STS SCIENCE IN CANADA: FROM POLICY TO STUDENT EVALUATION
Glen S. Aikenhead
University of Saskatchewan
Version: February 17, 1998
A chapter in
David Kumar and Daryl Chubin (Eds.)
Science, Technology, & Society Education:
A Resource Book on Research and Practice
To be published by Kluwer Academic Press, 1999
The territory to be mapped out in this chapter includes a range of four tasks. Each task involves a process that leads to a desired product. The relationships among four fundamental processes and products are summarized in Table 1. Table 1 relates the processes of deliberation, R&D (research and development), implementation, and instruction/assessment; with their associated products: curriculum policy, classroom materials, teacher understanding, and student learning, respectively. The sequence across Table 1 (from policy to student learning) reflects three levels of curriculum: the intended curriculum (government policy), the translated curriculum (textbooks and teachers' ideas about what will be taught), and the learned curriculum (the concepts, capabilities, and attitudes that students actually take away with them). STS science educators must consider all three levels of the curriculum before successful STS courses can be produced.
Table 1 fits here.
The chapter is organized around the four product/process pairs designated in Table 1 as having a "high" relationship.
An alternative approach to the one taken in this chapter was proposed by Cheek (1992). His "STS Curriculum Development Model" included features such as: theoretical considerations (constructivism, moral development, critical thinking, etc.), data collection considerations (children's views about the scientific, technological and social aspects of the curriculum content), content considerations (technology content, values, skills, etc), delivery system considerations (teacher knowledge, student readiness, etc.), curriculum materials design, implementation, and evaluation.
Space in this book does not permit a detailed discussion of every process and product
listed in Table 1. Thus, my chapter is only a cursory exploration of the territory. Emphasis will
be given to the first product/process pair -- curriculum policy and deliberation. The context for
my discussions will primarily be our experiences with STS science education in Canada, though
these experiences are certainly related to international developments in STS, and so some of
these will be noted as well. A short note on science education in Canada will provide some
necessary background information for the reader.
Science Education in Canada Those unfamiliar with Canadian culture need to know that education is a fiercely guarded provincial responsibility. As a result, we have a different educational system in each province. Up until now, provinces have independently developed their own science curricula and they have even arranged for the publication of accompanying textbooks. Although this provincial independence has been a source of pride to provincial educators, it has been an expensive source of pride due to the duplication of effort and unnecessary disparity among the provinces.
Canada inaugurated its first national framework for science education in October 1997, the Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes developed by the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada (CMEC, 1997). This pan-Canadian protocol for collaboration on school curriculum established a science-technology-society-environment (STSE) approach to achieving scientific literacy in Canada. The publication is a curriculum policy document and not a curriculum per se. It represents a type of STS science education that may be attractive to STS educators elsewhere. The pan-Canadian protocol attempted to balance the two historical factors mentioned just above -- provincial independence versus duplication and unnecessary disparity among the provinces.
In keeping with Canadian culture, the Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes (the Framework) evolved through negotiation and compromise among provincial bureaucrats, advised by interested parties (stakeholders) in each province. This political process, however, did not meet the standards of curriculum policy development held by the Canadian science education academic community. This problem was aired at two national symposia held during annual meetings of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in June 1997 and May 1998.
The academic science educators' discontent can be attributed to the fact that an earlier national science education policy project, funded and directed by the Science Council of Canada (SCC, 1984; Orpwood, 1985), had painstakingly conducted its education study with the highest of scholarly standards. (This reform project is described below when the process of deliberation is explored.) These science educators had expected that the SCC's high standards of excellence in formulating curriculum policy would guide future policy discussions in Canada. The contrast between the processes followed by the two agencies (the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada versus the Science Council of Canada) led to most of the discontent felt by university science educators. Certainly the conclusions to the SCC science education study in the early 1980s did influence the CMEC's bureaucratic negotiations and compromises held in the mid 1990's.
In spite of the discontent over the process that produced the CMEC's Framework, the
Framework will likely be as influential in Canada as the National Research Council's Standards
are in the USA (NRC, 1996). Canada now has an STSE framework for science curricula across
The first of the four pairs of products/processes shown in Table 1 is curriculum policy and deliberation. Fensham (1992) pragmatically summarized the politics of curriculum policy in terms of societal interest groups (stakeholders) competing for privilege and power over the curriculum. For example, school science (quite often physics) can be used to screen out students belonging to marginalized social groups (some minorities within a country, for example), thereby providing high status and social power to the more privileged students who make it through the science "pipe line" and enter science-related professions. Fensham categorized this societal self-interest as political. His other categories were: economic interests of business, industry, and labor, for a skilled work force; university scientists' interests in maintaining their discipline; societal groups' interests for empowerment in a nation whose culture and social life are influenced by science and technology; and students' interests for individual growth and satisfaction. As Fensham (1992) warned, the science curriculum is a social instrument that serves the interests of those who have a stake in its function and content. Therefore, stakeholders must be involved in reforming curriculum policy. The most effective way to involve them is through deliberation.
When we consider curriculum policy by itself, several aspects must be explored: (1)
function -- what are the goals and objectives for teaching the content? (2) content -- what is
worth learning? (3) structure -- how should the science and STS content be integrated and
contextualized? (4) sequence -- how should the teaching be organized? (5) the process of
establishing the function, content, structure, and sequence -- who should be involved? and how
should curriculum policy decisions be decided? Each country and community must answer
these questions for itself. STS education responds to the idiosyncratic needs of each educational
jurisdiction (Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994). Although I offer no universal conclusions to these
four aspects of STS curriculum policy, I do sketch the territory that must be addressed.
Following the sections on function, content, structure, and sequence, I discuss the process of
deliberation by which people can establish a curriculum policy.
The functions (or goals) of STS instruction in schools have been the focus of a literature rationalizing the STS education movement. This literature is found in three different fields: science education, technology education, and social studies education. An overview of all three fields was published in Theory Into Practice (Gilliom, Helgeson and Zuga, 1991, 1992). Science education offers only one orientation toward STS education, but it is the usual orientation of the Canadian experience with STS.
What are the goals and objectives for teaching STS science? Its rationalization is documented world wide (Aikenhead, 1980, 1985, 1994c; Bingle and Gaskell, 1994; Bybee, 1985; Cheek, 1992; Cross and Price, 1992; Eijkelhof and Kortland, 1987; Fensham, 1988; Gaskell, 1982, 1992; Hansen and Olson, 1996; Hunt, 1988; Hurd, 1975, 1989; Keeves and Aikenhead, 1995; Nagasu and Kumano, 1997; Pedretti and Hodson, 1995; Sjøberg, 1996; Solomon, 1981, 1994; Waks, 1987; Yager, 1992a, 1992b, 1996; Ziman, 1980). The earlier publications and those by Canadian scholars particularly influenced the CMEC's Framework.
STS science is essentially about students making sense out of their everyday life, today and for the future. But to what purpose? What are the goals of STS science education in Canada? Themes emerged from the literature listed above. These were compiled by Aikenhead (1994d) and are summarized here.
The inadequacies of traditional science education define one over-arching theme. STS science is expected to reverse the existing negative trends in enrollments, achievement, and career choices. Specifically, STS science is expected to increase general interest in and public understanding of science, particularly for the bright creative students who are discouraged by what they perceive to be a boring and irrelevant curriculum (Oxford University, 1989; SCC, 1984).
STS science is also expected to fill a critical void in the traditional curriculum -- the social responsibility in collective decision making on issues related to science and technology (Aikenhead, 1985; Bingle and Gaskell, 1994; Gaskell, 1982). Such issues require a harmonious mix of a scientific-technical elite with an informed attentive citizenry. Together both groups will need to make complex decisions that involve "the application of scientific knowledge, technological expertise, social understanding, and humane compassion" (Kranzberg, 1991, p. 238). The pervasive goal of social responsibility in collective decision making leads to numerous related goals: individual empowerment; intellectual capabilities such as critical thinking, logical reasoning, creative problem solving, and decision making; national and global citizenship, usually "democracy" or "stewardship;" socially responsible action by individuals; and an adroit work force for business and industry. These goals emphasize an induction into a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, more than they support an induction into a scientific discipline. In Canada in the early 1980s, STS curriculum policy was influenced by a series of position papers commissioned by the Science Council of Canada for it education policy study (SCC, 1984). One position paper specifically addressed the pervasive goal of social responsibility in collective decision making and students' induction into a world increasingly shaped by science and technology (Aikenhead, 1980).
