Teaching Students Important Attitudes, Skills & Knowledge
This page provides suggestions and resources for the Teacher Teachers phase of the STEPWISE pedagogy. For this, we prioritize direct teaching, with associated application activities, about possibly-problematic STSE relationships and sample RiNA projects to overcome related harms.
Given our site of development & research, we have adapted – as influenced by Hodson’s 4 learning goals – science education curricula for Ontario to prioritize education (in the Teacher Teaches phase) of three leaning domains linked in the graphic at right and elaborated here. Additionally, we prioritize teaching students about different examples of civic sociopolitical actions – like Fridays for Future and examples of students’ multiple science & engineering actions developed & implemented by students who have experienced STEPWISE pedagogy, several of which are shared at Sample Student RiNA Projects.
Needs for Direct Teacher Input & Student Applications
To ensure all students can achieve all learning goals, we highly recommend that teachers directly teach them (as “Input”) important attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) and provide associated student application activities to deepen their ASK. As illustrated in the graphic at right/below and in this introductory video, we recommend direct teacher instruction (TD/CE) to overcome, for example, discriminatory and sanitizing effects of inquiry-based learning, public misinformation (e.g., Merchants of Doubt) and de-politicized STEM education initiatives. Of particular importance is that teachers, in addition to teaching about STEM Products, teach students about STSE harms – many of which appear due to self-serving influences of pro-capitalist dispositifs – and, in association with introductory Skills Education, teach students about sample RiNA projects students and others have conducted to overcome such harms.
Although STEPWISE advocates education about many or most aspects of science & technology (or STEM), it particularly focuses on educating students about apparent problems linked to influences of powerful people (e.g., financiers) and groups (e.g., transnational corporations & groups [e.g., WTO]) on fields of S&T/STEM and much else and examples of civic actions to overcome such problems. Much about such relationships are available from STS scholarship and so, although such teaching may not be easy, STEPWISE advocates teaching of STS-informed research claims about problematic power relationships.
Many people believe that fields of science are highly logical, systematic (e.g., following the ‘scientific method‘ (e.g., Losee, 2001) and closely-adhering to Merton’s Norms of ethical practice (e.g., skeptical about one’s own & others’ research). Although Merton was aware scientists often struggled to adhere to his norms, he advised following them; e.g., to protect science from outside interference (e.g., from Nazis). This, in turn, contributed to isolationist & ‘foundationalist’ (science –> engineering) conceptions of science like that depicted here & here (Ziman, 1984). Such views have, however, been contested by much STS scholarship. Paul Feyerabend (1975), for instance, concluded that scientists often benefit from not following Merton-like norms of practice. In that vein, Latour & Woolgar (1987) suggested that – as in studies of Mendel’s preferences for theory over data – that scientists’ claims often are socially ‘constructed.’ Similarly, Kuhn (1970) and Lakatos (1970) suggested that scientists often are more influenced by colleagues and dominant theories than by available data. Indeed, there is much STS research to suggest that science often is highly influenced by sociological factors – such as with claims that integrity of many fields of science/STEM are compromised when privately funded (e.g., Ziman, 2000). Given diversity of NoS views like those described at right/below (and here), based on constructivist pedagogy, it seems necessary to first help students to clarify their varied personal positions prior to exposing them to alternatives. In that regard, teachers have had some successes using the NoS Card Exchange Game using statements like these.
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.
Introducing Students to NoS – Focusing on Scientists’ Decisions
In teaching students about different NoS positions, it seems reasonable to start by focusing on internalist decisions (e.g., concluding based on data or theory?) made by scientists. The video at right/below introduces teachers to a set of lessons & student application activities (here) that can, in turn, introduce students to scientists’ – in this case, geneticist Gregor Mendel’s – development of conclusions based on available data and theory. Lessons highlight that Mendel was somewhat selective with available data, erring on the side of his pre-conceived theories about genetic crosses. They also note that such preferences for theories over available data are common and, indeed, seem to have benefited science progress. To supplement these lessons & activities, teachers may also use lessons & activities about: i) the Scientific Theory Profile; and, ii) Internal vs. External Factors Affecting Science.
