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

Welcome to this website for EDU 5517, a pre-service science teacher education course emphasizing student-led research-informed and negotiated actions to address personal, social & environmental issues associated with fields of science and technology. This page provides general course information and resources through the links below:

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, etc., please
contact me.


Course Description

Societies tend to place great priority on educating young people in science and technology. While much of that education has been ‘successful’ (depending on priorities), many observers suggest that there are various ways in which science and technology education could be improved. In this course, emphasis is placed on issues of context related to fields of science and technology. Relevant questions to explore include: ‘What may be the nature and extent of effects of various social factors on scientists’ topic choice(s), methods, conclusions, and dissemination?,’ ‘What are various human characteristics of scientists and engineers?,’ ‘What specific methods might scientists and engineers use for knowledge generation and dissemination in realistic contexts?,’ ‘In what ways might fields of (and practitioners in) science and technology relate to each other?,’ ‘What are some possible adverse effects of products of science and technology on individuals, societies, and environments?’ and ‘What is the nature and extent of responsibilities students might have for how they make use of their science education?’ In answering such questions, the course explores teaching and learning strategies for encouraging school students to engage in such questions. Generally, this course focuses on (and transcends) Expectations within the following two domains in Ontario curricula: i) Relating Science to Technology, Society and the Environment, and ii) Developing Investigation and Communication Skills. Combining these domains, specific focus is on promotion of research-informed actions to address STSE issues.
Course Methods
This course consists of lectures, class discussions, demonstrations, small group activities, between-class assignments, and various application sessions. Instruction is based on constructivist learning principles (e.g., Osborne & Whittrock, 1985). Briefly, this implies that learning involves complex interactions between stimuli (e.g., what a learner reads, hears, sees, etc.) and conceptions (e.g., ideas, images, skills) the learner holds in his/her mind. Consequently, it is apparent that observing is an active, rather than a passive, process. What a person ‘sees’ when observing phenomena is determined more by conceptions in the person’s brain than by stimuli from the phenomenon. Related to this, people (including school students) tend to resist changing their conceptions — often despite contradictory instruction and/or experiences. Based on constructivist learning principles, I have developed a general teaching and learning approach (Bencze, 2000). Although there is flexibility inherent to the approach, learners are encouraged to engage in different learning ‘phases’; i.e., Expressing Ideas, Learning Ideas (with Input & Practice) and Judging Ideas. This course also has been inspired by a seminal article by Dr. Derek Hodson (2003), former professor of education at OISE, who encouraged educators to motivate and enable students to use their education for the common good. Information about my thinking in this regard is available at: STEPWISE. With these ideas and frameworks in mind, my teaching tends to adhere to a set of guiding principles that have support in the academic literature.

Although principles and practices indicated by them here are broadly applicable, this course is primarily oriented towards preparing students to work as teachers in the province of Ontario. Teaching in elementary and secondary schools in Ontario is regulated by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). Guiding and reflecting "exemplary teaching practice and continuous professional improvement" in Ontario and this course are Professional Standards of the OCT.

  • Bencze, J. L. (2000). Democratic constructivist science education: Enabling egalitarian literacy and self-actualization. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 32(6), 847-865.
  • Hodson, D. (2003). Time for action: Science education for an alternative future. International Journal of Science Education, 25(6), 645-670.
  • Osborne, R., & Wittrock, M. (1985). The generative learning model and its implications for science education. Studies in Science Education, 12, 59-87.

Brief descriptions of the Formative and Summative assignments for this course are provided below:


Throughout the course (refer to Teacher Education Schedule), student-teachers are required to complete relatively ‘minor’ (short & guided) between-class and in-class assignments. These are mainly intended to prepare student-teachers for the  ‘summative’ assignment, described below.


RiNA Resources
Students are to produce — in collaboration with classmates — ‘ready-to-use’ educational resources for teachers that would allow them to implement the STEPWISE pedagogical approach. Accompanying these materials should be Notes to the Teacher, which provide suggestions for their use and analyses based on educational criteria (e.g., divergence, HOTS) addressed in the course (and beyond, if relevant). Collectively, class members will have produced a great variety of resources, all of which will be made available to them at the end of the course. This multi-part assignment is to be a set of instructional resources that all class members can use in their teaching for encouraging and enabling school science students to, eventually, self-direct research-informed and negotiated action (RiNA) projects to address ‘critical’ (involving power) socioscientific issues (SSI) of interest to students. Generally, these resources will consist of ready-to-use instructional materials (e.g., student activity sheets), along with theoretically-informed suggestions for their uses by teachers and students. Working in pairs (or alone, if they choose), student-teachers may produce such resources as: SSI case methods; RiNA apprenticeship activities (with teacher demonstrations and student practice activities) and an assignment sheet to guide student-led RiNA projects on SSIs of their choice.
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General Resources
Given that the areas of focus (i.e., STSE/NoST, Skills Education & WISE Activism) of this course tend NOT to be emphasized in schools, there is a need for resources in these aspects of education. Over the years, I have produced and gathered many educational resources at: Educational Resources. From this set, I provide below links to resources for the major aspects of this course. Additional resources are given to students enrolled in the course via the course wiki.
Resources Directly-related to EDU 5517
STEPWISE: Theory; Pedagogy.
STSE Education; STSE Issues.
NoST Education.
Skills Education.
STSE Actions.
PeppeR™ Online System.
General Science Education Resources
Curriculum Guidelines.
Constructivist S&T Ed. Model.
General S&T Ed. Resources.
Products Education.
S&T Ed. Professional Development.
General Educational Resources
Learning Theories.
Teaching Strategies.
General Educational Resources.
Research & Development.
OISE Resources
UofT Library. OISE Teacher Education.
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