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

Given that STEPWISE promotes many dramatic changes to science (and 'STEM') education and to societies more broadly, including: personalization balanced with altruism, critiques of science/STEM fields (e.g., their links to businesses), studies (as well as experiments) and disruptions to larger societal power relations, an important way to learn about STEPWISE effects is through action research (AR). In AR, we learn by efforts to change a system - usually in ways based on theories and previous research. Working with a team of graduate students, teachers, and others, we  mainly focus on learning about efforts to educate students so they develop expertise, confidence and motivation to self-direct RiNA projects to overcome harms (e.g., STS-informed) they determine in STSE relationships. Here, you can: learn about our AR, get resources and become involved in our research.

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AR Activities
AR is a spiral activity, repeatedly passing through 3 stages like those shown at left - often, with greater depth and complexity. We work with teachers and others through such stages and then report our results in magazines, journals and books and at conferences. Early on, we studied influences on students of main aspects of our pedagogy, including: evaluating consumer goods, using correlational studies, teaching about STSE issues and kinds of actions. More recently, we've focused on learning about and acting on socio-economic power.

AR Findings
Since its inception in 2006, the STEPWISE schema has enabled us to generate many interesting and useful findings about science education. As hoped, many students have been able to develop and implement effective social actions - like that depicted at right. Our research also has suggested that many factors, such as teachers' collegial supports, have contributed to such outcomes. A fuller description of our results is provided here.

Getting Involved with STEPWISE
If you like goals methods and results of STEPWISE, there are several ways you can get involved in our movement:

Seminars and Workshops
Aligned with the spiral nature of our approach to action research, we can - and, perhaps, should - start small, such as with one or a few short (e.g., 30-60 min) presentations. If these involve participant activities (e..g., as in workshops), more time (e.g., 2-3h) may be necessary. In whatever cases, members of my team and/or I often will provide participants with copies of resources - such as those here. Since we are a government-funded organization, our resources are free to participants. Some topics that can be addressed are summarized here; but, you are encouraged to discuss with us areas of focus and approaches appropriate to your situation. If this interests you, please contact me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.

Facilitated Action Research
As described above, when we work with educators and others in AR over a longer period (e.g., a few months), there can be many benefits for all involved - as people get to more deeply know each other, their approaches to education and contexts affecting their work. In doing so, participants should always know that, while we do provide resources and teaching suggestions, we also always try to remind participants that they must make final decisions about what should be taught and how to teach it. Ultimately, our main role is to document learning (e.g., nature and extent of RiNA projects) and factors (e.g., official curriculum sanctioning; colleagues' support; etc.) that may be influencing them. Since its inception in 2006, the STEPWISE project has learned much about promotion of civic actions in different contexts (e.g., schools, after-school clubs, teacher education and community groups) - as summarized here and here. Most recently, we are studying uses of STS research claims in science education.

Publication Opportunities

In working with teachers, student-teachers, community youth educators, STS scholars and others, we usually try to involve them in publications relating to their work with us. Typically, these start with conference presentations before moving to publishing in journals and books. Some possibilities include:
  • My Online CV: You can get a sense of kinds of publications that have emerged from the STEPWISE project through my online curriculum vitae, here.
  • Education Conferences: Many educational associations provide annual or semi-annual conferences to encourage educators, researchers and others to share and learn from their work - some of which are given here.
  • Journal for Activist Science & Technology Education: A major outlet for our work has been our non-refereed, open-source, journal promoting activism in and through science and technology education, at JASTE;
  • Professional Publications: Although not always the case, teachers, student-teachers and others may first choose to publish in professional outlets, like magazines and blogs. The Science Teachers' Association of Ontario (STAO), for instance, maintains an excellent Blog, here. There are many such magazines, at various levels of education, a prominent set available through the NSTA Journals site.
  • Refereed Publications: Given our context at OISE, we often emphasize publication in refereed (peer-reviewed) journals and books. Some relevant journals are listed here. After a decade of work with STEPWISE, we have produced an edited book ('STEPWISE') that provides documentaries of uses of the framework in science classes, in science teacher education and in after-school contexts. The book also features several chapters written by scholars, in which they provide theoretical analyses of STEPWISE frameworks.

Invitation to Join STEPWISE
To broaden the scope of STEPWISE implementation and research, we feel we must work with a great variety of people and groups, at least including
(in no particular order): teachers, students, consultants, principals, government officials, school district officials, community activists, etc. Broadly, our goals include learning about education from participants, but also helping them to learn and to publish their work - which we have done in numerous ways, as indicated on my online CV.
If you are interested in working with us (usually graduate students and me) in various ways, please write to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca. To help decide about joining us, you might read the   flyer linked at left and/or the project summary and/or foldable brochure.
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