Promoting Students’ Critical and Active Engagement in Socio-scientific Problems: Inter-Trans-national Perspectives

  • Larry BenczeEmail author
  • Lyn Carter
  • Audrey Groleau
  • Mirjan Krstovic
  • Ralph Levinson
  • Jenny Martin
  • Isabel Martins
  • Chantal Pouliot
  • Matthew Weinstein
Part of the Contributions from Science Education Research book series (CFSE, volume 6)


There are many potential harms to individuals, societies and environments associated with powerful networks of living, nonliving and symbolic entities (actants), such as financiers, banks, think tanks, transnational trade organizations and agreements, competitiveness, scientists, engineers, universities, governments, military, advertisements, entertainment, etc. Among myriad harms, perhaps the most serious is devastation from climate change linked to fossil fuel uses. Given apparent roles of many governments in supporting powerful problematic networks that involve fields of science and technology, many scholars recommend that school science not only enlighten students about harms and encourage them to make logical personal decisions about associated controversies but also prepare them to take socio-political actions that might contribute to their conceptions of a better world. In this chapter, international science education scholars discuss their uses and analyses of the ‘STEPWISE’ curricular and pedagogical framework—which is intended to facilitate such critical and activist science education. After a theoretical defence of the framework, a description is provided of a teacher’s 3-year efforts to use it in his secondary school science teaching. This is followed by five summaries of theoretical analyses of the framework by scholars from five countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, the UK and the USA), including in terms of discursive psychology, neoliberalism, critical discourse analyses of well-being, inquiry-based learning, professional development and network mobilization in informal (online gaming) and formal school science and teacher education contexts. The chapter concludes with a brief summary of some relative merits of the STEPWISE framework and with a call for continued critical reflective practice.


Socio-scientific issues Neoliberalism Inquiry Activism STEPWISE 



We would like to thank Dr. Lucy Avraamidou (Associate Professor, Science Education, University of Groningen, the Netherlands), Chair, and other members of the International Committee of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) for their thorough and helpful work in selecting us as the presenters for the NARST-sponsored session at the 2017 ESERA conference. This chapter arose from that presentation. Also note that the section above addressing Socio-Scientific Inquiry-Based Learning received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no. 612438 and PARRISE-project: Promoting Attainment of Responsible Research and Innovation in Science Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OISEUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Education and ArtsSchool of Education MelbourneFitzroyAustralia
  3. 3.Département des sciences de l’éducationUniversité du Québec à Trois-RivièresTrois-RivièresCanada
  4. 4.Peel District School BoardMississaugaCanada
  5. 5.Institute of EducationUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.ILSTEAustralian Catholic UniversityEast MelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.NUTESUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  8. 8.Université LavalQuébecCanada
  9. 9.School of EducationUniversity of Washington-TacomaSt. TacomaUSA

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