Vol.2, No.12, 1417-1424 (2010)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/NS/
Natural Science
The effects of science, technology, society, environment
(STSE) interactions on teaching chemistry
Nuray Yörük1*, Inci Morgil2, Nilgün Seçken2
1Ministry of National Education, Ankara, Türkiye; *Corresponding Author: nurayyoruk@yahoo.com
2Hacettepe University, Chemistry Education, Ankara, Türkiye
Received 14 September 2010; revised 15 October 2010; accepted 18 October 2010.
This study aimed to investigate the effects of
making Science, Technology, Society and En-
vironment relations on students’ comprehen-
sion of chemistry topics through teaching che-
mistry using STSE approach at secondary level.
The study made use of the research model
where pre and post tests were administered to
control and treatment groups. The Chemistry
Achievement Test (CAT) was used in the study.
The sampling consisted of Grade 9 students
studying at Anatolian High School and Voca-
tional High School. Since the sampling had not
been equated, in order to determine students’
logical and spatial thinking skills, they were
administered Logical Thinking Skill Test and
Mental Rotation test as pretests. Students were
chosen randomly to take part in two control and
two treatment groups. This experimental study
was applied to the treatment group in teaching
of “Separation of Mixtures” topic in Grade 9
Chemistry course during a four-week period.
Students in the control group were taught
through the traditional teaching methods. The
data obtained were analyzed through the SPSS
Software. As a result of the study, statistically
significant increases were observed in the
achievement levels of treatment group which
received instruction using STSE relations. The
change observed in the achievement levels of
the control group was not statistically signifi-
cant. The difference between the achievement
levels of control and treatment groups in the
posttests were favoring the treatment groups.
Keywords: Science; Technology; Society;
Environment (STSE); Chemistry Education;
Separation of Mixtures
In order a country to take steps towards being an in-
formation society, changes need to be made in the learn-
ing environments. Society consists of individuals and
information is communicated through individuals. Im-
provement in science would affect technology, society
and environment positively or negatively. Science could
develop as a result of an interaction between technology
as the application of theoretical knowledge and require-
ments created by social needs. The effects of this im-
provement have also reflected on the teaching of science
related courses. The most appropriate educational phi-
losophy that responds to these studies could be explained
by the STSE approach.
STSE stems from the belief that a connection between
the student and the real world should be established.
This process would lead the student to recognize possi-
ble problems that s/he has. An environment is created,
where students could collect data for the solution of their
problems, consider alternative solution ways, determine
the best ways to solve the problem and practice them [1].
Chemistry is a field of science, which investigates the
nature and behaviors of all substances in the universe
and uses this information to address the needs of human-
ity as well as establishing an environment of peace and
welfare [2]. Many situations we come across in life are
closely related to chemistry and involve scientific
knowledge. As individuals comprehend the relationship
between what they learn at school and what events affect
their lives, this could contribute to improvement of their
scientific literacy. Unless this relationship is compre-
hended at schools, individuals could not attain the re-
quired knowledge or skills for an easier life. Shortly, in
order individuals to understand and comprehend the
technological developments that affect all aspects of our
lives, they should receive training in basic science
course. That is how individuals could see the importance
of science and develop positive attitude towards it. With
the help of STSE related science education, students
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recognize the effects of technology in social life. More-
over, by understanding the relationship between science,
technology, society and environment, students could
recognize the interaction among the four.
Why are STSE relations required in science educa-
Human history experienced the process of moving
towards being an information society with the invention
of the first programmable computer in 1946, the ENIAC
[3]. These improvements in computer and communica-
tion technologies increased the production of knowledge
and its transfer. This was enabled by the ability of in-
formation technologies to maximize the level of com-
munication and sharing between individuals and organi-
zations. These developments bring forward the question
that how developments in communication and sharing of
knowledge could be integrated into education. Unless
the rapidly developing technology is applied to the field
of education, students would stay far behind the modern
age at the school environment. Information is rapidly
changing and increasing in quantity. In this case, it is
more important for students to learn how they could ac-
quire and use knowledge rather than memorizing it di-
rectly. Therefore, they should be aware of how science
courses they take at school could be related to technol-
ogy and society in terms of their uses.
“What is STSE and how could it be defined?”