Most viewpoints concerning the function or intentions of any science instruction can be described in terms of "curriculum emphases" (Roberts, 1982, 1988). Roberts argued that science instruction in general has purposes defined by the answers to a student's plaintive cry, "Why are we learning this stuff, anyway?" Based on science curricula and textbooks published this century, Roberts classified the answers into seven categories: (1) solid foundations -- to prepare students for the next level of science courses, (2) correct explanations -- to learn the truths of scientific knowledge, (3) scientific skill development -- to learn the conceptual and manipulative skills required for participation in scientific inquiry, (4) structure of science -- to learn how the academic side of science functions as an intellectual enterprise and to see the conceptual harmony that a scientist sees, (5) self as explainer -- to help students in their personal efforts to explain natural phenomena and to make personal sense out of the nature of scientific explanations, (6) everyday coping -- to help students understand important objects and events in their everyday lives, and (7) science, technology, and decisions -- to become aware of science in a social and technological context. The last two emphases suggest an STS approach to science instruction.
To this list of seven curriculum emphases, Fensham (1993) rationalized adding at least three more. One, "science in application," acknowledges what SATIS (Hunt, 1988) and many textbooks do when they add commonsense applications of the science content, but do not allow the applications to determine in the first place the content or sequence of the science instruction. The second additional emphasis proposed by Fensham was "science for nurturing." It stems from the ideology embraced by the environmental and the women's movements that emphasize nurturing the planet earth or the human/social needs of its inhabitants, respectively. A third emphasis was "science through making," in which students learn science through the process of making a technologically useful artifact or through solving a technological problem. In Canada a popular example of "science through making" is a nationally organized activity called "Science (sic) Olympics" -- all the activities are actually technological in nature and the embedded science content is not part of the competition. Thus, the name "Technology Olympics" would be more accurate.
Ogawa (1995) expanded the conventional view that there is only one science to be recognized. He proposed a broader multicultural perspective when he argued that several legitimate sciences exist, including a community's commonsense knowledge of nature. Ogawa proposed a "multi-science perspective" curriculum emphasis when Western science is taught to non-Western students. The Canadian Framework defines science in such a way that includes Fensham's application, nurturing, and making emphases and Ogawa's multi-science emphasis, along with Roberts' original seven emphases.
Science instruction in any classroom is carried out, consciously or not, with various combinations of the eleven emphases. For example, a typical STS science course would likely include the "solid foundations" emphasis but may likely give it lower priority than the "science, technology, and decisions" or the "science through making" emphases. The point is this: emphases should be identified as functions of a curriculum, and this identification should be very much a part of curriculum policy. STS curriculum policy must clarify the mix of emphases that is intended for a given STS course.
Although STS science courses differ widely because of their different emphases or goals, this variation reflects differences in the balance among similar goals. In other words, most STS science courses harbor similar goals but give different priorities to those goals. This idea of balance is captured by the slogan "scientific literacy" (Hart, 1989; Roberts, 1983). As a slogan, scientific literacy provides an element of persuasion in rationalizing science programs (who can be against scientific literacy?). But the term can be useful in defining a goal cluster for a curriculum policy statement. This was the case in Canada, as elsewhere.
The Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes (CMEC, 1997) defines the function of science education primarily in "A Vision for Scientific Literacy in Canada" (p. 4) along with a rationale entitled, "The Scientific Literacy Needs of Canadian Students and Society" (p. 5). The vision statement is repeated here.
The framework is guided by the vision that all Canadian students, regardless of gender or cultural background, will have an opportunity to develop scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is an evolving combination of the science-related attitudes, skills, and knowledge students need to develop inquiry, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities, to become lifelong learners, and to maintain a sense of wonder about the world around them. Diverse learning experiences based on the framework will provide students with many opportunities to explore, analyse, evaluate, synthesize, appreciate, and understand the interrelationships among science, technology, society, and the environment that will affect their personal lives, their careers, and their future. (p. 4)
The scientific literacy needs of Canadian students and of Canadian society are stipulated in the Framework's goals that articulate its vision statement. These goals lead to "Foundational Statements," around which the whole framework is organized (described below).
To summarize: unlike an STS curriculum, the function of a conventional science
curriculum was to prepare students for the next level of education, to teach correct answers, and
to enculturate students into physics, chemistry or biology (Aikenhead, 1996; Roberts, 1988).
These functions are not ignored in STS science, but they are not given as strong an emphasis. As
a result, an STS science curriculum addresses the needs of two groups of students: (1) future
scientists and engineers (that is, the elite), and (2) citizens who need intellectual empowerment
to participate thoughtfully in their society (that is, the attentive public or "science for all"). The
inclusion of both groups of students in STS science responds to Fensham's (1992) warning that
we must take into account the stakeholders competing for privilege and power over the science
There is a marked difference between the content of university STS courses and the content of high school STS science courses. University courses invariably deal with science and technology policy, development, and/or discourse (Layton, 1994; McGinn, 1991). The subject matter is abstract. On the other hand, high school STS courses position themselves among the concrete experiences of students. These courses provide high school students with a simplified, although intellectually honest, perspective on the human and social aspects of science.
The content of STS science includes both science content and STS content. Here I focus on clarifying what STS content can be. In the section that follows, "Integrative Structure," I explore how this STS content can be integrated with science content.
Hansen and Olson (1996) and Bingle and Gaskell (1994) point out that many educators narrowly conceive of STS science content as dealing with social issues that connect science with a societal problem. Rosenthal (1989), and Ziman (1984) remind us, however, that there are two types of social issues in STS science:
1. social issues external to the scientific community ("science and society" topics, for example, energy conservation, population growth, or pollution).
2. social aspects of science -- issues internal to the scientific community (the sociology, epistemology, and history of science, for example, the cold fusion controversy, the nature of scientific theories, or how the concept of gravity was invented).
The relative importance of various social issues external to science was a topic researched by Piel (1981) in Project Synthesis and by Bybee and Mau (1986) in their survey of international science educators.
However, STS science must invariably address the sociology, epistemology, and history of science, that is, social issues internal to science. The social issues internal to science have been delineated by Snow (1987). His "system of science" has three dimensions: cognitive, personal, and sociological dimensions. The cognitive dimension includes experimental knowledge, hypotheses, theories, laws, and empirical observations, as well as the values that underlie them (for example, accuracy, coherence, fruitfulness, and parsimony). The personal dimension encompasses a scientist's social values that influence his or her research programs and non-empirical arguments. The sociological dimension incorporates community values, invisible colleges, credibility, journal publications, and other aspects of importance to the scientific community. In his book An Introduction to Science Studies, Ziman (1984) provides a thorough and systematic treatment of STS content, both external and internal to the scientific community.
These ideas are reflected in the content of Canada's Framework (CMEC, 1997). The Framework's STSE emphasis explicitly includes social issues both external and internal to science.
The science education community internationally holds a variety of views concerning STS content. Nevertheless, a succinct definition of STS content was offered by Aikenhead (1994d). The definition attempted to encompass the full range of views held by science educators every where.
STS content is comprised of an interaction between science and technology, or between science and society; and any one or combination of the following:
. A technological artifact, process, or expertise
. The interactions between technology and society
. A societal issue related to science or technology
. Social science content that sheds light on a societal issue related to science and technology
. A philosophical, historical, or social issue within the scientific or technological community. (pp. 52-53)
Several diverse examples of STS content in several countries (Australia, Canada, India, Netherlands, Nigeria, UK, and USA) are found in Solomon and Aikenhead (1994). Canada's Framework is flexible enough to embrace the different goals and content found among the various provinces.
The broad definition of STS content quoted above is used in the next section to describe
the structure of STS science curricula.
STS science curricula integrate various types of content in the following way:
STS science = science content + STS content
= science content + internal social issues + external social issues.
But how much science content is integrated with STS content? and How is this integration accomplished? To answer this question (based on a number of commercial STS materials available world wide), Aikenhead (1994d) devised "Categories of STS Science," a descriptive scheme with eight categories that characterize STS science in terms of:
. Content structure -- the proportion of STS content compared with traditional science content, and the way the two are combined.
. Student evaluation -- the relative emphasis given to STS versus traditional content. The description is an approximate indicator of relative emphasis, rather than a prescription for classroom practice.
. Concrete examples of STS science. (p.53)
A spectrum underlies the proposed scheme, expressing the relative importance afforded STS
content in a science course. At one end of the spectrum (category one), STS content is given
lowest priority compared with traditional science content, while at the other end (category
eight), it is given highest priority. The eight categories of the spectrum are: (1) motivation by
STS content, (2) casual infusion of STS content, (3) purposeful infusion of STS content, (4)
singular discipline through STS content, (5) science through STS content, (6) science along with
STS content, (7) infusion of science into STS content, and (8) STS content. One can think of
each category as a conveniently identified point along the spectrum. Although no particular
category can be said to represent "true" STS science instruction, categories three to six represent
views most often cited by STS science leaders. Aikenhead's eight-point scheme was inspired by
a similar table about technology education in an article by Fensham (1988). The eight
"Categories of STS Science" are summarized here.
(1) Motivation by STS Content. STS content is just mentioned by a teacher to make a
lesson more interesting to students. Students are not assessed on the STS content. The low
status given to STS content explains why this category is not normally taken seriously as STS
(2) Casual Infusion of STS Content. A short study (about 1/2 to 2 hours in length) of
STS content is attached onto the science topic of traditional school science, as defined by
Fensham's (1993) curriculum emphasis "science in application" and exemplified by the SATIS
materials (Hunt, 1988). The STS content is not chosen to convey cohesive themes about the
social issues internal or external to science. Rather, topics are added when teaching materials
are available. Students are assessed mostly on pure science content, and usually only
superficially (such as memory work) on the STS content. The relative weighting of this
assessment might be, for instance, 5% STS content and 95% science content.
(3) Purposeful infusion of STS Content. A series of short studies (about 1/2 to 2 hours
in length) of STS content are integrated into science topics in a traditional science course, to
systematically explore the STS content. This STS content forms cohesive themes. Harvard
Project Physics (Holton, Rutherford and Watson, 1970) is a familiar example. Students are
assessed to some degree on their understanding of those STS themes, for instance, 10% on STS
content and 90% on science content.
(4) Singular Discipline Through STS Content. STS science courses take on a
radically different look in this and subsequent categories. Instead of following the conventional
content and sequence found in traditional science textbooks (categories 1 to 3 above), the
science content and its sequence are chosen and organized largely by the STS content. First, a
curriculum policy designates what STS content will be included in a science curriculum. Then
the science content is selected on a need-to-know basis guided by the STS content, but selected
primarily from one science discipline. There will be an STS biology, an STS chemistry, and an
STS physics curriculum. The American Chemical Society's (1988) ChemCom is a typical
category 4 course. A listing of pure science topics in such a course could look quite similar to a
listing from a category 3 science course, though the sequence would be very different. On the
other hand, curriculum developers taking the need to know criterion very seriously might include
science and technology content not found in conventional science courses, for example,
Eijkelhof's (1994) STS module Ionizing Radiation includes the concept of dosage. In category 4
courses, students are assessed on their in-depth understanding of the STS content, but not nearly
as extensively as they are on the pure science content, for instance, 20% STS content and 80%
(5) Science Through STS Content. As in category 4 courses, STS content serves as an
organizer for the science content and its sequence. But in category 5 courses, the science
content is multi-disciplinary, as dictated by the STS content on a need-to-know basis. A listing
of pure science topics might look like a selection of important science topics from a variety of
traditional school science courses. And again, one can find science and technology content not
found in conventional science courses. Logical Reasoning in Science and Technology
(Aikenhead, 1991) in Canada, and the Science Education for Public Understanding courses
(Thier and Nagle, 1994) in the USA, exemplify the inclusion of science and technology content
not normally found in traditional science courses but highly relevant to an everyday event or
issue. In category 5 courses, students are assessed on their in-depth understanding of the STS
content, but not quite as extensively as they are on the pure science content, for instance, 30%
STS content and 70% science.
(6) Science along with STS Content. STS content is the focus of instruction. Relevant
science content enriches this learning. In Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Education
developed Science and Technology 11 in 1985 (Gaskell, 1989). Students are assessed about
equally on the STS content and pure science content.
(7) Infusion of Science into STS Content. STS content is a greater focus of instruction.
Relevant science content is mentioned, but not systematically taught. Emphasis may be given to
broad scientific principles. Materials classified as category 7 could be infused into a standard
school science course, yielding a category 3 STS science course. In Canada, the possibility of
such a course existing was illustrated by Science: A Way of Knowing (Aikenhead, 1979). In a
category 7 course, students are primarily assessed on the STS content, and only partially on pure
science content, for instance, 80% on STS content and 20% on science content.
(8) STS Content. A major technology or social issue is studied. Science content is
mentioned but only to indicate an existing link to science. The materials classified as category 8
could be infused into a standard school science course, yielding a category 3 STS science course.
Students are not assessed on pure science content to any appreciable degree.
This eight-category scheme does not attempt to evaluate different approaches to STS science instruction. Nor does it attempt to prescribe any particular set of goals or goal priorities. Moreover, the scheme does not address some highly relevant issues, such as teaching methods (for example, inquiry, problem solving, decision making), contexts for instruction (for example, scientific controversies, local issues, public policies, global problems), and assumptions about how students learn (though constructivism predominates in STS science; Cheek, 1992).
Canada's Framework (CMEC, 1997) does not specify a particular integrative structure for its STSE science curriculum. However, when describing various grade levels, it explicitly integrates four areas of content goals (STSE, skills, knowledge, and attitudes), and science content is unambiguously contextualized within suggested STSE content. Thus, categories three to five (above) seem to be favored. The provinces are free to devise their own STSE content, structure, and sequence, but the Framework's clear expectation is that STSE content will serve as a context for canonical science subject matter on a need-to-know basis.
The eight categories of STS science provide a language for discussing various structures for STS curricula, classroom materials, and teachers' instruction. For instance, we can expect that many science teachers will at first be more comfortable teaching a category three curriculum than a category four curriculum.
Curriculum policy should specify the category or categories of STS science that are
intended in an STS science curriculum. Different parts of the same curriculum may have
different structures, of course. Thus, different units within a curriculum may be characterized by
The "Categories of STS Science" represent a general integrative structure for STS science. A particular sequence to follow by teachers and curriculum writers was empirically discovered by Eijkelhof and Kortland (1987, 1988). Their R&D took place in the Dutch project PLON -- an acronym for "physics in a social context," a category four curriculum consisting of about 35 modules for grades 7 to 12. Eijkelhof and Kortland investigated different sequences to follow and discovered one particular pattern that nurtured successful learning by students: begin with a societal need or issue which invariably leads to a technology, which in turn creates the need to know science content, which then leads to further investigations of related technologies that finally inform a deeper understanding of the original societal need or issue. This pattern was discussed and illustrated for North American STS science courses by Aikenhead (1992a, 1994d) and is summarized here.
When an STS science unit or lesson begins, students consider a social issue or an everyday event familiar to them (for example, a court case on drunk driving, or the lighting requirements of various rooms in houses, schools, and businesses). Then students become acquainted with relevant technology (for example, the Borkenstein breathalyser, or architecture designs and commercial lighting fixtures). The social issue or everyday event, along with the related technology, create in the minds of students the need to know the canonical science that helps students make sense out of the issue or event and the technology. For example, in the case of the issue of drunk driving and the breathalyser, students need to know mixtures, redox reactions, electrical circuits, body systems, and photometry; while in the case of light sources, students need to know photometry, eye physiology, the nature of light, and the electromagnetic spectrum. Armed with this relevant science content, students next re-examine the original technology or explore more sophisticated technology, and then move on to re-examine the original social issue or everyday event. This last step often involves making a relevant decision on the issue or event, for example, should Hoffman LaRoche develop a "sobering up" pill -- a new technology? or what type of electrical bulbs should our home purchase? Students will make thoughtful decisions informed by an in-depth understanding of the underlying science, informed by a grasp of the relevant technology, and informed by an awareness of the guiding social values inherent in various decision choices (Aikenhead, 1980, 1985).
In summary, Eijkelhof and Kortland (1987, 1988) devised the sequence: social content
technology content science content advanced technology advanced social content. Although
teachers may spend the majority of their instruction time on the canonical science content (for
instance, 70 to 80% of instruction time), the Eijkelhof and Kortland sequence ensures that the
science content will be contextualized in a meaningful way for students. This contextualized
learning is promoted in the Canadian Framework (CMEC, 1997).
The Process of Deliberation
Curriculum policy can be established in a number of ways. Different educational jurisdictions conventionally employ different decision-making processes. In Canadian culture, the process that has shown greatest potential for success is the process of deliberation -- a combination of "top-down" and "grass-roots" methods of policy making. Deliberation is a structured and informed dialogue among various stakeholders. In the Science Council of Canada's science education study (SCC, 1984), for example, a wide array of stakeholders were involved: science teachers, university professors, students, community leaders, parents, and government officials. An informed decision over curriculum policy was reached, based on the values held by the stakeholders and their reading of relevant research.
One major purpose of deliberation is to involve the science teachers who will eventually implement the new curriculum, and at the same time, to involve the people who can offer those teachers support, encouragement, and guidance. Roberts (1988) illustrated the need for this support by way of a case study of STS policy making in the province of Alberta.
Inspired by Schwab's (1974) "deliberative enquiry," the Science Council of Canada in the early 1980s employed the deliberation process during a large national education study (Orpwood, 1985). In its report, Science for Every Student (SCC, 1984), the Science Council of Canada called for a renewal (reform) of science education, advising educators to teach scientific concepts and skills embedded in social and technological contexts relevant to all students. It reached this curriculum policy conclusion through the processes of research and deliberation, which occurred in three phases: (1) issue identification -- What are the problems? (2) data collection -- What are the facts? (3) option development -- Where do we go from here? The Science Council's education study ensured that significant problems were identified, that appropriate data were collected, and that these problems and data were considered by the diverse stakeholders attending one of the eleven, two-day deliberative conferences held across Canada in 1983. As mentioned above, stakeholders included high school students (science-prone and science-shy), teachers (elementary and secondary), parents, elected school officials, the scientific community, business, industry, and the labor movement, and university science educators. Although consensus was not reached at any of those deliberative conferences, a full range of interests and viewpoints were aired. In one conference, for instance, it was instructive to watch a rural elementary teacher successfully challenge the rhetoric of a corporate president representing a biotechnology firm. The deliberative conferences unfolded as Schwab (1978) had predicted:
Deliberation is complex and arduous. ... It must try to identify the desiderata in the case. It must generate alternative solutions. ... it must then weigh alternatives and their costs and consequences against one another, and choose, not the right alternative, for there is no such thing, but the best one. (pp. 318-319)
The "best" solution (a curriculum policy) published by the Science Council of Canada (SCC, 1984) is summarized by a set of recommendations that included the following points (organized according to their future influence on science curriculum policy development in Canada):
1. along with scientific concepts and skills, students should learn an appreciation for:
a. authentic science -- the nature of science and scientists, including the way science generates and uses its knowledge,
b. technology in Canada,
c. the interrelationships among science, technology and society;
2. females should be particularly encouraged to pursue science and technology in school;
3. academically talented students should be challenged to reason critically and creatively;
4. student evaluation should concentrate on fundamental understandings and should reflect the complete range of goals of science teaching, rather than focus strictly on the memorization of facts and the rote application of formulas.
These recommendations, as well as the process of deliberation itself, greatly influenced a study that was designed to change the science curriculum in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan science study, conducted between 1986 and 1987, is described in detail by Hart (1989). A few salient features are mentioned here. Drawing in part upon the Science Council of Canada's study, Hart formulated "a set of recommendations designed to illuminate discrepancies between actual and desired states of school science" (p. 610). This platform for renewal of science education in Saskatchewan was discussed by 337 educators during 18 one-day deliberative conferences held across Saskatchewan. The sponsor of Hart's study limited stakeholders to science teachers, administrators, and science consultants. Many science teachers not attending the conferences submitted to Hart written responses to the agenda items that were considered during the deliberative conferences.
An overwhelming 92% of Saskatchewan science teachers endorsed teaching science in a way that balanced seven set of goals, a goal cluster referred to as "Seven Dimensions of Scientific Literacy:" (1) the nature of science; (2) the key facts, principles and concepts of science; (3) the intellectual processes used when doing science; (4) the interactions among science, technology and society; (5) the values that underlie science; (6) the know-how to use instruments required for doing science; and (7) personal interests and attitudes toward scientific and technological matters. Although 88% of the teachers believed that a STSE emphasis should be adopted, teachers expressed many concerns about: (1) the balance between the STSE emphasis and other emphases (for example, a solid foundation for the next level of science study), (2) the evaluation of students with respect to the STSE goals, (3) the availability of appropriate teaching materials, (4) the possible erosions of traditional science subject matter, and (5) the need to teach controversial issues. In other words, teachers were positive but certainly cautious about changing their science curriculum toward an STSE approach. The provincial study had assumed that most science teachers would gain a degree of ownership in a new curriculum developed on the basis of their deliberative conferences.
The Saskatchewan study illustrates one version of the process of deliberation that establishes an STS curriculum policy. Roberts (1988) described what happens when the process of deliberation is not taken seriously, as was the case with the Alberta Ministry of Education's approach to revising its science curriculum into STS science in the late 1980s. Teacher committees and bureaucrats worked conscientiously to develop a state-of-the-art STS curriculum, but resistance from the vested interests of a social elite (spear headed by medical doctors and university science professors) ensured sufficient political intervention to stop the implementation. Blades (1997) provides an intriguing postmodern analysis of the tensions and dynamics among the principal protagonists. Roberts (1988) claimed that the main question to be resolved is "What counts as science education?":
So the sticky question "What counts as science education?" has three characteristics. First, the answer to it requires that choices be made -- choices among science topics and among curriculum emphases. Second, the answer is a defensible decision rather than a theoretically determined solution to a problem theoretically posed. Third, the answer is not arrived at by research (alone), nor with universal applicability; it is arrived at by the process of deliberation, and the answer is uniquely tailored to individual situations. Hence the answer to the question will be different for every education jurisdiction, for every duly constituted deliberative group, and very likely for every science teacher. (p. 30)
The province of Alberta subsequently regrouped in the early 1990s and adopted a more deliberative process (Roberts, 1995), with the result that their junior and senior high school programs now has an STS science stream that is accepted by the province's universities for students who are not entering science related fields. Alberta produced its own set of textbooks to support the STS science program in the high school (Visions I, Visions II, and Visions III).
Fensham's (1992) caution about the power of stakeholders was illustrated in Alberta's experience. Fensham warned that some influential stakeholders simply want school science to act as society's screening device to maintain an intellectual, social elite; for example, white male middle-class students have generally enjoyed a privileged status (Lee, 1997; Roth and McGinn, in press). Reformers must know their own political territory well and must plan ways to negotiate its pathways.
Another group of stakeholders has an interest in maintaining a view of science as: authorization, objective, purely rational, non-humanistic, purely empirical, universal, impersonal, socially sterile, and unencumbered by the vulgarity of human imagination, dogma, judgments, or cultural values (Aikenhead, 1996). Gaskell's (1992) and Gallagher's (1991) research showed that high school science teachers are among the strongest defenders of this view. Thus, it is imperative in the process of deliberation to involve highly credible people (for example, enlightened science teachers and university science professors) who will challenge this stereotype view.
In summary, the first product towards developing an STS curriculum is curriculum policy. STS curriculum policy has a function, content, structure, and sequence, as well as a process for determining that policy. The most promising process is deliberation.
Another product along the road to curriculum development is the material used by
classroom teachers. Classroom material, such as modules and textbooks, is the next feature of
curriculum development to be mapped out in this chapter.
To meet the demands of STS reform efforts, conscientious teachers require professional guidance on a daily basis to help them fulfill the new curriculum policy. These teachers deserve suitable classroom materials (for example, practical teacher guides, booklets, resources, and textbooks). Without suitable materials, an STS science curriculum will not be achieved.
From country to country, cultural conventions differ over how textbooks and materials are developed. The vested interests of the traditional textbook establishment (authors included) can undermine attempts at reform. If STS curriculum developers are to be successful, therefore, alternative processes of developing classroom materials may need to be implemented. The most promising process is research & development (R&D).
A short case study will illustrate how R&D can work. This case study, the development of a Canadian grade 10 STS science textbook, will also show how to integrate the processes of deliberation, R&D, and implementation, when producing classroom materials helpful to science teachers.
The textbook, Logical Reasoning in Science & Technology, LoRST (Aikenhead, 1991), evolved from two separate deliberation processes described above, one carried out across Canada by the Science Council of Canada (Orpwood, 1985) and another in the province of Saskatchewan by the Ministry of Education (Hart, 1989). These deliberations answered the question, "What counts as science education?" and guided the content, integrative structure, and sequence within LoRST accordingly.
The process central to producing the textbook was R&D. The project was informed by the research literature on student learning, teacher practical knowledge, and STS content itself, and by the developer's earlier experiences producing STS materials (Aikenhead, 1979). The R&D followed a multistage sequence that took place in various classrooms, collaborating with students and teachers (Aikenhead, 1994a).
In the first stage, I wrote and taught draft #1 in a local high school. Based on this collaboration, the text was modified to yield draft #2 and a rough draft of the teacher guide was written. Students acted as consultants by posing questions out of curiosity, by writing material in response to assignments, by offering advice, and by spontaneously interacting in the classroom. These questions, materials, suggestions, and interactions found their way into the second draft of LoRST.
In the second stage, this second draft was used by three volunteer teachers who received no in-service preparation but who were capable of being flexible. Their classes were observed daily. This collaboration with teachers and students led to the refinement of the teaching strategies suggested in the teacher guide, and led to many revisions in the student materials. Students' language and interactions were incorporated into the text. As a result of this stage in the R&D, LoRST was polished into draft #3, both the student text and teacher guide.
The last R&D stage combined R&D with the process of implementation (Table 1) -- implementing a new curriculum in the province of Saskatchewan. The implementation process provided a vehicle for obtaining feedback from teachers who were field testing the new curriculum and draft #3 of LoRST. In stage 2, the materials had worked well with students. But could the materials work well with a cross section of teachers? The last stage in the R&D process addressed this question. In this implementation process, the 30 teachers became the clients of the R&D project. Teacher feedback resulted in a number of revisions to LoRST. The resulting classroom materials were published as a textbook and teacher guide (Aikenhead, 1991), and they are now being used in several provinces across Canada.
Most of the 30 teachers involved in the field testing subsequently took on leadership responsibilities for implementing Saskatchewan's science education reform in their own school districts. This implementation process will take many years to complete and will require concerted attention from time to time. I would argue that any implementation is successful if, within five years, 50% of the teachers teach science in the way envisaged by the new STSE curriculum policy. Of the remaining teachers, 50% will require another five years. For those who will not change, retirement will eventually come.
LoRST, the product of this R&D process, is succinctly described here to illustrate some of the features of STS science mentioned earlier. (For a detailed description of LoRST see Aikenhead, 1992a, 1992b.) LoRST teaches scientific content in conjunction with STS content and critical reasoning skills to a target audience of grade 10 students of average (or above average) academic ability. Students learn scientific facts, concepts and principles from physics, chemistry, and biology in a way that connects those facts, concepts, and principles with the students' everyday world. The interdisciplinary nature of LoRST places it in category five of the "Categories STS Science" described above.
The textbook begins with courtroom testimony by scientific experts -- a social context familiar to students. This creates the need to know a host of science concepts and logical reasoning skills. In LoRST, the social issue of drinking and driving creates the need to know (1) the technology of the breathalyser; (2) how science and technology interact with each other, and how they both interact with various aspects of society such as the law; and (3) scientific content such as mixtures, concentration, chemical reactions, photometry, electrical circuits, and the biology of body cells and systems. While the content is "driven by" the social issue of drinking and driving, the content is not limited to that social issue. For instance, students solve concentration problems in the world of recipes, false advertising, toxic chemicals, and farm fertilizers. Classification of mixtures is introduced in the context of the Red Cross and is developed via the technology of salad dressings. Electricity concepts are learned in order to bridge the gap between atomic theory and the household appliances familiar to adolescents (both female and male). Heat and temperature are taught in an historical context, accompanied by inquiry labs requiring students to construct relevant concepts. The textbook ends with everyday, public policy decision-making issues (for example, whether or not to develop an anti-drunk driver device for cars). The issue requires students to synthesize the book's scientific and STS content with critical reasoning skills and predispositions. The skill at making different types of decisions (scientific, legal, moral, logical, and public policy decisions) gradually develops with study and practice throughout the book.
LoRST's emphasis on logical reasoning reflects a Canadian curriculum policy to improve students' critical thinking skills (Aikenhead, 1990). Specific critical reasoning skills are taught in Unit 3, "Science & Critical Thinking: The Logic Game." These skills are then applied throughout the book. More important than the individual reasoning skills themselves is the increase in students' predisposition (habits of the mind) to analyse, to question, and to articulate a reasoned argument (McPeck, 1981).
This case study of the LoRST project illustrates how the R&D process, in conjunction with the processes of deliberation and implementation, can yield classroom materials that are (1) rationally based in curriculum policy and educational research, and (2) effectively grounded in classroom practice. The R&D study not only focused on the lived experiences of students (giving high priority to the "learned curriculum"), but also collaborated with those students to produce classroom materials (1) in harmony with the intended curriculum, (2) usable by teachers with limited in-service training, and (3) consistent with students' views on relevancy and practical appropriateness. Students contributed significantly to the textbook's content, structure, and language. By engaging students in tasks in the natural setting of their own classroom, I was able to attend to information that spontaneously emerged during instruction or to information that thoughtfully evolved from informal discussions with students.
Another influential STS science project in Canada is SciencePlus (Atlantic Science Curriculum Project (1986), developed in the maritime provinces and targeted for grades 7 to 9 (McFadden, 1980). The R&D process that produced these classroom materials (three textbooks) involved teams of classroom teachers coordinated by a university science educator, Charles McFadden (1991). The SciencePlus textbook series has been adopted in other Canadian provinces (McFadden, et al., 1989), and in the United States (McFadden and Yager, 1997), often after a modification has occurred to match a local curriculum policy. For example, Alberta's STS curriculum (mentioned above) led to the production of SciencePlus Technology and Society (McFadden, et al., 1989), a different textbook for each of grades 7 to 9. The R&D process that produced SciencePlus combined naturally with the process of implementation (described below).
Up to this point in the chapter, we have examined two pairs of product/process for STS
curriculum development -- curriculum policy by deliberation and classroom materials by R&D.
Two other product/process pairs remain to be addressed, though in much less detail due to space
Teacher understanding is a major component in the successful development of an STS curriculum. The intended curriculum must be interpreted into the translated curriculum before student learning occurs. Teacher understanding is arguably the most influential force in this transformation. This influence comes to a head in the process of implementation, though it is also prevalent in deliberative inquiries that lead to curriculum policy. In Canada we have not had a systematic study into the implementation of STS curricula across Canada similar to the study conducted by Kumar and Berlin (1996) in the United States. However, several provinces have used various implementation strategies to augment teacher understanding of STS content and its integration with science content (Blades, 1997; Gaskell, 1982; Hart, 1989; Leblanc, 1989; Pedretti and Hodson, 1995; Roberts, 1988).
Prior to implementing a new STS curriculum policy, science teachers will have their own ideas about what constitutes appropriate content, instruction, and assessment. (Some teachers' preconceptions will already exemplify the new curriculum policy, but many may not.) Teachers' previously held conceptions were constructed during their pre-service education experiences and from their teaching experiences (Aikenhead, 1984; Duffee and Aikenhead, 1992). Their conceptions fulfill many practical purposes, such as coping with, and surviving in, a wide range of classroom contexts and community situations. An in-service program associated with a new STS curriculum is only a tiny increment in a wealth of past experiences that have shaped a teacher's understanding of science teaching. Thus, a simple in-service intervention by itself holds little promise for altering a teacher's acceptance of STS science. Teachers' conceptions will not likely change unless those teachers are able to influence their teaching contexts and are able to envision the practical consequences of a new curriculum. This is the commonsense reason behind Roberts's (1988) claim that science teachers must be involved in establishing curriculum policy in the first place (via deliberation).
Teacher understanding has been the object of a educational research program called "teacher practical knowledge" (Clandinin, 1985; Clandinin and Connelly, 1996; Duffee and Aikenhead, 1992; Lantz and Kass, 1987). Teacher practical knowledge is comprised of many interacting sets of personal ideas, experiences, and feelings of a teacher, including the self-image that a teacher wishes to project. Teacher practical knowledge is not pedagogical theory. Its relationship to pedagogical theory is very similar to the relationship between engineering expertise and scientific theory.
By taking on a teacher-practical-knowledge perspective, a curriculum developer pays attention to the common sense inherent in teachers' preconceptions about science teaching, and addresses those commonsense preconceptions. (This is similar to a constructivist teacher confronting students' commonsense preconceptions about natural phenomena.) For instance, the difficulty in changing from traditional practice to an STS approach was revealed in research by Aikenhead (1984), Gallagher (1985), Lantz and Kass (1987), Mitchner and Anderson (1987), and Olson (1982). Their research offers an alternative view to assuming that teachers are lazy or intransigent, a view often expressed by frustrated curriculum developers when an implementation has failed to take hold. Perhaps the curriculum developers themselves have failed.
The 1985 AETS Yearbook (James, 1985) describes a number of pre-service and in-service models for preparing science teachers for STS instruction. Several chapters are devoted to the problems and successes of implementing an STS curriculum in the United States. The AETS volume is an excellent resource for the STS curriculum developer concerned with teacher understanding. The diverse chapters reflect multi-faceted problems of teacher understanding and curriculum implementation. Teacher practical knowledge may be a helpful construct to integrate these diverse sets of problems.
