WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto

Promoting Student-led Networked
Research-informed & Negotiated Actions to Address STSE Problems

'Critical & Activist Science Education' (CASE) is an educational and research project aimed at encouraging and enabling students to apply their science, technology, engineering &/or mathematics education, including their primary and secondary research findings, to take 'networked' socio-political actions (also see below) to address 'STSE' ('socioscientific') issues - such as controversies surrounding (de-)regulation of food industries. This page and those linked to it provide you with further information about the project and relevant instructional resources.


CASE is an action research project aimed at documenting, analyzing & mobilizing teaching & learning perspectives and practices that encourage and enable youth to self-direct 'networked' research-informed and negotiated socio-political actions to address potential harms they perceive for the well-being of individuals, societies &/or environments (WISE) linked to influences of powerful people and groups on fields of science & technology.

A special feature of the CASE project is that it emphasizes application - rather than just learning of attitudes, skills, knowledge (ASK), etc. of science and technology, along with 'ASK' from other fields like politics, sociology, economics, history, etc. It encourages students to 'spend' at least some of their knowledge, skills, etc. to try to address ecojustice concerns (i.e., 'WISE'). The video at left provides a brief overview of the general nature of and rationale for this project (Note: EcoJust STEM Actions is much the same as CASE).
CASE promotes teaching/learning goals aligned with the Ontario curriculum, illustrated at right. We must emphasize, however, that this project focuses primarily on instruction in STSE Education and Skills Education. We do not emphasize instruction in 'Products' Education ('Concepts' Education in Ontario curricula); that is, teaching of 'products' of fields of science & technology, such as laws, theories and inventions/innovations. We assume teachers will teach those using various different approaches, which we suggest should be more teacher-led. For students to carry out effective actions to address problematic STSE relationships, we expect that they will need to apply their learning in each of the 3 domains at right when they self-direct networked research-informed and negotiated action projects to address problematic STSE relationships of their concern/interest (refer below). To learn more about CASE teaching/learning approaches, view the 'EcoJust STEM Actions' slideshow here.

This project has grown out of the 'STEPWISE' project, which has similar goals, but has a somewhat more structured framework. From the STEPWISE project, we mainly use the teaching/learning framework that teachers have found helpful. Using that schema, students have been able to implement some wonderful research-informed and negotiated socio-political actions. Some of these are shown on the STEPWISE teaching/learning ('pedagogy') page, here. One such student action involved analyses of and research about liquid foundation make-up, which students used as bases for developing this educational video about make-up:

This activist video was, for us, quite wonderful. Students had used 'actor network theory' (ANT) to note that makeup, like other commodities, is part of a much larger network of entities ('actants') - including, at least the following often-ignored actants: miners, manufacturers, labourers, banks, shipping companies, advertizers and, ultimately, disposal companies and landfills. These students did an excellent job educating fellow students and others (e.g., via YouTube™) about such networks - exposing people to actants, such as financiers, advertizers, designers, etc., about which people often are not aware when they buy commodities.

CASE Pedagogy

Most students tend to struggle creating research-informed and negotiated actions (RiNA) like that above without having the teacher provide them with lessons and activities aimed at providing students with expertise, confidence and motivation to eventually self-direct such projects. This is explained, with reference to students'/citizens' concerns about harms to wellbeing of individuals, societies and environments associated with influences of powerful people and groups on fields of science and technology (and, likely, engineering & mathematics) below:

The CASE pedagogy above is elaborated, with examples, here.

A teacher in the Peel District School Board, Mr. Dave Del Gobbo, has been using this framework for a couple of years, and students in his class have developed many effective actions to address problematic STSE relationships. Dave provides examples HERE of three fundamental aspects of the CASE/STEPWISE pedagogy; that is, students' secondary research about an STSE relationship; students' primary research to learn more about this relationship; and, based on their research and other influences, actions students take to address problems perceived by them.

Mobilizing CASE

Mobilizing 'Critical & Activist Science Education'

In reflecting on our work using the STEPWISE framework since 2006, among many conclusions, we have decided that principles of actor network are very helpful - perhaps essential - in terms of promotion of WISE/ecojustice goals in many science/STEM education contexts. We have concluded that networks are important, at least, for students' work in educational contexts and for helping us to 'mobilize' (distribute across many educational contexts) CASE perspectives and practices. In this light, we are interested in working with a great variety of people who may help implement CASE in various educational contexts, including (in no particular order): teachers, students, consultants, principals, government officials, school district officials, etc.
If you are interested in joining working with us in any of the roles, please send a message to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca . To help with your decision to join us, perhaps you might find the attached invitational flyer helpful: here.