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

Curriculum Vitae

Bencze, J.L. (2000a). Procedural apprenticeship in school science: Constructivist enabling of connoisseurship. Science Education, 84(6),727-739.

In many parts of the world, school science, especially at the secondary school level, is a sort of selection and training camp for future scientists and engineers. For most students, meanwhile, their general lack of cultural capital (Apple, 1990) minimizes their opportunities to survive the rapid coverage of large volumes of abstract, decontextualized laws, theories and inventions so typical of school science. Most graduates and early school leavers become relatively scientifically and technologically illiterate. They either have forgotten or have confused conceptions of scientific and technological knowledge; they often view science and technology as relatively certain, unbiased and benign with respect to effects on society and the environment; and, they lack resources necessary to effectively judge products and processes of science and technology or, crucially, to create their own explanations for and changes to phenomena. Citizens with illiteracy to this extent may have little control over their own thoughts and actions and be prey to whims of those who control knowledge, its production and dissemination. Curriculum frameworks are required that enable all students to achieve their maximum potential literacy and, as well, to create their own knowledge, to develop in directions unique to their needs, interests, abilities and perspectives; that is, to become self-actualized. This latter goal can, in part, be achieved through apprenticeship education in schools, such that students acquire a measure of scientific and technological connoisseurship - expertise enabling them to conduct open ended scientific investigations and invention projects of their design. In collaboration with five teachers of secondary school science, such a framework was, indeed, developed and field-tested. Through a spiralling, cyclical process involving synchronous reconstruction of conceptual and procedural understandings, evidence suggests students were able to carry out experiments, studies and tests of their inventions with minimal teacher involvement. Furthermore, they appeared to accommodate more realistic conceptions of scientific and technological work. Moreover, many seemed to have made progress towards intellectual independence; able to judge knowledge claims independent of authorities. It is hoped that, with more schools, systems and teachers enabling development of such connoisseurship, all students will be better served by school science and, as well, the larger society will be more diverse, adaptable and free.

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