Although STSE seems to be taken as easy since it re-
sembles similar topics to all individuals, its definition
and depth are quite different. The aim of the STSE re-
lated courses aim to enable individuals to understand
science better, to encourage students with creativity and
critical thinking, and to make boring and abstract topics
more interesting and fun [4]. There is no doubt that
learning could never be actualized in an isolated envi-
ronment from the world [5]. On the other hand, science
topics have been taught far away from the realities of the
real world. With the help of STSE relations, students are
aimed to construct their own understanding of STSE
concepts by uniting their life experiences with natural
world in terms of science and human made world in
terms of technology. Individuals are expected to con-
struct and relate these STSE concepts considering
his/her continuous interaction [4].
A study by Roy in 2000 concluded that:
1) Students would have knowledge about certain top-
ics related to science and technology with an increased
awareness level;
2) Students would be able to analyze topics related to
science and technology;
3) Technology would affect social life and there would
be an interaction with technology;
4) Students, having received training in science, would
prefer to study further in science or any related field they
may be interested in [6].
STSE related courses mediate in overcoming the mi-
sunderstandings about science by considering the role of
science in the society. The main aim of the courses re-
lated to science is to present science and technology as a
methodology, which enables students to make best de-
terminations through comparing scientific advantages
and disadvantages that appear as results of scientific
developments while trying to solve problems they face.
It is a part of STSE components to know the required
applications in life and solve the social problems through
science and technology. Teaching using this approach
would result in an increase in students’ scientific literacy
and interest. By enabling the student to recognize the
interaction among STSE, this approach would facilitate
making abstract concepts concrete.
STSE related education came from the postmodernist
approach [7-9]. This approach defines science as scien-
tific studies within human power, social, political and
economical content rather than theories and observable
findings [10,11].
STSE studies in the education system have been made
in different countries under various titles. This was
mainly a result of different countries’ having various
cultural, traditional and conceptual backgrounds. It
would be difficult to say that STSE related teaching pro-
gram would end up with same conclusions in every
country without any additions or integrations. The dif-
ferent titles given to the same approach could be ex-
plained through the individual requirements of each
country. For instance, there is specifically important
emphasis on environment within STS scope in Canada
[4,10,12,13,14]. These studies concluded with the addi-
tion of “environment” to STS, which later became STSE.
In Belgium, STS was enhanced with the involvement of
“ethics” and the term became STES relations with the
publication of the periodical named “Science, Technol-
ogy, Ethics and Society” [9], “Science, technology and
citizenship” [15], “Nature, technology, society” [16],
“Science for Society Approach” [17], “Functional Sci-
ence Literacy” [18], “Social Awareness” [19], are other
examples of this approach under different titles in the
literature. The common aim of all these studies was to
develop the scientific literacy and scientific understand-
ing. The target should be science for everyone and STSE
should function as the tool in science courses. After 1985,
it is observed that studies on this approach have in-
creased in number. These studies also took place in pro-
jects such as the PLON [20] in Holland, the SISCON [21]
in England, and the AAAS [22] in the USA. While these
developments were happening in the world, Turkey met
the STS related teaching in the study called “Elementary
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Science Education” in 1997; a study ran by Turkish
Higher Education Institution and the World Bank. In
2004, 4th and 5th grade elementary science curriculum
were changed and in 2005, 6th, 7th and 8th grade curricu-
lum were updated as changing the name of the course as
Science and Technology and including STSE attain-
ments among the content attainments [23,24].
The changes in the chemistry curriculum in Turkey
had been limited to structural modifications since 1985.
The need for a modern chemistry curriculum was ad-
dressed by the Ministry of National Education in 2007
with the preparation of the new chemistry curriculum,
which has been in use since the 2008–2009 academic
year. The recent curriculum involves STSE relations as
Chemistry, Technology, Society and Environment (CTSE)
[25]. The CTSE related attainments are listed as items in
Chemistry Curriculum, where they are classified in gen-
eral. There are no connections between the content at-
tainments and CTSE attainments; therefore, they are
presented independently. The teaching program requires
the teacher’s presentation of attainments by establishing
connections between the content attainments and CTSE
Apart from the projects, other studies have shown that
students presented more positive attitudes towards STSE
and STS approaches, which were also effective in mak-
ing connections related to the course [6,26-34].
This study aims to compare the Chemistry Achieve-
ment Test scores of students from different educational
institutions (Anatolian High School, Vocational High
School), who experienced teaching of chemistry within
the STSE approach. In Turkey, STSE approach has not
yet been applied in the chemistry course in different
secondary schools. Therefore, this study is expected to
contribute to the literature with its findings.
