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

Featuring Student-led
Researched & Negotiated Actions to Address STSE Issues

'STEPWISE' is an educational and research project aimed at encouraging and enabling students to apply their science and technology education, including their primary and secondary research findings, to take socio-political actions (also see below) to address 'STSE' ('socioscientific') issues - such as controversies surrounding merits of nuclear reactors. This page and those linked to it provide you with further information about the project and relevant instructional resources.

STEPWISE is a theoretical and practical framework for organizing teaching & learning in science (& technology) education with these main features:
  • It encourages and enables community activists, teachers, student-teachers, students and others to use their education and their primary and secondary research to take negotiated sociopolitical actions aimed at improving the 'wellbeing of individuals, societies and environments' (WISE) - which appear to be threatened by potential problems associated with many 'socioscientific' (STSE) issues;
  • Although there is controversy about definitions, we can think of STSE issues as disagreements about causes and benefits of particular relationships among fields of science and technology and societies & environments; such as differences of opinion about the degree to which governments should regulate the content of manufactured foods. Of particular importance are decisions made by powerful people and organizations (e.g., companies) that may be harmful to many people, other living things and environments. It is apparent much of the world is controlled by few corporations;
  • It is based on the STEPWISE theoretical framework - which organizes learning domains so that student learning can be used, in part, to take actions to try to make a better world. In this framework, all learning is co-dependent on all other learning and on students' research and actions;
  • We have found that, despite the merits of the tetrahedral (theoretical) version, teachers prefer a linear version of STEPWISE for instructional purposes. This framework provides students with apprenticeships prior to encouraging them to conduct their own research-informed action projects;
  • It encourages and enables people to self-direct 'primary' science research projects and secondary research (e.g., via Google). Through self-directed research, learners may develop an identity with and attachment to their topics/issues/results and, consequently, may be more motivated to act on them;
  • For primary research, it encourages and enables people to conduct correlational studies, as well as experiments, to inform their activism - since experiments may lead to harmful outcomes in living things; and,
  • It works to help all learners to develop learning in several domains, including in terms of: Concepts (products of S&T), Skills and STSE (NoST), which they can use for sociopolitical action(s).
Rationale for and an outline of the teaching/learning schema used in STEPWISDE are given in the video below. The project has used different names after the initial 'STEPWISE' moniker - including, each with its own web page, EcoJust Actions and CASE. This video was developed for the EcoJust Actions version of the project, but the basic elements of the overall project are the same:

A typical action by a group of students in grade 10, regarding issues concerning laser eye surgery, is given below:

To help educators become familiar with and effectively use STEPWISE, we:
Descriptions of characteristics of the theoretical (tetrahedral) and pedagogical (linear) versions of STEPWISE are available here. Readers also might find the attached unpublished article about STEPWISE helpful.

If you would like to learn more about the project and/or arrange presentations, workshops and/or involvement in the project, contact Dr. Larry Bencze, OISE, University of Toronto. Refer also to the project recruitment advertisement.

Please note: This project continues, but is now focused on applying ecojustice principles to the fast-emerging and influential STEM Education movement (e.g., STEM Ed.). For that focus, we are currently developing the EcoJust STEM Actons project.