents to which students continue to need supports for their ‘self-led’ RiNA projects. Teachers need to take great care in interacting with students to judge their levels of need – and to negotiate supports for them. Again, for these self-led projects, the teacher should err on the side of student autonomy for decisions like those noted at right/below. These are to be educated RiNA projects, self-led only after one or more 3-phase apprenticeships– especially regarding Skills Education. Perhaps, other than ensuring student projects are safe and feasible, given available resources, students often appreciate provision of a possible topic list.
‘STSE-RiNA Fairs’ as Motivators
Our hope is that students will have developed ‘internal’ (intrinsic) motivation for developing & implementing creative and possibly-effective RiNA projects to overcome STSE Harms of their concern. Youth, however, sometimes can benefit from extrinsic motivators. In formal schooling, that often takes the form of assessment & evaluation criteria that typically accompany RiNA project assignments. Some teachers have, however, tried different external motivators. A very successful one is to tell students that they will be giving a presentation to peers, teachers, family & community members, etc. at a school project fair – like that highlighted in the video at right/below.
Effective RiNA Projects
Although, by definition, Student-led RiNA projects are to very autonomous, teachers may – perhaps rightly-so – at least prioritize students’ uses of certain procedures for science inquiry &/or technology design and civic actions that have been taught in Skills Education apprenticeship lessons & activities. Regarding the possible project depicted at right/below, teachers may, for instance, expect:
- For secondary research, pre-specified amounts of valid (e.g., non-commercial & triangulated) information;
- For primary research, uses of correlational studies for inquiries into Vertebrates; designs with duplicate measures & tests, wide range of independent variables, controlled variables, etc. in inquiries; and,
- For actions, several coordinating actions to form a mini-dispositif.