Views of Eight Directors of Education
Regarding the Interrelationships Within Science, Technology and Society
By Ken Ladouceur (1990)
SSTA Research Centre Report #90-18: 11 pages, $11.
|Abtract||This study examines the views of directors of
education regarding their perception of the interrelationships among science, technology
and society. This study also considers how their views parallel the intent of the new STSE
oriented science curriculum that is planned for Saskatchewan.
The basis of the new K to 12 science curriculum is a set of seven dimensions of scientific literature developed by Saskatchewan Education (1987): the nature of science, science-technology-society-environment interrelationships (STSE), science related interests and attitudes, scientific and technical skills, key science concepts, key science processes, and values that underlie science.
|Rationale for the Project|
|Recommendations for Boards of Education|
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This study examines the views of directors of education regarding their perception of the interrelationships among science, technology and society. This study also considers how their views parallel the intent of the new STSE oriented science curriculum that is planned for Saskatchewan. In doing so, the study considers how the directors' views may impact on the implementation of this new curriculum. A new science curriculum has evolved from Directions The Final Report (Minister's Advisory Committee on Curriculum and Instruction, 1984). The basis of this K to 12 science curriculum is a set of seven dimensions of scientific literacy developed by Saskatchewan Education (1987). Science for Saskatchewan Schools: Proposed Directions (1987) describes these dimensions as: the nature of science, science-technology - society-environment interrelationships (STSE), science related interests and attitudes, scientific and technical skills, key science concepts, key science processes, and values that underlie science. This study used naturalistic research methodology in that the semi-structured interview was used to generate most of the data. This method was coupled with an initial survey. The survey was used as an advance organizer, It was based on items selected from the pool of survey questions generated by Aikenhead, Fleming and Ryan (1989). Holding to qualitative practices, the researcher used a constant comparison to analyze the data. In doing so, the analysis was started early 1n the study and maintained as data was collected. The study concluded that directors believe STSE Interrelationships are important for any new science curriculum. The directors felt that science education must express individual social responsibility and must illustrate science and technology as social activities. They saw scientific facts as transitional and as such are relatively unimportant. The directors did indicate that necessary operational skills must be taught, especially for accessing and manipulating \information in a highly technological world. Finally, the study concluded that the directors' views on science, technology and society will have a positive impact on implementation of any new STSE oriented science curriculum.
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The initial stages of a Science-Technology-Society-Environment oriented science curriculum implementation are now being undertaken 1n Saskatchewan schools. The ease with which this orientation is accepted by educators may depend upon the view they hold initially as to the benefit of incorporating and STSE emphasis within a science program. Researchers have undertaken intensive studies across Canada over the past 5 years to examine the perceptions of students and teachers as STSE issues. These studies utilized Views on Science, Technology and Society (VOSTS) whitish uncover naive conceptions about science and technology and about how individuals authentically function in a society increasingly shaped by science and technology. The perceptions of teachers and students have been researched while the views of administrators had yet to be investigated. Administrative understanding and cooperation has been recognized by Saskatchewan Education as part of the necessary framework for a new K-12 science :curriculum. This study examined that and speculates on the impact this understanding w111 have on implementation. The science curriculum goal of scientific literacy is described by seven dimensions which are both distinct in nature yet complementary as fundamental characteristics. Clearly a complete understanding of each of these dimensions is a necessary condition for the development of appropriate science curriculum. Their importance would naturally follow into the area of implementation of new curriculum materials. This study concentrated on one of these dimensions, science-technology- society-environment interrelationships, as seen by directors of education.
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The 1980's have produced a wealth of information dealing with program implementation. Prior to this studies were conducted to merely offer detailed accounts for program failure and to identify the contributing factors. More recent research has focused on the principal as facilitator of change. The Saskatchewan School Improvement Program also identifies the importance of the principal's leadership role to facilitate program development. This may be extended to anyone exercising a supervisory function which would include central office administration and In particular the director of education. Administrators tend to perceive themselves as offering leadership and facilitating change yet their role tends to be minimized to maintaining stability and avoiding conflict. Nonetheless what they perceive as important will have a degree of influence in the classroom. The director does wield direct influence over the principal whose role as facilitator of change has been clearly identified. The initial message may go through a number of transformations \n this top-down process as each individual makes his or her own interpretation of the intent of the message. The director of education, then, can have considerable influence in the classroom. This is particularly true during the implementation process when teachers are looking for direction, guidance and interpretation of intent of new curriculum materials. A situation has been recognized in science education where, at the secondary level 1, science is appropriate for a diminishing percentage of students entering first year university and even less when the entire population of graduating students is examined. The situation 1s seen as a failure to respond to changes 1n society. Science is perceived as being kept in the hands of scientist and away from a public understanding. Science teachers are seen as being guilty of perpetuating this science elitism. In 1981 a complete review of education in Saskatchewan was undertaken. In 1986 the report of the Core Curriculum Advisory Committee recommended that a core curriculum for K- 12 be initiated with science being one of the required core areas of study. Hart expresses optimism for how educators will define improvement to the current science education system. How the Implements and facilitators of this change define improvement may have considerable effect on this change. Currently a new K-12 STSE science Curriculum is being implemented 1n Saskatchewan schools with scientific literacy being the fundamental program goal. Scientific literacy is the STSE context that is fundamental to the new science curriculum for Saskatchewan. An STSE curriculum or1entatfon provides students with opportunities to discuss science and technology related societal and environmental issues a level appropriate to their ability to understand. Students must be able to make rational decisions related to technological and scientific information. The recently implemented Common Essential Learnings recognize technological literacy as a global concern for all teachers to address. The perceptions of directors of education as to an STSE orientation may be a critical factor to the success of the implementation of the new K 12 science curriculum. Saskatchewan Education has identified administrative understanding as a key operating condition that is necessary for smooth implementation. The director 1s a key member of the implementation process. STSE 1s recognized as a science curriculum orientation which is relevant for the contemporary technological society.
