A Workshop Fostering Critical Thinking
about Science, Technology and Human Affairs

hosted by the Program in Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT)
Graduate College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Boston
with support from STEMTEC (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Teacher Education Collaborative)
Monday, July 26th.

Post-Workshop Report and Links

"Lifelong learners understand questions and problems of science and technology in the context of human affairs." Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for Science and Technology.

The Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston brought together teachers, students, and other concerned citizens to participate in a day of workshops and presentations given by innovative and inspiring teachers. Teachers engaged participants through case studies ranging from genetic testing to population growth and environment. Participants learned how placing developments in science and technology in their social context can enliven and enrich science education, science popularization, and citizen activism. The sessions were designed to stimulate a range of participants: K-12 and college teachers wanting make the science, technology and human affairs an integral part of their science or social studies classes; high school and college students wanting to keep sight of the social implications of their studies in science; and citizens wanting to promote active social debate about the directions taken in science and technology. Participants left supplied with materials to help them adapt the workshop sessions to their own situations and with a directory of participants for support and inspiration for their subsequent efforts.

For more information contact the workshop organizer, Peter Taylor, 617-287-7636 or

Evaluation of the workshop by Steve Fifield, University of Delaware

Workshop session reports and associated links (as of 17 August 99 --more ot be added)

"How do we know there is a population-environment problem?"
Peter Taylor (CCT, U. Mass. Boston)
Although the relationship between population growth and environmental change is featured in the sessions's title, the central problem of the session is different and intended to be of more general relevance--how to produce conceptual change in an audience without suppressing important complexity. This problem stems from the observation that simpler, general accounts are easier to convey and receive more notice than more faithful but complicated accounts in education and wider social discussions.

"How is scientific knowledge generated?"
Brian White (Biology, U. Mass. Boston) (email
Participants engaged in an exercise in hypothesis generation and evaluation based on a simple biological phenomenon. We then explored issues of consensus, experience, authority, and dissent in a scientific context.

"Complex Case Studies from Simple Consumer Goods"
Douglas Allchin (SHiPS (Sociology, History and Philosophy in Science teaching), Minnesota)
Develop role-playing simulations based on real-world examples that embody questions of technology and values at the intersection of ecology, economics and ethics. We introduce a sample case of an auto paint facility in an urban area, engage in student-style writing exercises and group discussions, and reflect on how to adapt other such cases for the classroom.

"The Apple: Applying the Constructivist Model to Learning and Teaching Science Concepts"
Barbara Waters (Science Education Specialist, Chatham, MA)
(for more information, email
The apple serves as a concrete and familiar model for elementary teachers to challenge misconceptions about scientific thinking and produce genuine conceptual change. Students may score well on science tests, yet be unable to apply what they have learned to new problems in the practical or real world situation, so a more involved and complicated "constructivist" model of learning and teaching science is needed.

"Search for Solutions to Life's Messy Problems"
Nina Greenwald (Adjunct Professor, CCT Program)
(for more information, email

"Teaching Student-Active Science"
Charlene D'Avanzo (Prof. of Biology, Hampshire College)
(for more information, email

"Genetic Testing as Disguised Eugenics?"
Diane Paul (Politics, U. Mass. Boston)
(for more information, email

"What Would Environmental Justice Be?"
Arthur Millman (Philosophy, U. Mass. Boston)
(for more information, email

Cancelled sessions
"Teaching evolution to creationists"
Jennifer Chidsey (Education, Louisiana State University)
This workshop was to have dealt both with the controversy, the "how to," and the logic and thought patterns behind the arguments used by those for and against (and all the grey areas in between) teaching evolution in schools. Participants were to leave with many unanswered questions, but also with an understanding deep enough to debate this issue with peers, students, and others.

"Subverting the gender divide in middle school computer education"
Jennifer Jensen (Education, Simon Fraser University)
(see GenTech website)

Information on Display Tables about these Other Groups
Loka Institute (Making Science and Technology Responsive to Democratically Decided Social and Environmental Concerns)
International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science
ISIS (Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies)
MESPA Technology Center (Massachusetts Elementary School Principals' Association)
BioQuest (consortium promoting inquiry-based learning in high scholl and college biology)
Science as Culture (Popular journal on sciene-in-society)
Massachusetts Studies Project (Educational resources about Mass. for teachers, students and lifelong learners)
Changing Life (working group on teaching critical thinking about the life and environmental sciences)
Council for Responsible Genetics
Doing Biology (A text of cases for teaching biology in its social context)
Subscription Addresses for Museum Listserves
Guide to science-in-society programs at college level