Barbara Spector
University of South Florida

This course develops students' awareness of science and technology as human enterprises that take place in a social, environmental, and historical context. Various interactions of science, technology, and society are explored in the context of issues relevant to the learners. The learner constructs a grounded theory(1) about the nature of the interaction of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and its role in science education reform. The goal of the course is to enable students to construct a historical and philosophical understanding of (a) the nature of the scientific enterprise, including the interaction of science, technology, and society; (b) the multiple dimensions and complexities of sample STS topics; and (c) how to teach STS to diverse audiences.

The course was designed, and continues to be refined, by a team of representatives from a variety of colleges in the University, business and industry, successful STS secondary school teachers, and STS course alumni. The design team is also the instructional team. Team members serve as expert resources, mentors for study groups, co-learners conducting inquiries, and technical assistants for computer work. They model constructivist teaching strategies.

The course fulfills four graduation requirements: (a) science certification, (b) computer applications, (c) an exit requirement for the university's general education liberal arts core, and (d) a portion of Florida's Gordon Rule writing requirement. Extensive reflective journaling by participants describing their growing understanding of STS is used to meet the last requirement which involves the development of discursive writing skills. The course is required of all science education majors at the University.

The class is scheduled to meet for three hours on campus once each week of the semester for a total of 45 contact hours. Each semester students are offered the option of meeting for four six-hour days on weekends, instead of some of the weekly three-hour sessions. These longer sessions contribute to a sense of immersion in STS. They enable students to articulate and compare the patterns of STS interactions that emerge for each of them. Individual students participate in activities at STS demonstration school sites in University of South Florida’s client school districts for an additional 30 contact hours (five six-hour days) to total the 75 contact hours required for a five credit course. Assignments, beyond the 75 class contact hours, require students to view videotapes for 22 hours and read specific books and journal articles. Students are required to have upper division standing with a major in one of the science disciplines, or in integrated science, to enroll in this course.


The participants will be able to:

1. describe the nature of science from both current and historical perspectives;

2. describe the nature of technology from both current and historical perspectives;

3. describe the interaction of science and technology with each other and society;

4. construct an understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise including the role of the interactions among science, technology, and society;

5. begin to use the computer and related technologies, such as interactive laser discs and computer programs, to promote active learning, critical thinking, cooperative learning, and inductive teaching of STS;

6. use STS as the context to help learners construct basic science concepts;

7. use a constructivist approach to teach diverse student audiences about the nature of the scientific enterprise and the interaction of science, technology, and society;

8. explain the role of STS in the science education reform movement.


The following are samples of the types of core activities in the course. The exact number of teaching-learning experiences and their order vary each time the course is offered. Student responses guide decisions about the way class time is used.

On-Campus Sessions (three hours each)

The Nature of Science

Session 1: A shifting paradigm.

Session 2: Science versus pseudoscience.

Session 3: Science versus pseudoscience (continued).

Session 4: Reflection and Analysis(2): Academic perspectives on the nature of science, the nature of technology, and the interaction of science and technology with society.

Prior to class, students read:

Kuhn, T. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions.

Spector, B., & Lederman, N. (1990). Science and technology: Human enterprises.

Historical Perspectives

Session 5: Reflection and Analysis: Science discoveries that changed our lives and those that could change our lives.

Prior to class, students read:

Hammond, A.L. (ed.). (1984). Century of the sciences: Twenty inventions that changed our lives.

Hammond, A.L. (1985). The next step: Twenty-five breakthroughs that could change our lives.

Session 6: Reflections and Analysis: A mosaic approach to tracing various STS interactions through history.

Prior to class, students view:

Jackson, M., & Kennard, D. (Producers). (1990). Connections [videotape]. Lynch, J. (Producer). (1995). The Day the Universe Changed [videotape].

