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

A general description of the project, including some of its achievements.


STEPWISE is a schema for helping all students - via a series of teacher-led lessons and student activities - to develop expertise, confidence & motivation for eventually conducting student-directed and open-ended research-informed and negotiated action (RiNA) projects (like at right) to address harms they perceive in 'STSE' relationships. Encouraging such critical and active citizenship through science education appears extremely necessary, given governments' assistance in facilitating private sector uses of science and technology (e.g., regarding  fossil fuel burning) that tend to prioritize private profit over wellbeing of most individuals, societies and environments.

For more information and/or to get involved in the project,
contact me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.


Rationale for Promoting Civic Actions Regarding Science & Technology

Helping school science and technology students to develop and implement plans of action to address harms linked to fields of science and technology seems imperative, mainly because governments, companies and other powerful entities have struggled (intentionally or not) to reduce or eliminate harms like cancer, diabetes and heart disease linked to manufactured foods, climate change from fossil fuels and poverty from tax avoidance.

Our focus on harms is meant to be a clear contrast to dominating foci on 'issues' (controversies) - which, as depicted at left, can be seen in STSE education, socioscientific issues (SSI) education and, to some extent, in socially-acute questions (SAQ) education. With little doubt, there are strong controversies regarding many harms and, accordingly, students need to learn about them and attempt to establish their personal positions on them. However, nearly exclusive focus on controversy may limit elimination of many harms. It places too much emphasis, for instance, on individual responsibility - which is prioritized by capitalists. Also, it appears to be a technique for continued unquestioned capitalist projects to foster public controversy - such as by casting doubt on science findings about harms linked to for-profit commodities.

Accordingly, STEPWISE prioritizes socio-political actions to overcome influences of powerful individuals (e.g., financiers) and groups (e.g., corporations, transnational trade organizations, banks, think tanks, universities, governments, etc.) on fields of science and technology (and most other entities) that are associated with harms to most individuals, societies and environments.

Teaching/Learning Approaches for Promoting Student-led Civic Actions

Based on theory and our research findings, it seems clear that students' civic actions to address harms linked to science and technology are not likely to be effective without prior lessons and student activities largely facilitated by teachers. The schema below has, accordingly, been developed to enable effective civic actions through science and technology education.

[This more sequential version of STEPWISE was developed after our research found that most teachers felt that the initial, tetrahedral version of it, was too impractical for uses in schools - since, for example, it implies working on all five domains (e.g., Skills & Products) at the same time.]

Broadly, the above more sequential - pedagogical - schema is based on some of the following major theoretical premises:

Action Research to Develop and Publish Claims About Factors Influencin
g Students' Actions

To help educate the world about the extent and nature of students' self-directed RiNA projects (EGs) and conditions influencing them, our team conducts research and publish findings in different outlets.

Downloadable overviews of the project also are linked here and here.