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

'EcoJust STEM Actions' 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.


EcoJust STEM Actions 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.

Unlike more common STEM education approaches, EcoJust STEM Actions emphasizes application - rather than learning - of STEM attitudes, skills, knowledge (ASK), etc., along with 'ASK' from other fields, such as politics, sociology, economics, history, etc. It encourages students to 'spend' at least some of their STEM education 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.
EcoJust STEM Actions 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 STEM fields, 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 EcoJust STEM Actions teaching/learning approaches, view the 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 useful. 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.

EcoJust STEM Actions 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. Our current framework for helping students in this way is outlined below and explained, with examples, here.

Mobilizing EcoJust STEM Actions
Mobilizing EcoJust STEM Actions

In reflecting on our work using the STEPWISE framework, 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:
  • encouraging and enabling students to self-direct networked research-informed and negotiated socio-political actions to address problems they identify regarding decisions by powerful people/groups influencing STEM fields; and,
  • 'mobilizing' (spreading) teaching/learning approaches for such ecojustice STEM education practices.
To address these two broad goals, we have developed an action research framework based on ANT concepts, as shown below:

Because of the seriousness of the many problems humans face, this framework places 'WISE' at the centre of a tetrahedron, in reciprocal relationships with the other four entities ('actants'). Action research team members should frequently, for example, consult information about the state of WISE (e.g., CIW), but so should all the other entities (e.g., people in schools). With networks in mind, action research team members and school personnel also should establish 2-way connections with 'STEM Stakeholders.' These should help achieve our two goals; i.e., networked RiNA projects and mobilized pedagogies for networked RiNA projects.

Some elaboration of our two goals are provided in the following:
  • EcoJust STEM Actions teaching/learning approaches (PDF); and,
  • EcoJust STEM Actions Action Research framework (PDF).
Research & Development
If you are interested in joining working with us in any of the roles (e.g., Action Research Team members, STEM Stakeholders, publishers, personnel in Schools), please send a message to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca .