Science, technology, society and environment education

Science, technology, society and environment education

Science, technology, society and environment (STSE) education, originates from the science technology and society (STS) movement in science education. This is an outlook onyou are my amazment science education that emphasizes the teaching of scientific and technological developments in their cultural, economic, social and political contexts. In this view of science education, students are encouraged to engage in issues pertaining to the impact of science on everyday life and make responsible decisions about how to address such issues (Solomon, 1993 and Aikenhead, 1994).

Historical context

cience technology and society (STS)

The STS movement has a long history in science education reform, and embraces a wide range of theories about the intersection between science, technology and society (Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994; Pedretti 1997). Over the last twenty years, the work of Peter Fensham, the noted Australian science educator, is considered to have heavily contributed to reforms in science education. Fensham's efforts included giving greater prominence to STS in the school science curriculum (Aikenhead, 2003). The key aim behind these efforts was to ensure the development of a broad-based science curriculum, embedded in the socio-political and cultural contexts in which it was formulated. From Fensham's point of view, this meant that students would engage with different viewpoints on issues concerning the impact of science and technology on everyday life. They would also understand the relevance of scientific discoveries, rather than just concentrate on learning scientific facts and theories that seemed distant from their realities (Fensham, 1985 & 1988.

However, although the wheels of change in science education had been set in motion during the late 1970s, it was not until the 1980s that STS perspectives began to gain a serious footing in science curricula, in largely Western contexts (Gaskell, 1982). This occurred at a time when issues such as, animal testing, environmental pollution and the growing impact of technological innovation on social infrastructure, were beginning to raise ethical, moral, economic and political dilemmas (Fensham, 1988 and Osborne, 2000). There were also concerns among communities of researchers, educators and governments pertaining to the general public's lack of understanding about the interface between science and society (Bodmer, 1985; Durant "et al." 1989 and Millar 1996). In addition, alarmed by the poor state of scientific literacy among school students, science educators began to grapple with the quandary of how to prepare students to be informed and active citizens, as well as the scientists, medics and engineers of the future (e.g. Osborne, 2000 and Aikenhead, 2003). Hence, STS advocates called for reforms in science education that would equip students to understand scientific developments in their cultural, economic, political and social contexts. This was considered important in making science accessible and meaningful to all students -- and, most significantly, engaging them in real world issues (Fensham, 1985; Solomon, 1993; Aikenhead, 1994 and Hodson 1998).

Goals of STS

The key goals of STS are:

*An interdisciplinary HI approach to science education, where there is a seamless integration of economic, ethical, social and political aspects of scientific and technological developments in the science curriculum.

*Engaging students in examining a variety of real world issues and grounding scientific knowledge in such realities. In today's world, such issues might include the impact on society of: global warming, genetic engineering, animal testing, deforestation practices, nuclear testing and environmental legislations, such as the EU Waste Legislation or the Kyoto Protocol.

*Enabling students to formulate a critical understanding of the interface between science, society and technology.

*Developing students’ capacities and confidence to make informed decisions, and to take responsible action to address issues arising from the impact of science on their daily lives.

cope and emphasis

Over the last two decades, STS curricula have taken a variety of forms. These emphasize a particular aspect of STS according to the socio-political environment in which they are formulated, as well as the particular views of curriculum developers on STS education and what is considered valid knowledge in a science curriculum (Solomon & Aikenhead 1994 and Aikenhead, 2003). For example, in Canada and Israel, STS goals directed towards understanding environmental issues were given greater emphasis. Hence, the addition of “E” to STS, producing STSE and STES respectively. Whereas, in Belgium, goals focusing on ethics were given greater prominence in STS education, and resulted in the publication of the journal "Science Technologies Ethique Societé", (Aikenhead, 2003). However, for the most part, STS curricula are bound by an overarching curriculum framework. This reflects the three curriculum content areas for STS education described by Hodson (1998):

"Learning science and technology": acquiring and developing conceptual and theoretical knowledge in science and technology, and gaining a familiarity with a range of technologies.

