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

The STEPWISE project owes
much of its successes in encouraging and enabling students to eventually - after teacher mentoring - carry out student-directed & open-ended RiNA projects to successive teams of graduate students, teachers, school district consultants and others who have worked with me in different research and publication pursuits. I am extremely grateful to them for their wonderful support (e.g., in terms of time and energy spent, creativity and community spirit) for this project. The photograph at right shows some members of our team. Highlighted below are brief profiles, with contact information. Please write to any of them to learn more about the project, their experiences in it and possibilities for working with us. You can also write to me about any of this at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.
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Current STEPWISE Team Members
Majd Zouda is a Ph.D. candidate in Science Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on STEM programmes in independent schools in Canada. Majd holds a B.Sc. in Microbiology and M.Sc. in Medical Microbiology. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D. degree, she worked as a high-school science teacher and the head of the junior science department in an international school in Damascus, Syria. For her doctoral research, she has received a SSHRC doctoral fellowship (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) and was awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). Majd has been actively involved in publications regarding socioscientific and STSE issues, STEM education and student activism. She has been part of the STEPWISE team, working in local and international school, after-school and teacher education contexts, since 2012.


Sarah El Halwany is a PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto. She finished her bachelor of science and her master’s in science education from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Her research interests include STSE education, emotions and aesthetics in science education. Her dissertation explores affective constructions of cultures of technoscience technicians in the context of college education. She further explores effects of STEPWISE in engendering new subjectivities vis-à-vis fields of STEM. Sarah has been part of the STEPWISE team since 2013 and continues to be involved in research projects with teachers, students and other stakeholders. She further contributed to development of pedagogical materials that promote STEPWISE approaches. She co-founded, along with Majd Zouda and Kristen Schaffer, Café in Theory, a student-led discussion group that engages with philosophical and sociological discussions related to fields of science and technology. Besides through links below, she can be found on ResearchGate.


Zoya Padamsi’s background is a combination of Science and Education. She completed a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and an M.Sc. in Experimental Medicine from McGill University and she recently completed an M.Ed. in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. In addition to academic exposure, she has had field experiences in the form of undergraduate-level teaching, content development for undergraduate Biochemistry and Physiology courses and quantitative and qualitative research. She has been on the STEPWISE team as a curriculum developer since 2018, where she is creating animated educational videos for teachers and students. With her interdisciplinary experiences and her passion for STEM education, she is working towards building a career in instructional design / development within K-12, higher-education or professional development contexts. Her ultimate goal is to make a meaningful contribution to STEM education by creating learning environments and materials that are active, engaging, inclusive and relevant.

Nadia Qureshi is a Ph.D student in Curriculum, Teaching & Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research interests include: adult learning in science; experiences of racialized students in STEM; and transitional/bridging educational programs. These research interests are guided by her passion for social justice, equity and human rights. Nadia holds a B.Sc in Biology; B.Ed in Science Education; and M.Ed in Curriculum Studies with a collaborative certificate in Comparative, International & Development Education. She has been teaching for the past 11 years in London, UK; Windsor, ON; Dubai, UAE; Nanjing, China; and for the past 6 years in Toronto, ON.  She has presented on adult learning and issues in science at provincial and national conferences. Nadia has experienced great growth working with the STEPWISE team since 2018, conducting action research with teachers and collaborating on conferences and publications. Outside of work, Nadia volunteers as Vice President on the Board of Directors for the non-profit Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy, an adult education advocacy organization. You can find her in the Twitterverse or on LinkedIn. 


Minja Milanovic has been a member of the STEPWISE team since 2014 and has participated in creating teaching and learning resources, organizing teacher professional development workshops and has been a part of some action research projects as a research facilitator and has been author or co-author on several refereed and non-refereed publications in science education. She has always been fascinated by science (Hon. B.Sc.: Genes, Genetics and Biotechnology Specialist and Psychology Minor) but her spark for science education was fully ignited while pursuing further graduate research towards an M.Sc. (investigating the developmental genetics of a plant, Arabidopsis thaliana) and being given the opportunity to be a teaching assistant. In her role as a teaching assistant, she developed a strong interest in science education pedagogical strategies and ways in which to make learning both engaging and empowering. She is interested in working towards having science education be relevant to all students and encouraging critical thinking. Additionally, she is a trained catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for ages 3-9 and greatly enjoys co-learning with the littlest among us.

Mirjan Krstovic has been a member of the STEPWISE team since 2011. He has been a high school science teacher for ten years in the Peel District School Board before becoming an Instructional Coach in the same district. In his coaching role for the last four years, Mirjan has supported teachers in their professional learning through 'co-plan, co-teach and debrief' cycles. He works closely with stakeholders in education (e.g., school administrators, superintendents, Ministry of Education student achievement officers and community members) to set high expectations for staff and students and achieve inclusion for all through continuous progress on equity. Mirjan holds an Hon. B.Sc. degree in Molecular Biology, a B.Ed. degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and a Master of Education degree, also from OISE/UT. Mirjan is passionate about promoting student-led Research-informed and Negotiated Action (RiNA) projects and has been actively involved in a range of publications and presentations in this area of work.


Dave Del Gobbo has been a secondary science and special education teacher for almost two decades. While at the University of Western Ontario, he earned a B.Sc. in Biology and, later, a B.Ed. Degree from D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY. In addition to his teaching career, Dave has worked as an instructional technology consultant for the Peel District School board, where he actively promoted uses of classroom technology to enhance student learning. Now that he is back in the classroom, he labours with his students to explore coding, 3D printing, technological design and how they intersect with STSE issues. Working with the STEPWISE team since 2016, Dave has implemented Research-informed and Negotiated Action (RiNA) and WISE Tech Design projects into his classroom practice and contributed to several related publications. Additionally,  he maintains a blog regarding his promotion of RiNA projects.

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 in education, 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 with your decision to join us, you may find the invitational flyer linked at left useful. The project summary here also may help.
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