STEPWISE Foci on Problematic Power
While acknowledging diversity of NoS views among educators, students, ‘average’ citizens, etc., it is apparent that powerful people & groups have been very effective in hiding and/or distracting people from awareness of STSE harms about which they are associated (e.g., climate disruption by petroleum industries). Broadly, this appears to translate into convincing many people that science (and engineering) are largely Rationalist & Realist (re: STP). Such views seem evident in this teacher’s conceptions of NoS. They also seem promoted in official curricula, for instance, such as how the US NGSS appears to avoid Naturalist-Antirealist perspectives (e.g., Blades et al., 2014; Hoeg & Bencze, 2017). Meanwhile, students (& teachers) wanting to investigate more Naturalist-Antirealist conceptions may be limited by capitalist efforts to cast doubts on negative science results about their products & services (also see: Merchants of Doubt). Consequently, it seems that students in democracies need to be taught about more Naturalist-Antirealist NoS views – like those suggested by the graphic at right/below.
Teaching About Power via Actor-Network Theory
Much about STSE relationships can be taught in terms of actor-network theory (ANT), an ontological conception assuming all natural & engineered living, nonliving & symbolic (semiotic) entities (actants) are reciprocally integrated into a vast network. Particularly important are dispositifs; i.e., groups of actants that generally co-support common causes. Of great concern are pro-capitalist dispositifs, with cooperation among actants – as illustrated here – like: corporations, STEM fields, banks, currencies, etc. Often, such dispositifs are punctualized; i.e., made to appear less complex (even ‘singular’). Like a Trojan horse, objects – such as genetically-engineered salmon, personal care products & cell phones in the video at right – can appear positive on the ‘surface,’ often in normalized ways, which can distract consumers from awareness of problematic network connections.
To deepen students’ analyses of STSE relationships, research and social actions to overcome harms in STSE relationships, we provide, through the videos at right, suggestions & resources for teaching – with applications – students to use actor-network mapping.
Some sample ANT-based lessons are described here. The first 4 videos highlight teaching of ANT in an ‘academic’ (university-qualifying) 10th grade science course, followed by a discussion with students about this work.
Part D is currently unavailable.
Major Power-related STS Concepts to Teach – and Correspondig Teaching/Learning Resources
A major concept that has been studied by STS scholars is prosumption; that is, different kinds of ‘production’ associated with consumption of for-profit items. The video at right/below provides teachers with an overview of this concept. Teachers may or may not choose to show it to students. This video is accompanied by a 1-page summary of prosumption, here. The sets of videos below are meant to teach students about prosumption – through Input, followed by student Application, in two cases.
Thanks to Majd Zouda for leading development of our resources about prosumption
A key aspect of neoliberal capitalism is for governments (and transnational entities, like the WTO) to set laws, rules, regulations, etc. to benefit private sector entities (e.g., financiers & corporations) – often at expense of wellbeing of individuals, societies and/or environments. When governing agencies (e.g., FDA) that are meant to regulate – or minimize harmful effects of – businesses instead rule in their favour, they are said to be captured. Such regulatory capture can contribute to many STSE Harms. After reviewing the video about this at right/below, along with this summary, teachers may then use video-based resources below to help students to develop useful conceptions of regulatory capture that they may use in their RiNA projects.
The two videos at right/below are meant to introduce students to attitudes, skills & knowledge around roles of government regulation of businesses and phenomena relating to regulatory capture. The Descriptions below each video provide additional useful information.
Student Application Activity
To help deepen students’ understanding of regulatory capture through Teacher Input lessons suggested above, they should be asked to complete activities in which they may apply attitudes, skills & knowledge about regulatory capture that were just taught. For such activities, students should be invited to also read contents of the Description below the video.
Thanks to Sarah El Halwany for leading development of our resources about regulatory capture
As discussed in the video at right (below on phones), we often take for granted (think it is ‘normal’) certain thoughts & actions – such assuming it is OK for many or most people to communicate with others via ‘smart’ phones. Reasons for this are complex, but a popular idea is that living & non-living things – including people & technologies – are connected to each other, linked by common values like: being independent; always seeking something new; not worrying about less fortunate people. These connections among things & values, etc. are called sociotechnical imaginaries – because they limit and/or enable what we can imagine for now and for future living.