"Learning about science and technology": developing an understanding of the nature and methods of science and technology, an awareness of the complex interactions among science, technology, society and environment, and a sensitivity to the personal, social and ethical implications of particular technologies.

"Doing science and technology": engaging in and developing expertise in scientific inquiry and problem solving; developing confidence and competence in tackling a wide range of “real world” technological tasks.

TSE education

There is no uniform definition for STSE education. As mentioned before, STSE is a form of STS education, but places greater emphasis on the environmental consequences of scientific and technological developments. In STSE curricula, scientific developments are explored from a variety of economic, environmental, ethical, moral, social and political (Kumar and Chubin, 2000 & Pedretti, 2005) perspectives.

At best, STSE education can be loosely defined as a movement that attempts to bring about an understanding of the interface between science, society, technology and the environment. A key goal of STSE is to help students realize the significance of scientific developments in their daily lives and foster a voice of active citizenship (Pedretti & Forbes, 2000).

Improving scientific literacy

Over the last two decades, STSE education has taken a prominent position in the science curricula of different parts of the world, such as Australia, Europe, the UK and USA (Kumar & Chubin, 2000). In Canada, the inclusion of STSE perspectives in science education has largely come about as a consequence of the "Common Framework of science learning outcomes, Pan Canadian Protocol for collaboration on School Curriculum (1997)" [] . This document highlights a need to develop scientific literacy in conjunction with understanding the interrelationships between science, technology, and environment. According to Osborne (2000) & Hodson (2003), scientific literacy can be perceived in four different ways:

*Cultural: Developing the capacity to read about and understand issues pertaining to science and technology in the media.

*Utilitarian: Having the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are essential for a career as scientist, engineer or technician.

*Democratic: Broadening knowledge and understanding of science to include the interface between science, technology and society.

*Economic: Formulating knowledge and skills that are essential to the economic growth and effective competition within the global market place.

Rationale and goals

In the context of STSE education, the goals of teaching and learning are largely directed towards engendering cultural and democratic notions of scientific literacy. Here, advocates of STSE education argue that in order to broaden students understanding of science, and better prepare them for active and responsible citizenship in the future, the scope of science education needs to go beyond learning about scientific theories, facts and technical skills. Therefore, the fundamental aim of STSE education is to equip students to understand and situate scientific and technological developments in their cultural, environmental, economic, political and social contexts (Solomon & Aikenhead, 1994; Bingle & Gaskell, 1994; Pedretti 1997 & 2005). For example, rather than learning about the facts and theories of weather patterns, students can explore them in the context of issues such as global warming. They can also debate the environmental, social, enconomic and political consequences of relevant legislation, such as the Kyoto Protocol. This is thought to provide a richer, more meaningful and relevant canvas against which scientific theories and phenomena relating to weather patterns can be explored (Pedretti "et al." 2005).

In essence, STSE education aims to develop the following skills and perspectives (Aikenhead, 1994; Pedretti, 1996; Alsop & Hicks, 2001):

*Social responsibility

*Critical thinking and decision making skills

*The ability to formulate sound ethical and moral decisions about issues arising from the impact of science on our daily lives
*Knowledge, skills and confidence, to express opinions and take responsible action to address real world issues in science

Curriculum content

Since STSE education has multiple facets, there are a variety of ways in which it can be approached in the classroom. This offers teachers a degree of flexibility, not only in the incorporation of STSE perspectives into their science teaching, but in integrating other curricular areas such as history, geography, social studies and language arts (Richardson & Blades, 2001). The table below summarizes the different approaches to STSE education described in the literature (Ziman, 1994 & Pedretti, 2005):

ummary table: Curriculum content

Opportunities and challenges of STSE education

Although advocates of STSE education keenly emphasize its merits in science education, they also recognize inherent difficulties in its implementation. The opportunities and challenges of STSE education have been articulated by Hughes (2000) and Pedretti & Forbes, (2000), at five different levels, as described below:

Values & beliefs: The goals of STSE education may challenge the values and beliefs of students and teachers -- as well as conventional, culturally entrenched views on scientific and technological developments. Students gain opportunities to engage with, and deeply examine the impact of scientific development on their lives from a critical and informed perspective. This helps to develop students' analytical and problem solving capacities, as well as their ability to make informed choices in their everyday lives.

As they plan and implement STSE education lessons, teachers need to provide a balanced view of the issues being explored. This enables students to formulate their own thoughts, independently explore other opinions and have the confidence to voice their personal viewpoints. Teachers also need to cultivate safe, non-judgmental classroom environments, and must also be careful not to impose their own values and beliefs on students.

Knowledge & understanding: The interdisciplinary nature of STSE education requires teachers to research and gather information from a variety of sources. At the same time, teachers need to develop a sound understanding of issues from various disciplines -- philosophy, history, geography, social studies, politics, economics, environment and science. This is so that students’ knowledge base can be appropriately scaffolded to enable them to effectively engage in discussions, debates and decision-making processes.

This ideal raises difficulties. Most science teachers are specialized in a particular field of science. Lack of time and resources may effect how deeply teachers and students can examine issues from multiple perspectives. Nevertheless, a multi-disciplinary approach to science education enables students to gain a more rounded perspective on the dilemmas, as well as the opportunities, that science presents in our daily lives.

Pedagogic approach: Depending on teacher experience and comfort levels, a variety of pedagogic approaches based on constructivism can be used to stimulate STSE education in the classroom. As illustrated in the table below, the pedagogies used in STSE classrooms need to take students through different levels of understanding to develop their abilities and confidence to critically examine issues and take responsible action.

Teachers are often faced with the challenge of transforming classroom practices from task-oriented approaches to those which focus on developing students' understanding and transferring agency for learning to students (Hughes, 2000). The table below is a compilation of pedagogic approaches for STSE education described in the literature (e.g. Hodson, 1998; Pedretti & Forbes 2000; Richardson & Blades, 2001):

