This page is a supplement to the STEPWISE project website, and provides theoretical bases for STEPWISE-based teaching & learning. The STEPWISE framework organizes all teaching and learning towards encouraging and enabling students to take informed and negotiated action(s) to address 'socioscientific' issues - such as what to do about potentially harmful additives in manufactured foods. If you have any comments, questions, etc. about this project or would like to join it, please contact me by email.
Because the STEPWISE team is based in Ontario, Canada, the Ontario-oriented framework is given here first. The version of the framework for those outside of Ontario is provided below.
|STEPWISE Theoretical Framework
This framework is, essentially, the same as the one above - except that it uses more generic terms, not exclusive to Ontario:
framework above orients all aspects of
science and technology education towards 'WISE Actions'
('STSE' action, in Ontario) - which refers
to actions people could take to improve
the 'wellbeing' of individuals, societies
& environments ('WISE'). The framework
asks students to take a communitarian
view of knowledge and other intellectual
benefits (e.g., skills), thinking of it as
belonging to societies past and present,
as well as to individuals holding it. For example,
students might use their S&T education
for lobbying their school to provide
nutritious cafeteria foods and beverages, or
to encourage students to use bicycles rather
than cars, where possible, or to help
educate less advantaged students. Through
this kind of education, students may come
to believe that there are social and
environmental responsibilities attached to
receiving an education.
We believe that WISE Actions are an important orientation for science and technology education because of the severity of personal, social and environmental problems that appear to be related to uses (mainly) of professional science and technology. For example, poverty is increasing worldwide (e.g., partly due to automation), many people have developed a dependency on for-profit products and services (e.g., forms of popular culture), and excessive consumption (and disposal of) many of these products and services is contributing to significant environmental problems. Societies need to be oriented towards effectively addressing such problems. Refer below to further justification for STEPWISE.
In order for students to be able (and motivated) to take action(s) to promote WISE, they need to draw on many strengths - including broad and deep education in science and technology. The STEPWISE framework is intended to provide students with such an education; that is, an education in each of the following domains:
Principals Behind STEPWISE Teaching & Learning
We have recommended an overall teaching and learning framework for organizing teaching and learning based on STEPWISE. The multiple ways that teachers can teach with a STEPWISE orientation may depend, however, on the many factors that affect most teaching and learning situations. These might relate to the teacher, the curriculum, the students, and context(s) (e.g., influences from parents, other teachers, etc.) of teaching and learning. Educational research indicates, however, that a number of general principles should be kept in mind. Several of these are elaborated here: S&T Teaching & Learning Principles. Some central characteristics of this kind of education are:
basically, an educational response to 'WISE Issues';
that is, various possible personal, social and
environmental challenges faced by humanity. Many of these
challenges appear to be related to choices
societies make about how they use science and
technology and their products (e.g.,
inventions/innovations and laws &
theories). Although there are, undoubtedly,
many factors, human choices often appear to be
related to excessive
focus on the profit-motive - sometimes
expressed as excessive
economization. This emphasis appears to
be at the root of the recent economic crisis.
Listen to Naomi Klein on this: Capitalism
Crisis. Some would suggest, for
instance, that this motive has corrupted
science. Drug companies, for example, choose
not to conduct research that might lead
to cures/treatments for tropical diseases -
because disease victims are too poor to pay
for the medicines. Instead, they might 'invent'
or exaggerate conditions that may
afflict the relatively wealthy. If they do
conduct research, on the other hand, they may
not release its findings if results would
reflect badly on the product under study - as
with the case
of Dr. Nancy Olivieri's findings about
the drug deferiprone (a drug intended to treat
Perhaps the most significant WISE issues associated with an excessive focus on the profit motive, however, pertain to individuals' and societies' extreme drive to promote unproblematized and ever-increasing production and consumption of goods and services. Use of various machines, for example, have either eliminated jobs or made them more tedious. Large fractions of societies spend more time watching television (and associated advertizing) than in direct contact with other people or engaging in more 'realistic' activities. Related to this, for instance, it is apparent that increased 'screen time' (time viewing computers, televisions, movie screens, video games, etc.) increases a person's risk for obesity and related health problems. Environmentally, petroleum-powered vehicles, factories, etc. are contributing to many forms of air, soil and water pollution (and associated species losses). Our use of animals is perhaps unconscionable; consider Earthlings! An excellent summary of some of these problems is depicted in The Story of Stuff. The World Clock also is a good graphic reminder of steadily increasing nature of WISE Problems.