The reason for the choice of two different secondary
level educational institutions could be explained as fol-
lows: Grade 9 students, who are 15 years old, experience
the challenge of adapting to a secondary level institution
and learning different courses at the same time. These
students try to shape their future within the secondary
level educational institution they have chosen while
gaining consciousness levels limited to what is provided
for them by their parents and environments. Students of
the Anatolian High and Vocational High schools come
from families with various socio-cultural and economi-
cal backgrounds. Each student at the Anatolian High or
Vocational High schools has a different scope of previ-
ously learnt knowledge because of the opportunities
having been provided for them by their families. There-
fore, the groups constructed from the students of Anato-
lian High and Vocational High Schools reflect the gen-
eral student profile of the country. In order the findings
of this study to be generalized to the real life, schools
from different districts and students from different edu-
cational institutions were chosen. Therefore, the study
was conducted with a sampling group that reflected the
Grade 9 students in general.
This section of the paper presents information related
to the research model, sampling, data collection tool and
analysis of the data.
The study involved the application of the following
procedures to the Grade 9 students studying at different
secondary level educational institutions (Anatolian High
School and Vocational High School). Students from
Grade 9 were chosen randomly and two classes were
classified in both schools as control and treatment
In order not to classify students randomly, all students
in both groups were administered logical Thinking Skill
Test (LTST), Mental Rotation Test (MRT) and Chemis-
try Achievement Test (CAT) in order to asses their pre-
viously learnt knowledge, logical thinking skills and
spatial thinking skills. The Chemistry Achievement Test
was later administered as the posttest in order to com-
pare the findings from the control group, who were
taught in the traditional ways, and the treatment group,
who were taught according to the STSE approach on the
topic of “Separating Mixtures”. In order to provide the
external reliability of the study and in order to avoid the
effects of proficiency levels on the findings, a total of
four classes were assigned in two different types of sec-
ondary level educational institutions. By forming control
and treatment groups in two different school types, re-
searcher’s subjectivity and student interaction effects were
overcome, which lead to the focus on the effects of STSE
related chemistry education on conceptual achievement
and comprehension levels.
After LTST, MRT and CAT were administered as pre-
tests, teaching methodologies wee randomly chosen for
groups. Separating Mixtures was taught to the control
group in the traditional teaching methodology. Treatment
group was taught by the researcher through the STSE
related education. The content was prepared in line with
the curriculum and the same content was taught to the
treatment group through STSE related teaching method-
ology whereas the control group was taught in the tradi-
tional way.
1) All students in control and treatment groups were
administered the Logical Thinking Skills Test, which
was developed by Tobin and Capie [35] and translated
into Turkish by Geban, Askar and Özkan, [36]. The test
consisted of 10 questions.
2) All students were administered the Mental Rotation
N. Yörük et al. / Natural Scien c e 2 (2010) 1417-1424
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Test, which was developed by Bodner and Guay [37]
and was translated in to Turkish by Kavak [38]. The test
consisted of 20 questions.
3) The Chemistry Achievement Test that was devel-
oped in order to assess whether students learned the
concepts related to Separating Mixtures topic and it con-
sisted of 35 questions. The test was prepared according
to the opinions of experienced teachers and academic
staff. The validity of the test, which is defined as the
content validity, was evaluated to be high by three spe-
cialist academic staff. The reliability of the test was
commented with α reliability coefficient. Before it was
used in the study, the test was administrated to 90 high
school students and α reliability coefficient was calcu-
lated to be 0.87. This test was administered as pre and
The dependent variable of the study was the achieve-
ment scores students received from CAT on Separation
of Mixtures.
The independent variables were the STSE related
teaching methodology administered to the treatment
group and the traditional method administered to the
control group.
The variables taken under control are the previous
knowledge of students assessed by the CAT, their logical
thinking skills assessed by the LTST and spatial thinking
skills assessed by the Mental Rotation Test.
2.1. Sampling
This study was administered to Grade 9 students of an
Anatolian High School and a Vocational High School in
Ankara authorized by the Ministry of National Educa-
The treatment group of the vocational high school
consisted of 33 students and its control group was
formed by 30 students. In Anatolian high school, there
were 28 students in the treatment group and 28 students
in the control group.
2.2. Data Collection Tool
In the treatment groups of both high schools, Separa-
tion of Mixtures was taught according to the STSE re-
lated chemistry teaching methodology. As Ta bl e 1 , Ta-
ble 2, Ta b l e 3 and Ta b l e 4 display, the study lasted for
four weeks. The other two groups, assigned as control
groups, received traditional instruction on the same topic.