ee also

*Learning theory (education)
*Science and technology


*Aikenhead, G.S. (2003) STS Education: a rose by any other name. In "A Vision for Science Education: Responding to the world of Peter J. Fensham", (ed.) Cross, R.: Routledge Press.
*Aikenhead, G.S. (1994) What is STS science teaching? In Solomon, J. & G. Aikenhead (eds.), "STS Education: International Perspectives in Reform". New York: Teacher’s College Press.
*Alsop, S. & Hicks, K. (eds.), (2001) "Teaching Science". London: Kogan Page.
*Bingle, W. & Gaskell, P. (1994) Science literacy for decision making and the social construction of scientific knowledge. "Science Education", 78(2): pp.185-201.
*Bodmer, W., F.(1985) "The Public Understanding of Science". London: The Royal Society
*Durant, J.,R., Evans, G.A., Thomas, G.P.(1989)The public understanding of science. "Nature", 340, pp.11-14.
*Fensham, P.J. (1985) Science for all. "Journal of Curriculum Studies", 17: pp415-435.
*Fensham, P.J. (1988) Familiar but different: Some dilemmas and new directions in science education. In P.J. Fensham(ed.), "Developments and dilemmas in science education". New York: Falmer Press pp. 1-26.
*Gaskell, J.P. (1982) Science, technology and society: Issues for science teachers. "Studies in Science Education", 9, pp.33-36.
*Hodson, D. (1998)"Teaching and Learning Science: Towards a Personalized Approach". Buckingham: Open University Press
*Hodson, D. (2003) Time for action: Science education for an alternative future. "International Journal of Science Education", 25 (6): pp.645–670.
*Hughes, G. (2000) Marginalization of socio-scientific material in science-technology-society science curricula: some implications for gender inclusivity and curriculum reform, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37 (5): pp.426-40.
*Kumar, D. & Chubin, D.(2000) "Science Technology and Society: A sourcebook or research and practice". London: Kluwer Academic.
*Miller, R. (1996) Towards as science curriculum for public understanding. "School Science Review", 77 (280): pp.7018.
*Osborne, J. (2000) Science for citizenship. In "Good Practice in Science Teaching", (eds.) Monk, M. & Osborne, J.: Open University Press: UK.
*Pedretti, E. (1996) Learning about science, technology and society (STS) through an action research project: co-constructing an issues based model for STS education. 'School Science and Mathematics", 96 (8), pp.432-440.
*Pedretti, E. (1997) Septic tank crisis: a case study of science, technology and society education in an elementary school. "International Journal of Science Education", 19 (10): pp.1211-30.
*Pedretti, E., & Forbes (2000) From curriculum rhetoric to classroom reality, STSE education. "Orbit", 31 (3): pp.39-41.
*Pedretti, E., Hewitt, J., Bencze, L., Jiwani, A. & van Oostveen, R. (2004) Contexualizing and promoting Science, Technology, Society and Environment (STSE) perspectives through multi-media case methods in science teacher education. In D.B Zandvliet (Ed.), "Proceedings of the annual conference of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching", Vancouver, BC. CD ROM.
*Pedretti, E. (2005) STSE education: principles and practices in Aslop S., Bencze L., Pedretti E. (eds.), "Analysing Exemplary Science Teaching: theoretical lenses and a spectrum of possibilities for practice", Open University Press, Mc Graw-Hill Education
*Richardson, G., & Blades, D. (2001) Social Studies and Science Education: Developing World Citizenship Through Interdisciplinary Partnerships
*Solomon, J. (1993) "Teaching Science, Technology & Society". Philadelphia, CA: Open University Press.
*Solomon, J. & Aikenhead, G. (eds.) (1994) "STS Education: International Perspectives in Reform". New York: Teacher’s College Press.
*Ziman, J. (1994) The rational of STS education in the approach. In Solomon, J. & Aikenhead, G. (eds.) (1994). "STS Education: International Perspectives in Reform". New York: Teacher’s College Press, pp.21-31.

External links


* [ Procedural Education] - This site provides useful guidelines, resources and lesson plans for STSE education.
* [ Science] - A useful website for background information when using the historical approach to STSE. The website contains information about on scientists, their achievements and research interests.
* [ Orange County STS Network] - A useful website for information on science and technology issues that could be explored in middle and high school curricula.
* [ Science Sites] - A site for teachers and students containing resources for exploring scientific and technological issues.
* [ Science Experiments] - An educational website aimed at providing a range of activities to promote science amongst children.
* [ Science Facts] - A website that looks at scientific finds related to human interaction, outer space and nature.
* [ Panda] - A sister site of the World Wildlife Fund, containing resources for students and teachers on environmental issues.
* [ Canadian Museum of Nature] - The Canadian Museum of Nature site provides curriculum based resources and lesson plans that can be adapted for STSE education.

amples of science curricula

* [ Council of Ministers of Education, Canada] The Councils of Ministers of Education, Canada, website is a useful resource for understanding the goals and position of STSE education in Canadian Curricula.
* [ UK Science Curriculum]
* [ USA Science Curriculum Standards]
* [ Australian Science Curriculum]


These are examples of books available for information on STS/STSE education, teaching practices in science and issues that may be explored in STS/STSE lessons.

*Alsop S., Bencze L., Pedretti E. (eds), (2005). Analysing Exemplary Science Teaching. Theoretical lenses and a spectrum of possibilities for practice, Open University Press, Mc Graw-Hill Education
*Gailbraith D. (1997). Analyzing Issues: science, technology, & society. Toronto: Trifolium Books. Inc.
*Homer-Dixon, T. (2001). The Ingenuity G

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