The possible contribution of school science to such personal, social and environmental problems as those described above is complex and uncertain. Nevertheless, there is much evidence that many societies have oriented their education of children in ways that promote global economization. Many curricula, for example, emphasize the importance of educating students so that their societies are more likely to be competitive in the global economy. Particularly in knowledge-based economies, emphasis appears to be placed on selecting and educating a relatively small number of potential 'symbolic analyzers'; i.e., intelligent workers such as engineers, attorneys, scientists, professors, executives, journalists, consultants and other 'mind workers' who engage in processing information and symbols. School science appears to select for potential symbolic analyzers (particularly as potential scientists and engineers) through rapid-fire instruction about many abstract concepts - often dissociated from their contexts of production and use (by others) and without opportunities for students to use them in realistic and personally-relevant problem solving contexts. Students frequently, for example, must write lecture notes for Products Education and then, with little personalized application, explain and/or repeat these on tests. Similarly, the very powerful inquiry learning movement, greatly-promoted in the USA (NAP), often is discriminating. This type of instruction tends to favour advantaged students, since they tend to be rich in cultural capital; such as abilities to think and act in the abstract - which may arise from such beneficial experiences as engaging in thoughtful discussions over dinner, reading thoughful and provocative novels and works of non-fiction and exploring ideas and issues through internet searches. Such school science tends, therefore, to perpetuate traditional class systems - and, more particularly, preserve the status of elite classes. Evidence suggests, moreover, that the gap between rich and poor is increasing - and, ironically, even highly educated professionals often cannot find work or are layed off prematurely. This agenda has been related to neoconservatism; an ideology promoting traditional societal power structures.
In excessively focusing on potential symbolic analyzers, the education of most other students can be compromised. For many students, school science is far too rapidly-covered, abstract, decontextualized and personally irrelevant. Many do not succeed, and many refuse to participate. The end result seems to be that most students tend to leave school: having forgotten much of what they have 'learned' and/or having confused recollections of this learning because it was 'delivered' too quickly and with few opportunities for application to their personal lives; having relatively under-developed conceptions about the nature of science (e.g., because 'inquiries' are made to appear too easy); unable to conduct their own inquiries (largely because school inquiries are overly guided); and, generally unprepared to use their science education for the benefit of their communities and environments. Consequently, they may be less able to assess and evaluate processes and products - such as laws and theories - of science and technology or generate their own products (i.e., their own conceptions of and changes to phenomena). They may, therefore, be dependent on experts in science and technology and/or those who control (often through financial means) science and technology. Related to this, they may function best as uncritical receivers of knowledge, rather than as critical consumers and producers of it. Their tendency to consume may translate, as well, into a tendency to unquestioningly follow labour instructions - as 'routine production service workers' (e.g., assembly line workers, data processors, foremen, and supervisors) and 'in-person service workers' (e.g., waitresses, janitors, hospital attendants, and child care workers) (Reich). At the same time, many citizens/workers appear to be oriented - through the consumption-oriented nature of their schooling - to enthusiastically and unquestionally purchase goods and services of business and industry. Such tendencies may perpetuate or even augment production-consumption cycles in industrialized and knowledge-based 'economies' ('countries'), which are linked to many personal, social and environmental problems like those outlined above. Uses, as described above, of school science for generating knowlede producers and consumers - to ensure continued growth in production-consumption cycles - appears to align with a neo-liberal economic agenda; that is, efforts to reduce government and other restrictions on development of private profit and, related to that, development of societies oriented towards enthusiastic and unquestioning production and consumption of goods and services.
To help counter problems, as described above, for individuals, societies and environments associated with uses of science and technology (much of which is controlled by for-profit interests), STEPWISE places community service at the centre of students' education. This call for social responsibility appears to be in direct opposition to education governed by economic self-interests - also called 'possessive individualism' (or economic individualism). In educaton, possessive individualism often is manifested, for example, in assessment and evaluation approaches - which prioritize individual competitiveness and sorting of students. This ideology may be, as argued above, contributing to many personal, social and environmental problems. To challenge this ideology, educators using the STEPWISE framework encourage students to ask themselves how they could use their education for improving the WISE. In doing so, they often are attempting a paradigm shift - that is, from one promoting an individualistic and possessive sort of literacy to one promoting a more collectivist literacy. It is a call for education based on communitarian values. Such an education appears to fulfill the challenge set by Albert Einstein (address at a convention at SUNY Albany, NY, October 15, 1936):
"The aim [of education] must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, can see in the service to the community their highest life achievement."
He also said, "Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men [sic], living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving."
Accordingly, at the centre of the STEPWISE framework is 'WISE Activism'; that is, socio-political activities that are aimed at promoting wellbeing for individuals, societies and environments. Students are, essentially, encouraged to 'spend' their cultural capital (i.e., their S&T education, perhaps as defined in STEPWISE) not just on themselves but on improving the WISE. Using their literacy about forestry ecology, etc., along with their communication and argumentation skills, students could, for example, develop and implement a campaign to encourage their school to minimize paper use.
Linking 'wellbeing' with science and technology education is relatively new, although academic writers have, for several years, been urging policy makers to organize science education in ways that enable students to become involved in socio-political action that might promote positive social and environmental outcomes:
Overall, there are several principles on which the STEPWISE framework is based, including:
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