Sample STS Issues

Session 7: Reflection and Analysis: The AIDS dilemma

Prior to class, students view:

Spelling, A. (Executive Producer). (1993). And the band played on: Politics, people, and the AIDS epidemic.

Session 8: Hazardous waste.

Prior to class, students explore a site in the community related to waste disposal.

Session 9: Technology and psychology.

Session 10: Share contents from the New Liberal Arts monograph series.

Prior to class, students read two books from the Monograph Series of the New Liberal Arts Program.

STS and School Reform

Session 11: Reflection and analysis: Multiple perspectives of STS and schooling

Prior to class, students read:

Aikenhead, G. (1992). The integration of STS into science education.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science for All Americans.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1994). Benchmarks for Science Literacy.

Carter, C. (1992). Science-Technology-Society and access to scientific knowledge.

Hurd, P. D. (1992). Closing the education gaps between science, technology, and society.

Nagasu, N. (1992). What is the STS approach: Historical and practical background.

Spector, B. S. (1989). Empowering teachers: Survival and development.

Spector, B. S. (1991). Middle school science and STS: An ideal match.

Yager, R. (1990). The Science/Technology/Society movement in the United States: Its origin, evolution and rationale.

Session 12: Reflection and Analysis: Site exploration at Sugg Middle School

Prior to class, students conduct two six-hour participant observations at Sugg Middle School.

Session 13: Develop STS action plans.

Session 14: Present STS action plans.

Session 15: Present final projects.

Off-Campus Sessions (six hours each)

Conduct five six-hour participant observations at our STS demonstration school sites.

Dates for these school site explorations are determined by students in concert with the teachers at the demonstration sites. A minimum of two explorations at Sugg Middle School must be completed before on-campus session 12.


1. Students participate in a study group and electronic mail discussions which include a mentor who is a successful STS teacher.

2. Students review the STS databases for publications, software, and videos in the Project 2061 Higher Education Research and Development Center.

3. Students view the videotaped series Connections and The Day the Universe Changed (Each series consists of ten one-hour episodes. Allow time for reflection between viewing each tape). Alternatively, students read the books with the same titles and write responses to questions handed out in class as part of their journal (see assignment # 8).

4. Students read all print matter on the required reading list.

5. Students read two books chosen from the New Liberal Arts monograph series and share the contents of them with classmates. They are expected to be thorough enough so that those who have not read the same books can speak intelligently about the particular example of STS to their future students.

6. Students develop and present an action plan addressing an STS issue.

7. Students write response papers (exit memos) for each class session.

8. Students keep an extensive reflective journal in which they integrate the meanings they are constructing from their various experiences related to STS. They are required to make a minimum of one entry each week(3),

9. Final Project: Students develop an original format to assess the degree to which they have integrated information from the experiences in this course into their own cognitive framework.They are expected to include their understanding of the scientific enterprise and a plan for teaching STS. Students share this plan with the class as their final assignment during session 15. They are expected to include references to material from all the assigned readings, videotapes, and computer programs.


Grades are based on the quality and quantity of student participation during on-campus and off-campus sessions and the quality and quantity of assignments they complete. One of the criteria used to assess quality is students' analytic, conceptual, and creative thinking as expressed through their oral communications in class and in written assignments. Consequently, attendance at all class sessions, for the entire session, is required. Absences and tardiness are reflected in students' grade. Failure to return all materials that have been loaned to students results in a final grade of F.

(1) Grounded theory is an explanation that has been developed from the data generated during an inquiry, thus the theory is grounded in the data.

(2) While all class sessions provide opportunity for interaction and analysis, a Reflection and Analysis session is specifically structured to provide opportunities for interaction and dialog with peers and experts. The dialog enables students to articulate and compare the patterns emerging for each of them personally, and the interpretations, hypotheses, and theories you generate from the patterns. The evidence and reasoning used to establish each person's perspective are questioned.

(3) The journal entries are used to satisfy Gordon Rule requirements, therefore must total at least 6,000 words