WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto
Theory and practice for the "Teacher Teaches" phase of STEPWISE.

Welcome!
The "Teacher Teaches" phase of our 3-phase pedagogical framework (depicted/linked at right) is essential for helping students develop expertise, confidence and motivation for self-directing RiNA projects. This page elaborates what could be taught, with special focus on material and symbolic networks and associated power - largely linked to capitalist individuals and groups. If you have any questions, suggestions, etc. in this regard, please send messages to me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca.




Preamble
The prime reason that we promote direct teacher instruction in STEPWISE is to address threats - as elaborated here - to social justice and environmental wellbeing posed by immense, problematic, influences of capitalist individuals and groups on most entities on earth, including on governments, societies more generally and on fields of science and technology. Regarding the schema at left, uses of guided inquiry-based learning - often biased by capitalist influences on public knowledge - tend to lead ('World' -> 'Signs') to reductionist and unproblematic claims (e.g., 'proven' laws) and, in combination with reductionist and de-problematized STEM education, limits technology design ('Signs' -> 'World') and actions that are capitalist-friendly.

STSE through an 'ANT' lens
Similar to the Trojan horse metaphor used in marketing, many harms to WISE seem related to tendencies in societies, generally, and in school science, more particularly, to idealize processes and products of science and technology, relationships with each other and with others in societies and environments (STSE) in ways that ignore wealth concentration by few individuals and groups while compromising wellbeing of most other individuals, societies and environments (WISE). To address such problematic subterfuge, teachers can 'expand' and 'problematize' students' conceptions of STSE relationships by teaching them about actor-network theory (ANT) and how it can help analyze and address harms linked to phenomena. Some ANT principles are given here. As indicated at right (and here), for example, rather than conceiving GM salmon just as a plentiful food supply, they can be shown that - like all commodities - they are part of a vast network of living, nonliving and symbolic entities ('actants') that may include problematic actants, like harmful sea lice.


Capitalist orchestration
In looking at an ANT map, as above, one might assume that responsibilities for harms could be considered spread across such networks. There is much research, however, suggesting that many or most entities in the world are, largely, 'orchestrated' into a type of 'mechanism' - a dispositif (Foucault, 2008) - consisting of living, nonliving and symbolic actants working together to serve capitalist interests. John McMurtry (1999) likened capitalists to cancer, appearing to be like the rest of humanity but, actually, out to consume them. In 'democracies,' capitalist influences seem surrepticious, like a panopticon prison. Very broad evidence of their power can be seen, for instance, in Oxfam's (2019) report suggesting that 42 billionaires have wealth equivalent to the poorest 50% of humanity (3.8 billion people) while scientists warn us about catastrophic environmental and social degradation. Although some might suggest teaching students about such orchestration may be inappropriate for school students. I believe that such relationships must be taught in schools; otherwise, citizens are much less likely to 'discover' them through their own inquiries/investigations. Some specific examples of how one teacher taught students about ANT and dispositifs are provided here and in the case below.

STEM-assisted consumerism
A major way that capitalists try to enrich themselves, often at expense of wellbeing of most individuals, societies and environments, is through promotion of consumerism; that is, rapid and enthusiastic cycles of consumption and disposal. In the schema at left, 'science' involves translations between phenomena of the 'World' and representations ('Signs) of them; while engineering (and technology) involve Sign --> World translations. Mathematics is used in  both translations. In consumerism, STEM products are designed to appear highly positive (+) (by widening gaps between World & Sign) to encourage consumption and to distract consumers from awareness of a compromised World (-). Students can analyze most commodities with this schema; e.g., as in this student report.

'WISE' Technology Design
In addition to teaching students about powerful actants within dispositifs and harms they appear to cause, they should be taught about various actions people can take. Beyond telling people about difference perspectives and practices - e.g., via posters, petitions, social media posts, etc. - an important type of positive action is to - as elaborated here and illustrated at left - develop technologies (innovations, inventions) that perform desired functions AND try to improve wellbeing for individuals, societies and/or environments (WISE). While such WISE technologies may be helpful, it ALSO appears necessary that - as elaborated below - to mobilize (spread) such ecojust products across many and diverse contexts.

Battle of the 'bands'
To help students to envisage dispositifs as orchestrated networks of power, teachers could teach them about specific cases in communities that involved networks of actants. A good example of such a case pertains to dust accumulation, as illustrated in part A of the figure at right (and here), a phenomena that appeared to feature 'conflicts' between two dispositifs ('bands'), as indicated in part B of the figure at right. Broadly, in response to a major "dust episode" in 2012, in which much dust was deposited on numerous objects, two Québec City citizens ('Lowe' & 'Doucet') rallied numerous and diverse actants (e.g., data; class action suits; question(s) asked to city council) to analyze the dust and, eventually, demand the city's port authorities eliminate dust dispersal across the city. This 'activist dispositif' - while having some successes - appeared to be opposed, however, by a much more powerful 'development dispositif'; i.e., a network involving city administration, port authority and shipping company and others. Many actions involving this case, as perceived by citizen activists, can be found on the activists' website. Teachers could use such information to develop a summary of this case (&/or use our graphic novel about it) and then develop a set of questions and instructions to help students deepen and broaden their understanding of dispositifs.
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