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


This page provides a summary of action research we are conducting to learn about uses of concepts, findings, etc. from Science and Technology Studies (STS) in STEPWISE-informed teaching and learning - which, broadly, focuses on NoST and STSE education. Within the breadth of STS research, we are most interested in educating students about influences of powerful people (e.g., financiers) and groups (e.g., corporations, governments, etc.) on fields of science and technology that appear responsible for many personal, social and environmental harms - and accordingly, require much altruistic civic action. If you are interested in learning more about this project and/or getting involved in it with us, write to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.
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STS-informed STEPWISE Project Overview
Science & Technology Studies (STS) is, generally, a field of scholarly study in which inquirers learn about (and, possibly, recommend changes to) many different contexts that relate to science and technology. Bruno Latour, for example, a prominent early researcher in this field, noted in his book Laboratory Life that, depending on how a graph was constructed, certain subliminal messages (re: semiotics) could be communicated about significance (exaggerated or de-emphasized) of scientists' findings. More recently, in Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff elaborates numerous ways that capitalist entities mine data from human activities (e.g., social media uses) for reasons of increasing private profit at expense of privacy and security of many citizens. Given importance of such claims from STS that involve adverse influences of powerful people and groups on fields of science and technology (and much more), citizens need to be made aware of them for deep and altruistic participation in democratic societies. Accordingly, in this project, we are studying the nature of and extent to which claims from STS research may help students to critically evaluate possibly-problematic STSE relationships and to develop and implement altruistic actions to address personal, social and/or environmental harms they determine in such relationships.

The schema below provides a graphic illustration of this project:

The model above depicts reciprocal relationships - which may be, to varying extents, incomplete/inaccurate (due to, for example, ontological gaps) - among S&T/STEM, STS and Science Education (SciEd). Although there may be such two-way relationships (and, of course, more that cannot be clearly depicted here), this project may - at least initially - focus on uses of findings/conclusions from STS (S&T/STEM --> STS) to inform development and field-testing in classrooms of teaching & learning approaches that may help achieve main goals of STEPWISE; i.e., increase in students' expertise, confidence and motivation for developing and taking personal and social actions to overcome harms linked to fields of S&T. As we proceed with this line of action research, we may find that we learn much about, for example, science educators' direct 2-way interactions with scientists and/or engineers (S&T/STEM) and influences of S&T/STEM educators on STS scholars. We also hope that this work will lead to deep collaborations among STS scholars, teachers, educational researchers and others.

A graphical depiction of the above schema, with a few notes, is available here.

For more information about this project, review the attached poster.

Literature Reviews
We began this project by studying STS literature ("Representations," above) to gain some initial conceptions about findings from STS scholarship that may and/or should be learned by school students. We have, for example, found the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries (STIs) to be very useful. For example, according to Ulrike Felt and Susanne Öchsner (2019), radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are being used to efficiently match consumers' purchases of commodities like clothing to companies' inventory; but, in doing so, they perhaps augment STIs that prioritize efficiency, compartmentalization and technological dependence. Related reading, as summarized here, suggests - moreover - that RFID tags are just one of many surveillance technologies that, ultimately, work to control populations (and myriad other entities) in ways prioritizing private profit over wellbeing of most other individuals, societies and environments.

Collaborative Curriculum Development
We are currently recruiting science educators to work with us in development and field-testing of teaching/learning materials that may effectively infuse STS claims into STEPWISE-informed secondary and tertiary educational contexts - and to achieve common research and publication goals. In such collaborations, we also will be interested in the nature and extent of participants' roles; including, for example, the nature and extent of research contributions from STS scholars and pedagogical supports provided by science educators and researchers.

If you would like to learn more about this project and/or get involved in it, write to me: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.

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