EDEC 646: Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Science
EDEC 647: Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Mathematics
COMP 766: Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Computer Science

Winter 2019 - McGill University - Instructor: Elizabeth Patitsas

Course Description

This course presents historical, philosophical and sociocultural perspectives on construction of knowledge in {the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science}. A particular emphasis will be placed on how social, cultural, and political forces shape the products of scientific practices, the importance of {scientific, mathematical, computational} literacy, and the relevance this bears for {science, math, computing} education and {science, math, computing} education research.

Course Information

Wednesdays 5:35 - 8:35 pm
Education Building 431

Office hours: Thursdays 4-5pm, either in McConnell 231 or online (see Piazza)

Registering for COMP 766 requires permission of the instructor. To register, contact Elizabeth with why you want to take the course, and what background you have in philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, and/or education. If you have any experience teaching CS, note that also.

This term we will be using Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates and myself. Rather than emailing questions to me, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. You can set a post on Piazza to be private so only I can see it.

Find our class page at: https://piazza.com/mcgill.ca/winter2019/edec646edec647comp766/home

Auditing the class requires instructor permission. Auditors are expected to join the Piazza discussion forum and to complete the weekly readings.

Course Format

The course has a seminar format; and will be heavy on reading, writing, and discussion. In a typical week, everyone will have three articles to read before class. In class, we will discuss the readings, and complete exercises that involve discussing and applying the readings. Your course grade will be based on in-class activities, leading discussions about readings, and short papers where you apply the readings.

I prefer to teach in a student-responsive manner. As a result, in our first class we will discuss what you want this class to be. What topics from the philosophy, history & sociocultural study of science/math/CS do you want to learn about? I will pick readings based on topics chosen by the class. Deadlines for papers will also be determined with advisement from the class.

To give prospective students a sense of what we might study this term, I have provided example topics in the schedule. These topics are subject to revision based on student feedback.


See course readings & schedule.

Course-level Learning Goals
  1. To develop a sense of contemporary trends in sociocultural research in science and math education. We will look especially at how different theoretical framings can bring into focus new perspectives on science and math practices. These should help you begin to develop your own theoretical commitments as you embark on your own graduate research/capstone projects.
  2. To critically read and assess research in science and math education. This will entail identifying arguments, exploring the role of theory in these arguments, making connections between research questions and methods, and critiquing the products of these methods.
  3. To begin to analyze and synthesize contemporary trends in bodies of literature. This will entail identifying theories and methods in related work and discussing how they build on each other or contribute to our understanding of the phenomenon.

Multiweek learning goals

  1. Identify research traditions & clusters in a given body of academic literature (week 1 onwards)
  2. Appreciate the relationship between philosophy and teaching (wk1 onwards)
  3. Appreciate the relationship between philosophy and research (wk1 onwards)
  4. Appreciate research as a sociopolitical process, whether it be science research, math research, or education research (wk1 onwards)

  5. Identify how modern scientific practices have racist, sexist & ableist roots (wk2 onwards)
  6. Identify common errors in empirical research (wk2 onwards)
  7. Critique empirical research with regard to its methods (wk2 onwards)
  8. List best practices for empirical and theoretical research (wk2 onwards)
  9. Explain why best practices in research are important from an equity/anti-oppression lens (wk2 onwards)

  10. Appreciate the importance of situating oneself when doing research (wk4 onwards)
  11. Upon reading an academic article, identify & list major points/contributions/arguments of the article (wk4 onwards)
  12. Identify the methodological tradition of a given research article (wk5 onwards)
  13. Identify the disciplinary tradition of a given research article (wk5 onwards)

  14. Identify the theories used by a given research article, even when not explicitly stated. (wk6 onwards) Specific focus on:
    1. Social theory (wk6 onwards)
    2. Culture theory (wk8 onwards)
    3. Theory of gender (wk7 onwards)
    4. Theory of race/racism (wk2 onwards)
    5. Theory of disability (wk12 onwards)
    6. Learning theory (wk9 onwards)
  15. Identify other types of theories (e.g. power, identity) that one should look for in a STEM education article, motivating the need to "unpack" common suitcase words (wk10 onwards)
  16. Critique research with regard to its theoretical basis (wk6 onwards)
  17. Identify themes between/amongst different theories (wk7 onwards)

Course Policies

Safe Space Statement:

We are committed to nurturing a space where students, teaching assistants, lecturers, and professors can all engage in the exchange of ideas and dialogue, without fear of being made to feel unwelcome or unsafe on account of biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race/ethnicity, religion, linguistic and cultural background, age, physical or mental ability, or any other aspect integral to one's personhood. We therefore recognize our responsibility, both individual and collective, to strive to establish and maintain an environment wherein all interactions are based on empathy and mutual respect for the person, acknowledging differences of perspectives, free from judgment, censure, and/or stigma.

In keeping with the professional culture of teaching and learning, the Faculty of Education community believes that our teaching and learning spaces should model such professional environments. As a community, we are committed to creating authentic opportunities where understanding of teaching and learning is co-constructed between instructors and students. In order for us to create these learning environments, we are expected to demonstrate awareness of, respect for and commitment to the behaviours and actions of professionals. As members of the Faculty of Education community, we are expected to be accountable to ourselves and others and to be engaged, collegial and accessible. By doing so, we are more fully able to share together in the types of critical dialogue, creative thinking and reflective practice expected of professionals.

Scent Free Environment:

This classroom and associated office hours are a scent free environment. Please refrain from wearing perfume, cologne and body spray in these spaces out of respect for people with neurological & respiratory issues that may be affected by these scents.

Academic Integrity:

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offenses under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures” (see www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/ for more information).


Students with disabilities who require accommodations should discuss their needs with at least one of the instructor and/or the Office for Students with Disabilities (https://www.mcgill.ca/osd/).

Students who are pregnant and/or caring for a dependent also often may find it helpful to receive academic accommodations. McGill's guidelines for accommodations for students who are pregnant and/or caring for a dependent may be found at https://www.mcgill.ca/study/2018-2019/university_regulations_and_resources/graduate/gi_accommodation_pregnancy_caring_dependants

Missed Class Policy:

If you miss a class because you're sick, there's too much snow, or any other significant reason, here's what you should do:

1. Let me know as a private post on Piazza that you won't be there, with as much advance warning as reasonably possible.
2. Complete the worksheets for the missed class.
3. Bring the printed worksheet to either the next office hour that you can attend, or the next class which you are able to attend.


See Assessment.