I would like to identify one major problem and then suggest some general plans of action that we have found successful in Canadian reform toward STS science. When studying science at university, teachers experience a process of socialization into a discipline (Barnes, 1985; Kuhn, 1970; Ziman, 1984). During that experience, teachers develop deep-seated values about science teaching (Aikenhead, 1984; Pedretti and Hodson, 1995). Many science teachers have been socialized into believing that they too have the responsibility to socialize their students into a discipline (that is, science for the elite, not science for all). The most powerful self-image for many teachers is the image of the "little professor" initiating students into the culture of his or her scientific discipline. From a teacher's point of view, the best way to initiate students into a discipline is the same way the teacher was initiated (Aikenhead, 1984). STS science, with its goal "science for all," challenges the conventional goal "science for the elite" and the initiation of students into a scientific discipline (Hurd, 1975). STS science often gives lower priority to the curriculum emphasis "solid foundations" than a conventional curriculum does. Therefore, to implement an STS science course successfully is to change the deep-seated, personally cherished values of a number of teachers (for example, their image of themselves as initiating students into the teachers' scientific discipline). Teachers' professional knowledge must go through a Kuhnian paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts are difficult. They involve knowledge, values, assumptions, loyalties, and self-images; and therefore require more than rational arguments and simple in-service programs.
Because science teachers have been socialized by university science professors, then one successful plan of action for achieving reform has been to involve the scientific community -- the community responsible for shaping a science teacher's values in the first place, and a community with academic credibility. A cadre of enlightened scientists, carefully selected from industry, government labs, and universities, must relieve science teachers of the burden of socializing students into a scientific discipline. Enlightened scientists (often parents of high school students disenchanted with their science courses) will likely support an STS curriculum policy even more, if those scientists were involved in the deliberation process that produced that policy in the first place.
In addition to changing deep-seated values and images of teaching science, teachers must add new methods to their repertoire of instructional strategies. A new routine of instruction is best learned from fellow teachers -- the people who have practical credibility. A successful plan of action will involve a few cleverly selected teachers chosen to go through an intense in-service experience. These teachers then become in-service leaders in their own regions of the country, passing on their leadership expertise to other teachers who repeat the in-service process in their own communities.
This approach was illustrated with finesse by Leblanc (1989) in a three-year STS in-service project he designed and carried out in the province of Nova Scotia, prior to implementing an STS curriculum. He selected teachers who were held in high esteem by their colleagues. A small minority of those teachers were known for having an anti-STS outlook, but they were selected anyway, but on the basis of Leblanc's intuitive expectation that they were open-minded enough to listen to the other teachers and university science professors at the intensive in-service summer programs. Leblanc's patience and planning paid off when Nova Scotia formally implemented an STS science curriculum. He invested three years of in-service work with a small cadre of selected teachers.
Each province in Canada has its own way of implementing its own STS curriculum. But the successful cases always targeted teacher understanding as the highest priority. Obviously, teacher understanding is enhanced by their participation in deliberating over the STS curriculum policy in the first place.
The success of in-service programs is characterized by materials and know-how being passed on from experts to others who work in different locations. Industry calls this method of implementation "technology transfer." Educators could benefit from adopting technology transfer methods from industry. For instance, transfer of expertise requires practical on-sight experience and a network of participants. In education this would mean that science teachers who are novices with respect to STS science would spend time in the classroom of an "expert" teacher -- one who is implementing an STS course. Technology transfer can serve as one useful method for the process of implementing an STS curriculum.
An alternative method is action research. Pedretti and Hodson (1995) conducted a one-year study with six science teachers who were positively predisposed to STS science. The aim was to produce usable curriculum materials through teacher ownership and understanding, all organized around an action research group. Pedretti and Hodson documented teachers' increased understanding in matters of: the nature of science, developing curriculum materials, personal and professional development, and collaboration. In addition, participants reaffirmed many of their personal theories and practices (components of teacher practical knowledge), developed new ones, and had some seriously challenged. This effect was called "reinforcement." The researchers concluded:
Closely tied to the issue of reinforcement are the increased confidence that the teachers now feel in their personal theories and in their ability to make their own curriculum decisions, and the feelings of enhanced credibility concerning their own educational practice. As a direct consequence of their involvement in the group they now know that they are capable of carrying out meaningful research and contributing to curriculum design and development. (p. 481, emphasis in the original)
The action research method again demonstrated that a combination of "grass-roots" and "top-down" approaches to implementation can nurture increased understanding by teachers, an understanding that has personal meaning to their unique teaching situations, and more importantly, an understanding that has direct implications to their students' learning. A case study of teacher understanding and STS implementation in a grade 3/4 classroom is documented by Pedretti (1997). McFadden's (1991) R&D group that produced Canada's SciencePlus series represents a variation to Pedretti and Hodson's method of action research.
The research literature on curriculum implementation is rich in other ideas and schemes
to help us plan the process thoughtfully (for example, see Cheek, 1992).
Curriculum policy, classroom materials, and teacher understanding, all lead to student learning -- the ultimate product of an STS science curriculum. Instruction and assessment are the obvious processes that nurture student learning in the formal setting of schools.
Science education research of the 1960s reached an unambiguous conclusion: the classroom teacher will influence student outcomes far more than specific curricula, textbooks, or teaching strategies (Welch, 1969). Thus, student learning from the same STS course can vary significantly from one teacher to another. Within any population of teachers there will be three groups: (1) those whose philosophy of science education is consistent with an STS approach (for example, Pedretti and Hodson's group of teachers), (2) those who are diametrically opposed to an STS approach, and (3) those in the middle who can move in either direction due to persuasion or by the requirement to use certain materials. All three groups will have their own influence on student learning.
Teachers and parents often express the fear that students will not learn as much science content from an STS science curriculum. Their fears are largely unwarranted. Research into student learning shows that spending time on new topics and activities (not normally considered science content but related to that content, for example, STS content) is not detrimental to student achievement on traditional science content tests or to careers in science and engineering (Aikenhead, 1994b; Champagne & Klopfer, 1982; Yager & Krajcik, 1989). Therefore, in terms of Roberts' curriculum emphasis "solid foundations" (preparing for the next level of education) described earlier, a high school STS science curriculum will not necessarily be detrimental to student achievement in first year university courses, provided that students have a facility in quantitative problem solving (Aikenhead, 1994b).
STS science instruction has relevance to a student's everyday world. Thus, STS instruction tries to make a real difference to a student's everyday life and to the well being of his or her community (Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994). While such relevance usually enhances student motivation, and therefore achievement (Mesaros, 1988), relevant contexts may to some extent obfuscate the acquisition of science content and solving science problems (Solomon, 1987). Students tend to experience difficulty when mentally moving between the theoretical world of pure science concepts -- characterized by logical reasoning with evidence -- and their everyday world of commonsense concepts -- characterized by social interactions and consensus (Hennessy, 1993; Lijnse, 1990). If STS science expects students to learn the science content in enough depth to use it in everyday situations (rather than to memorize it for the benefit of an examination), then STS science has taken on a much more rigorous task than traditional science. This in-depth learning contrasts with making a political difference to students' lives by passing tests that artificially open doors to social opportunities (for example, attending university), but without achieving any meaningful learning of the science content (Costa, 1997). Let me justify this claim by describing some recent research.
Because STS instruction aims to make a real difference to a student's everyday life, STS science educators run the risk of judging their own success by much higher standards and expectations than teachers who subscribe to the standard of getting students through their course or catering to the elite students who have the savvy to learn meaningfully on their own. In this sense, then, traditional science instruction/assessment can be viewed as "soft" and superficial while STS science instruction/assessment can be thought of as "hard" and rigorous. For instance, memorizing how to solve heat transfer problems is superficial. Explaining how the conceptual invention of energy changed scientists' ideas about heat transfer, on the other hand, is rigorous. The assessment of student learning can be superficial or rigorous.
The problem of superficial learning was dramatically discovered by Larson (1995) when she found students in a high school chemistry class who actually told her the rules they followed so they could pass Mr. London's chemistry class without really understanding much of chemistry. Larson called these rules "Fatima's rules," named after the most articulate student in the class. For example, one rule advises us not to read the textbook but to memorize the bold faced words and phrases. Fatima's rules can include such coping or passive-resistance mechanisms as "silence, accommodation, ingratiation, evasiveness, and manipulation" (Atwater, 1996, p. 823). What results is not meaningful learning but merely "communicative competence" (Kelly and Green, in press) or "an accoutrement to specific rituals and practices of the science classroom" (Medvitz, 1996, p. 5). Loughran and Derry (1997) investigated students' reactions to a science teacher's concerted effort to teach for meaningful learning ("deep understanding") as STS science teachers do. The researchers found a reason for Fatima's rules, a reason related to the culture of public schools:
The need to develop a deep understanding of the subject may not have been viewed by them [the students] as being particularly important as progression through the schooling system could be achieved without it. In this case such a view appears to have been very well reinforced by Year 9. This is not to suggest that these students were poor learners, but rather that they had learnt how to learn sufficiently well to succeed in school without expending excessive time or effort. (p. 935)
Their teacher lamented, "No matter how well I think I teach a topic, the students only seem to learn what they need to pass the test, then, after the test, they forget it all anyway" (p. 925). On the other hand, Tobin and McRobbie (1997, p. 366) documented a teacher's complicity in Fatima's rules: "There was a close fit between the goals of Mr. Jacobs and those of the students and satisfaction with the emphasis on memorisation of facts and procedures to obtain the correct answers needed for success on tests and examinations." When playing Fatima's rules, students (and some teachers) go through the motions to make it appear as if meaningful learning has occurred, but at best rote memorization of key terms and processes is only achieved temporarily.