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This study investigated the perceptions held by selected rural directors as to the importance of an STSE curriculum emphasis within the study of science. To investigate these perceptions, a combination of survey and semi-structured interview were Incorporated. The research design was actually three-part: an initial survey, the semi-structured interview, the follow-up interview. A survey was utilized in this study as an advance organizer as well as to identify the initial perceptions that could be expanded on in the interview. It offered insight into the understanding of the respondents as well as cued the respondents as to the exact nature of the study. The survey allowed the respondents to examine their own understanding prior to the commencement of the initial interview. This study relied upon the semi-structured interview 1n order to gain the subjects individual responses, untainted or restricted by the questions themselves. The benefit of this methodology is well documented. The interview itself consisted of two parts. The first part was based on the respondents answers to the initial survey. The researcher probed into why a certain selection was made for each of the six survey questions. The second part consisted of prepared interview questions which were broad enough to allow for scope in individual responses. The questions allowed for extensive personal probing. This probing allowed the researcher insight into the directors' reality and world view of science. The choice to utilize the flexibility of' the semi-structured interview was made to enhance data and offer scope to individual responses. The structure was essential to the study to get compatible data across a large sample or to focus on particular topics that emerged during preliminary interviews. Follow-up interviews were also conducted where required to investigate any queries which arose from initial interview analysis. Field notes were taken. Interviews were taped and portions of the tapes were transcribed. Only the data whitish related to the problem statement was transcribed. On average approximately one-third of each tape was transcribed. A constant comparison of directors' responses was then undertaken in order to delineate any common patterns which existed for the subjects' beliefs. The proposed new science curriculum for Saskatchewan Education was used as a framework to present the directors' views.
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The primary problem statement of this thesis is, "What do eight directors of education from southern Saskatchewan believe to be the interrelationships among science, technology and society?" There 1s also a secondary problem being examined here which is, "How may their views of science, technology and society impact on the implementation of the new science STSE curriculum" Chapter 5 in the thesis, and in particular the summaries located on pages 47, 55 and 66, deals with a thorough examination of directors' beliefs regarding the interrelationships among science, technology and sociality. An emphasis on STSE is fundamental to the new science curriculum for Saskatchewan. A synopses of the directors' perceptions of STSE is outlined here. Directors' perceptions on STSE were generally characterized by: 1) the belief that science and technology are human activities and so are not absolute. 2) the understanding that what we know in science is constantly in flux. Directors were concerned with future science classes continuing to pay too much attention to information which may not be necessary. 3):he need for students to be taught necessary operational skills. These include fundamental skills of accessing and manipulating information in a highly technological society. 4) the need for students to learn their individual social responsibility. Students must understand the place that Scotty holds 1n the scientific and technological community. 5) the belief that STSE interrelationships are currently not being handled in schools at this time. 6) the belief that science and technology are social activates. Directors were concerned about ultimate responsibility, values-based decision-making and societal consequences of scientific activity. Directors believed STSE interrelationships are critical for any new science curriculum. They saw STSE interrelationships in science curricula as the natural extension of other recently implemented curricula that also express social responsibility. Directors saw STSE oriented science curricula as being overdue. They were excited about this orientation. Directors foresaw few problems for implementation of STSE oriented curricula. Some directors thought that certain problems may be difficult to solve. Most directors thought that an STSE orientation was critical to science education so problems must be overcome. They felt that problems will be human related and as such the process of implementation is vital. A lack of science specialization was recognized at the elementary level. To deal with this the directors felt that new curriculum must convey clear expectations of the teacher and school divisions must offer support through professional development. Directors sensed that high school teachers react to university expectations. Directors believed then that STSE oriented science curricula must be acceptable as a university entrance requirement.
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One can conclude that the directors' views on science, technology and society will have a positive impact on implementation of any new STSE science curriculum. Their views are either directly in line with those of Saskatchewan Education or are close enough as to not offer opposition. The misgivings were not directed at the curricula itself, but rather, they were directed at other influences in curriculum implementation. The researcher predicts that directors of education will support the new STSE science curriculum and will use their influence to encourage effective implementation in their schools.
An interesting finding of this study, though not part of the thesis problem statement, is the effect of CELs on directors of education. The CELs have acted as a type of advance organizer for STSE oriented science curricula implementation. Directors perceived STSE to be a natural way of bringing some Common Essential Learnings (such as technological literacy, personal social values and skills, and critical and creative thinking) into the classroom. They also saw other Common Essential Learnings, such as communication and independent learning, as offering possible methodologies with which to offer an STSE oriented science curriculum.
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RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BOARDS OF EDUCATION
This study adds to what we know by examining the beliefs of directors of education as to their understanding of STSE. It will assist implementers and facilitators of change as Saskatchewan enters an era of new curricula.
The directors of education examined within this study were found to share a view of science, technology, society and environment which parallels much of the intent of the new Saskatchewan science curriculum. The researcher recommends that individuals sharing this view closely monitor the implementation process. The natural progression of CELs through this new science curriculum was identified by the directors. If approached correctly a smooth transition from current classroom science to STSE oriented classroom science should take place. All of the directors in the study expressed interest in constantly expanding and enhancing their world views on science, technology and environment. If this perspective were shared by all members of implementation teams then it is the researcher's view that they will believe in the future of STSE curricula.
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