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STSE - transformative, reconstructive approach

Updated: Nov 18, 2017

Guiding Q: how can we make sure we address the STSE expectations?




After reading the recent research PLC article by Erminia Perdetti & Katherine Bellomo (2017), I reached the conclusion that STSE is more than simply connecting or applying science to the real world. I became convinced that the most powerful meaning of STSE is 'empowerment' -- that students should feel empowered and transformed by recognizing that the new knowledge and critical thinking skills will enable them be action-oriented (agency) participants and leaders in preserving and improving the biosphere, our home planet. "Action is related to giving students a 'voice' and ultimately empowering them." p. 426


1. Situative theorists: "context in which activities occur is as significant as the activities themselves." p. 416

embedding environment learning/outdoor learning opportunities, field trips, virtual field trips, ...


2. shifting towards transformative and away from transmissive ('banking method') 

transformative science teaching: action/agency, social justice, responsible citizenship p. 432


3. shifting towards reconstruction and away from reproduction 

providing students bare minimum and letting them reconstruct big ideas or connections for themselves ...

Chemistry: the Haber Process - instead of explicitly teaching this and showing them the chemical formula, present a scenario like the 1800s when producing Ammonia would be beneficial and ask them how would they engineer an economical and environmentally friendly procedure to producing Ammonia? How could they make the reaction faster? What catalyst(s) would they use if any?


4. Connections: presenting the context first - novel situation approach, reverse engineering approach, embedding students in a real-life situation/problem/challenge/or virtual/hypothetical 

'using big ideas to produce thought-provoking questions' p. 418


5. Teachers, should be 'boundary spanners' who are comfortable to venture both the worlds of academia (research and theory) and schools (practice) --connecting theory to practice and then actually sitting down with a PLC to decide how to implement theories and ideas into actual lesson plans and unit designs. PD should be ongoing for teachers and not just a few times a year -- continual PLC and PD is made possible today by Edutopia, Pinterest, Twitter, and other education blogs bringing together both diverse and like-minded professionals ('allies') from around the globe


6. taking time to reflect after lessons, labs, units -- did it work? Getting feedback from students -- what did they like the most about this unit, what was worst?


From my student and teacher experience, many times the connections part and taking action part were/are marginal parts of a unit to which sufficient time is either not devoted, or the STSE part is presented as a distinct and separate part. This leads to compartmentalized learning as opposed to interdisciplinary approach -- no boundaries between disciplines or subjects. Instead, the STSE dimension should permeate and be interwoven into really every expectation in the curriculum and into every lesson -- even if at times it is just 5 minutes of the lesson --it could be just asking students to comment on a prompt, a trigger video, etc..... (post it, pile it, placemat, 4-corners, foldables, ...)


Some good topics the article touched upon for action-oriented approach (including social and ecological justice):


- reclaiming abandoned school grounds (instead of just analyzing soil samples) to plant a garden


- designing a solar oven


- critiquing consumer choices (chemistry, products, household, medications, ...) Lithium ion batteries, exploding cell phones, ..... 


- designing warm (insulated) clothing for the homeless 


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