Costa (1997) synthesized the work of Larson (1995) and Tobin and McRobbie (1995) with her own classroom research and concluded:
Mr. Ellis' students, like those of Mr. London and Mr. Jacobs, are not working on chemistry; they are working to get through chemistry. The subject does not matter. As a result, students negotiate treaties regarding the kind of work they will do in class. Their work is not so much productive as it is political. They do not need to be productive -- as in learning chemistry. They only need to be political -- as in being credited for working in chemistry. (p. 1020)
The three teachers (Ellis, London, and Jacobs) exemplify the superficial teaching that can pass as legitimate instruction in traditional classes. But superficial teaching can become obviously transparent in an STS science class.
The main point is this: the general goal "science for all" associated with STS learning in Canada represents a political paradigm shift from the traditional goal "science for the elite." Learning and instruction/assessment will change accordingly, if STS curriculum development is to succeed.
Today we recognize that learning will likely be more effective when classroom activities
serve both instruction and assessment functions (Black, 1997; Gallagher, et el., 1996). As a
result, formative assessment techniques that accumulate data while instruction takes place (for
example, quizzes, check lists, portfolios, concept maps, posters, and self-assessments) are
conceived to be instructional strategies as well as assessment techniques. In the classroom,
instruction and assessment are best integrated. However, when discussing the two processes, it
will be convenient to separate the two.
Traditional science teaching methods tend to be characterized by convergent thinking and lecture-demonstrations. STS science instruction, on the other hand, includes divergent thinking but demands a wider repertoire of teaching strategies (Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994).
Instructional strategies for STS science were first addressed systematically in 1980 by Ziman in his book Teaching and Learning about Science and Society. Solomon's (1993) Teaching Science, Technology and Society is an excellent current resource for technology transfer programs for STS science teachers. A monograph and video tapes showing how to use specific STS instructional strategies were developed by Aikenhead (1988) as part of the Saskatchewan science reform described earlier in this chapter. This monograph, Teaching Science Through a Science-Technology-Society-Environment Approach: An Instructional Guide, gives special attention to instructional methods that produce interactivity among students, for instance, divergent thinking, small group work, student-centered class discussion, problem-solving, simulations, decision making, controversies, debating, and using the media and other community resources. In addition, the teacher guide that accompanies the STS textbook Logical Reasoning in Science & Technology (Aikenhead, 1991) coaches teachers through activities that work best using student interactivity.
In a review of the research literature on STS instruction, Aikenhead (1994b) reported that there was little research identifying the effects of STS teaching methods. Notable exceptions included the Discussion of Issues in School Science (DISS) project, a research program based on small-group work and applied specifically to STS science content (Solomon, 1988). The DISS project documented students' capabilities at conducting effective small-group discussions on science-related social issues. Byrne and Johnstone (1988) generalized the efficacy of small-group discussions. In an article entitled "How to Make Science Relevant," they concluded: "It is the achievement of interactivity, rather than the exact format, whether it be simulation, group discussion or role playing" (p. 44). Interactive learning approaches are often identified with STS science instruction. The research evidence suggests the following (Byrne and Johnstone, 1988):
1. In terms of learning science content, simulations and educational games can be just as effective as traditional methods. In terms of developing positive attitudes, simulations and games can be far more effective than traditional methods.
2. In terms of attitude development, the strategies of role playing, discussion and decision making can be highly effective.
3. "Group discussion can stimulate thought and interest and develop greater commitment on the part of the student." (p. 45)
4. In terms of promoting an understanding of the processes of science, an analysis and evaluation of historical case studies can be effective.
These findings were supported by the R&D project that produced Logical Reasoning in Science & Technology (Aikenhead, 1991) described earlier. According to 80% of the students engaged in developing draft #3 of the textbook, simulations served as concrete connections between the academic science content and the student's everyday world, and simulations made the academic science more interesting to learn. Only 8%of the students found simulations of little or no value.
In general, taking on STS instructional methods usually involves a professional paradigm
shift in teachers' ideas away from a scientist-dominated view of the world conveyed to students
by a teacher-centered approach to teaching, towards a student-dominated view of the world
(informed by science and technology) conveyed by more student-centered approaches to
The process of instruction and the product of student learning are intricately tied to the process of assessment. Therefore, good assessment is indistinguishable from good instruction.
The professional and political paradigm shifts associated with STS instruction have direct implications for assessment practices beyond the assessment of students. In Canada, we are tying to broaden assessment to include two major issues: assessing the new STS curricula themselves, and assessing the support experienced by teachers. Part of the design of an STS curriculum should include concrete plans for assessing the support that teachers receive from government, industry, universities, and parents. The stakeholders who participated in the deliberation process must initiate ways by which the jurisdictions they represent will be evaluated by teachers in terms of support during an extended implementation process. Stakeholders must be held accountable to teachers in any reform effort, and this accountability must be designed into the STS curriculum policy from the very beginning.
For the purpose of clear and critical thinking, it is important to distinguish between the act of observing or collecting student work and the act of interpreting or judging that collection of work. However, confusion arises over what to name each act. Some educators, by convention, use the same term for both acts. This would tend to equate the methods of collecting data with the methods of interpreting those data. (In science classes, we usually teach students the difference between observing and interpreting, for the sake of their critical thinking.) Recently in Canada, we have begun to refer to the act of collecting student work as "assessment" and the act of judging that work as "evaluation." This distinction can help teachers escape the old paradigm of student assessment associated with traditional science (described below). For instance, teachers can practice new assessment techniques without necessary changing their evaluation standards.
The challenge of such a paradigm shift was clarified in Canada by Ryan (1988) when he described three paradigms of assessment and evaluation (based on the work of Habermas, 1971):
1. Empirical-analytic -- western technical rationalism embodied in logical positivist origins. This amounts to the traditional standardized approach to assessment and evaluation.
2. Interpretive -- understanding students' language, concepts, and actions from the point of view of the student. Alternative assessment techniques such as portfolios and concept mapping illustrate this paradigm.
3. Critical-theoretic -- the elimination of oppressive human relationships (oppressive is defined in terms of forced assimilation). Two examples would be: assessment rubrics for thoughtful decision making developed collaboratively between teacher and students, and student self-evaluation.
These three paradigms clarify key issues in assessment and evaluation: (1) the issue of standardized tests falls within the empirical-analytic paradigm; (2) the issue of formative assessment is clearly within the interpretive paradigm; and (3) the issues of equity and student empowerment both fit primarily within the critical-theoretic paradigm. We must be able to function eclectically in all three paradigms. For the sake of clear thinking, however, we should not lose sight of the paradigm we are in, at any given moment.
For example, the purposes of assessment and evaluation in Canadian schools are many. Student certification and the development of educational policy are treated within the empirical-analytic paradigm. The improvement of teaching usually falls within the interpretive paradigm. And the empowerment of students is clearly within the critical-theoretic paradigm.
Student outcomes also vary, and so they require different approaches to assessment and evaluation depending on the appropriate paradigm. The empirical-analytic paradigm focuses on the product of instruction, the students's tangible work, and gives priority to the quantitative standardization of that work. The interpretive paradigm focuses on both the student's product and on how the student produced the work -- the process. It embraces non-quantitative assessment techniques such as rubrics, concept mapping, check lists, and authentic assessment (Black, 1993, 1997). The critical-theoretic paradigm gives special attention to the social or cultural context in which assessment takes place, a context that has a great influence on both the process and product of a student's work (Roth and McGinn, in press). The critical-theoretic paradigm focuses on the product, process, and context of student learning.