Teaching About Sociotechnical Imaginaries – 3 Cases of Application-based Learning
One way to teach about sociotechnical imaginaries (e.g., visions of current or future normalized dispositifs) is to talk about how technology (in this case, the brain training program, Lumosity) foreground and foreclose particular visions of the productive citizen &/or employer and ideas of ‘wellbeing’. Students, then, get to apply what they have learned using the example of self-tracking devices and the quantified self movement.
Another way to teach about sociotechnical imaginaries is to address how emotions (as ‘actants’) can be manipulated and managed to support particular visions (e.g. fear from other things) through, for instance, surveillance applications (as a digital technology) and cosmetics (as a non-digital technology). Students can then apply what they have learned using the example of emotional technology that champion particular visions of economic productivity, intimacy, self-knowledge that reproduce White, middle-class, priorities and neoliberalism.
A third way to teach about sociotechnical imaginaries is to get students to think about preferred and desirable futures, by asking whose future matters. This is addressed through the case of ‘modern’ agricultural practices in India and related social and environmental problems brought forward by introduction of ‘miracle’ seeds and chemicals. Students can then apply what they have learned using the example of palm oil production, how it supports some futures at the expense of other futures (e.g. those of dispossessed and Indigenous communities). They could, of course, then use concepts about sociotechnicical imaginaries to plan alternative arrangements of actions (dispositifs) that mutually promote students’ ideals.
Thanks to Sarah El Halwany for leading development of our resources about sociotechnical imaginaries
Teaching About Sociopolitical Actions
Teaching About Sample RiNA Projects
In conjunction with directly teaching students about apparent harms in STSE relationships due to influences of powerful people and groups, students should be educated about sample RiNA projects (including Students’ Research, negotiations, and STSE Actions) that others have developed and implemented to try to overcome STSE harms apparent to them. The graphic at right/below provides a general outline of features common to such projects – including that, after students have been educated, they may conduct secondary and primary research to learn more about the problem/issue and then combine attitudes, skills & knowledge (ASK) from such sources to develop networked actions (dispositifs); that is, groups of actions that may align to support common goals like overcoming the climate emergency. Students may benefit from exposure to examples (e.g., here) of RiNA projects developed & implemented by other students. In doing so, this cartoon may help. They also may benefit from lessons & activities regarding unfamiliar skills, such as about correlational studies & kinds of STSE actions). As with any teaching, though, direct instruction (Input) should be combined with Application activities. Here, students may, for instance, be asked to analyze, evaluate and perhaps recommend revisions to RiNA projects of others – such as those in the three school-based JASTE issues.
Promotion of sociopolitical actions is an essential, perhaps defining, feature of STEPWISE. As Pedretti and Nazir (2011) note, STSE education tends to encourage students to develop well-reasoned personal positions about controversial data and conclusions (e.g., about climate change). While positive, this perhaps perpetuates problems because, as argued above, problems tend to be maintained through dispositifs largely influenced by powerful people & groups (e.g., capitalists).
STS-based Teaching Regarding Engineering Design
Enabling ‘WISE’ Technology Design & Mobilization
Although STEM education initiatives vary, many appear to prioritize education about numerous engineering products & services, as well as education to help students engage in engineering design processes. Given frequent STEM education emphases on educating students to help with global economic competitions (e.g., in TDSB), it seems clear engineering foci may primarily benefit capitalists. Indeed, as discussed variously on this website, neoliberalism seems to largely have influenced STEM fields to prioritize profit over broader wellbeing – which appear linked to many STSE Harms, many of which involve apparently-problematic technologies. Accordingly, we have been promoting ‘WISE’ technology designs by students – as illustrated & explained at right/below.
Promoting ANT Analyses for WISE Tech Design & Mobilization
Given that actor-network theory (ANT) can explain our world, we suggest that students’ WISE technology designs can be aided by teaching them to analyze existing technologies as ANT maps and then re-vision tech designs to align with their values (e.g., more ecojust colognes). Such teaching has helped students create other ecojust innovations like those at righ/below.
Summary Lessons & Activities
After lessons & activities like those discussed above, teachers may choose to provide ‘summary’ lessons & activities to further deepen students’ attitudes, skills & knowledge about STSE relationships & RiNA projects. The two videos at right/below provide some suggestions for such summary lessons and application activities.