The assessment and evaluation of scientific literacy has traditionally been conducted well within the empirical-analytic paradigm (Aikenhead, Fleming and Ryan, 1987). Student responses are either right or wrong, with little interpretation and little consideration for context. Scores are standardized against such norms as statistical distributions or judgments by panels of experts. Assessment tends to be confounded with evaluation, thereby merging the two concepts into one. An alternative type of instrument that operates within the interpretive paradigm for assessing STS content is Views on Science-Technology-Society, VOSTS (Aikenhead, Ryan, and Fleming, 1989). By collaborating with students, the researchers developed an empirically based, multiple-choice, assessment instrument (Aikenhead and Ryan, 1992). The empirical data consisted of the students' written and oral work itself. As a consequence, students are generally able to express their personal and reasoned viewpoints in their own language when they respond to any of the 114 VOSTS items. VOSTS can serve as a point of departure for formulating an item bank unique to any STS science curriculum.
As Champagne and Newell (1992) point out, certain educational jurisdictions demand that assessment be simplistic, competitive, and unidimensional in order to distinguish winners from losers. Tests are designed "on the assumption that knowledge can be represented by an accumulation of bits of information [playing Fatima's rules] and that there is one right answer" (p. 846). On the other hand, "alternative assessment is based on the assumption that knowledge is actively constructed by the child and varies from one context to another" (p. 847). We can now identify these two positions as exemplifying the empirical-analytic and interpretive paradigms, respectively. Moreover, using the three-paradigm framework suggested by Ryan (1988), we can now ask ourselves the question, "What does the critical-theoretic paradigm say about what knowledge is important to learn? The answer leads to other issues such as: whose knowledge is privileged in the assessment? whose social interactions have cultural capital? whose goals define the criteria for evaluation and how are these goals established? These critical-theoretic issues are discussed by O'Loughlin (1992).
My R&D project that produced Logical Reasoning in Science & Technology, LoRST
(described earlier) uncovered the need to guide teachers as they attempted teaching new STS
science content using alternative methods of instruction and using new assessment and
evaluation techniques. Throughout the teacher guide to LoRST, there are teacher in-service
sections on assessment and evaluation. This includes sample work from a cross section of
students, along with how teachers assessed the work, and how the work can be evaluated.
Concept maps, check lists, and rubrics are featured, though poster making and portfolios are also
The STS science curricula developed in Canadian provinces all deal with instruction and
assessment/evaluation in their own particular way. Some provinces (such as Saskatchewan)
have produced their own publications which were originally used with in-service programs, but
are now found in pre-service B.Ed. programs at universities. The processes of instruction and
assessment/evaluation were beyond the scope of the Common Framework of Science Learning
Outcomes (CMEC, 1997). It devotes most of its attention to specifying the student learning
(organized within four areas: STSE content, skills, canonical science knowledge, and attitudes)
expected in a Canadian STSE science curriculum. The processes of achieving that learning is
left to the individual provinces.
Summary and Implications
This chapter explored four pairs of fundamental processes and crucial products that lead to a successful STS science curriculum. Each of the crucial products -- curriculum policy, classroom materials, teacher understanding, and student learning -- was associated with a different process -- deliberation, R&D, implementation, and instruction/assessment, respectively. These products and processes are interrelated as depicted in Table 1 by the designation of "high" and "low" associations between them.
This chapter promised to map out the territory that educators should explore if they expect to develop successful STS science curricula. Important features of this territory were illustrated by Canadian examples. Although regions within the United States (or in any other country) will have their own unique features, the coordination of each of the four product/process pairs identified in this chapter will be essential to producing successful STS teaching in any country.
Based on our Canadian experiences with STS science teaching, science educators in other countries can better anticipate the nature of the challenges they face as they work with students, teachers, and other stakeholders, many of whom will need to experience a type of paradigm shift. The biggest challenge in Canada continues to be the paradigm shift over who has privilege and the political power to decide what ought to be learned in science classes and what ideologies will prevail -- "science for all" or "science for an elite"? (Blades, 1997; Fensham, 1992; Roberts, 1988). Some regions in the United States will have the issue of privilege and political power well established by cultural convention, while in other regions the issue will need to be negotiated. From region to region the political topography will vary according to the dominant stakeholders, but the tension between "science for all" and "science for an elite" can be anticipated, along with other tensions and dilemmas described in this chapter.
The appropriate way to deliberate over curriculum policies will depend on the cultural convention of that region, but deliberations must take place nevertheless. When contemplating how to engage in the process of deliberation, a science educator must know the political topography of the community. This savvy will be essential to success. National projects such as Project 2061 (AAAS, 1989) and Standards (NRC, 1996) can influence the political topography. These two projects do address the ideological choice between "science for all" and "science for an elite," however, both projects appear to emphasize science for an elite because they privilege the assimilation of students into thinking like scientists think (Aikenhead, 1997). The political self-interest of all stakeholders will pervade deliberations and curriculum policy in any country.
In this chapter we also discovered that political power is an issue in both teacher understanding and student learning. It was recognized as a focus within the critical-theoretic paradigm of assessment/evaluation. How it plays out in a non-Canadian setting will need to be carefully considered by STS science educators wishing to reform their own science curriculum.
The territory mapped out in this chapter embraced the intended, the translated, and the learned curriculum. All three must be considered by any educational reform. To clarify the nature of those curricula, we found it very helpful to consider the concept called "curriculum emphases" and we found it important to identify those emphases in all the products of curriculum change: curriculum policy, teaching materials, teacher understanding, and student learning. Although the priority of curriculum emphases chosen for a given region will vary, what is crucial is the need to identify this priority. Unarticulated priorities and curriculum emphases lead to failed reform efforts.
STS content constituted another fundamental feature to the territory mapped out in this chapter. Similar to curriculum emphases, STS content will vary from region to region. However, the structure for integrating science content with STS content, identified in the chapter by an eight-category scheme, will be an essential feature to any STS science instruction world wide. STS educators are well advised to use the scheme to reflect on their own views and to communicate those views to teachers and other stakeholders.
Teacher understanding was clarified in Canada through "teacher practical knowledge," which includes the teacher's past experiences of being socialized into a scientific discipline. For reform minded science educators, one implication to this entrenched social practice is to initiate counter measures. Technology transfer and collaborative action research both hold promise to supplement the normal implementation methods used in any community.
And lastly, we explored the tensions between meaningful learning and superficial learning -- students' playing Fatima's rules. By playing Fatima's rules, we privilege "science for an elite" because our instruction tends to screen out those students who do not share the worldview embraced by most scientists (Cobern, 1991; O'Loughlin, 1992). Screening out students may be a cultural feature of a community's schooling. When STS science reform is contemplated for such a community, the dilemma over meaningful versus superficial learning will emerge. Those science educators familiar with a constructivist approach to meaningful learning (Tobin, 1993) will have already experienced reactions against this innovation and the enormous pressures placed on teachers to play Fatima's rules (under the guise of "covering the curriculum" sanctified by scientific authorities, including national associations and councils). Costa's (1997) and Loughran and Derry's (1997) recent work spoke to those pressures.
In a recent comparative study of national science curricula in United States, Australia, New Zealand, England and Wales, and the province of Ontario, Orpwood and Barnett (1997) reinforced the need to support the development of teachers as they attempt to implement reform. Orpwood and Barnett concluded:
In our view, a curriculum framework is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for quality teaching and learning. Teachers' use of a curriculum framework in the classroom to serve the increasingly diverse needs of their pupils requires considerable sophistication of understanding and professional judgement and creativity. No national framework or curriculum policy, however well developed, can function as a direct instrument to effect pupils' learning -- the failure of past attempts at 'teacher-proof curricula' are surely evidence of this. What a framework can provide, however, is a common set of goals and expectations from which teachers can design programmes which are meaningful and effective in their specific contexts. (p. 347)
This chapter has described a myriad of other products and processes (beyond curriculum policy and teacher understanding) that need to be orchestrated to create a meaningful and effective STS science experience for students.
The professional and political paradigm shifts associated with successful STS reform
have direct implications for assessment and evaluation practices. In addition to the implications
for student assessment discussed in the chapter, we need to broaden those implications to
include evaluating the support experienced by teachers. Part of the design of a rational reform
effort should include concrete plans for assessing the support that teachers receive from
government, industry, universities, and parents. The stakeholders who participated in the
deliberation process over STS reform must initiate ways by which the jurisdictions they
represent will be evaluated by teachers in terms of the perceived support provided during an
extended implementation process. Stakeholders must be held accountable to teachers in any
reform effort, and this accountability must be designed into the curriculum policy from the very
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Table 1. Relationships Between Processes and Products in STS Science Education
Curriculum Classroom Teacher Student
Policy Materials Understanding Learning
Deliberation high low
R & D low high low
Implementation low high low
Instruction/Assessment low high