2.3. Analysis of the Data
Chemistry lessons were taught through making con-
nections with the STSE topics. In order to determine the
effects of STSE related chemistry education approach on
students’ achievement levels, the data obtained from
CAT were statistically evaluated via the covariance ana-
Table 1. STSE related chemistry education administered to the treatment group—1st week.
STSE topics Recycling metal wastes. Security precautions for petrol containers.
Content/Titles Separating Mixtures Separation via the Magnet Separation via electrification
Teaching and learning approaches Small group research, watching movies, questioning-based learning, laboratory prac-
tice, data analysis, simulations, concept maps, making models.
Student skills Asking questions, evaluating technological topics, making decisions, valuing the given
Concepts Mixture, Separation Techniques, Homogenous mixtures, Heterogeneous mixtures.
Table 2. STSE related chemistry education administered to the treatment group—2nd week.
STSE topics Separating salt from the sea water dialysis, obtaining carotene.
Separation through density difference (Explores the methods that make use of density
differences in separating substances from each other) separation through filtration
(Explains separation made by making use of the particle size differences.) Separation
through solubility difference (Notices that solubility differences aid in separating sub-
Teaching and learning approaches Brainstorming, asking questions, classroom discussions, questioning-based learning,
role playing, simulations.
Student skills Data analysis, interdisciplinary problem solving, evaluating technological topics, ques-
tioning for decision making.
Concepts Solvent, Solution, Solubility, Corrosion, Floatation, Vaporization crystallization, Di-
alysis, Decantation.
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Table 3. STSE related chemistry education administered to the treatment group—3rd week.
STSE topics Separating metals from ores. Obtaining medicine and alcoholic beverages from plants
through fractionation obtaining perfumes.
Separation through heat differences when changing state. (Boiling heat differences)
Exemplifies separation by making use of the differences between the boiling points.
(Melting heat differences) Examplifies separation by making use of the differences
between the melting points.
Teaching and learning approaches Observation, group work, problem solving, decision making, questioning-based learn-
Student skills Explanations involving scientific and technological concepts, learning through interac-
tion with the environment.
Concepts Refining petrol, Distillation, Extraction.
Table 4. STSE related chemistry education administered to the treatment group—4th week.
STSE topics Making connections among the STSE topics.
Content/Titles Suggests appropriate separation methods fro the given mixtures.
Teaching and learning approaches All approaches made use of during the course of the lesson.
Student skills All skills attained during the course of the lesson.
Concepts All concepts learnt during the course of the lesson.
Due to the aim of the study that was determining any
possible changes in the chemistry achievement levels of
students as a result of the administered teaching meth-
odology, the spatial thinking skills and mental rotation
skills of students were assessed via MRT and LTST. The
results of these tests were taken as covariance to be
made use of in the other applications or statistical evalu-
CAT was administered as the pretest in order to de-
termine the equivalence of the groups since the treatment
groups in both schools were going to be taught accord-
ing to the STSE relations. The reason for this act was to
determine whether the chosen groups were at the same
level in terms of chemistry knowledge regarding the
chosen topic.
The pretest CAT results were compared using AN-
COVA. Before the covariance analysis, the variances
were tested in terms of their being homogenous and the
appropriateness of the curve between the dependent va-
riable and the covariance.
The covariance analysis results of the evaluation
made on the CAT pre and posttest results of the
Vocational High School students.
The CAT pretest average of the treatment group was
9.97 and the Cat pretest results of the control group was
13.46. This result is statistically significant favoring the
control group (p = 0.014), which made it eligible for the
The posttest CAT data evaluation concluded with the
covariance analysis results that displayed an average of
13.30 for the treatment group and 14.87 for the control
group. Although there has been quite an increase in the
average score of the treatment group, the difference be-
tween the treatment and control group averages are not
significant (p = 0.230).
The covariance analysis results of the evaluation
made on the CAT pre and posttest results of the
Anatolian High School students.
The CAT pretest average score of the treatment group
was found to be 21.82 and that of the control group was
found to be 24.08. Although the average of the control
group is rather high, the difference between the average
scores of the treatment and control groups is not statisti-
cally significant (p = 0.051).
According to the covariance analysis results of the
posttest CAT, the treatment group’s average score was
27.43; the average score for the control group was 23.71.
The treatment group, which was taught within the STSE
related teaching approach, displayed an important in-
crease in their average scores and this difference is sta-
tistically significant (p = 0.003).
The comparison of pre and posttest Average Scores
of Control and Treatment groups:
The changes in the average scores of control and
treatment groups both for pre and posttests were evalu-
ated through the dependent t-test and the results are dis-
played on Table 5.
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Tab le 5. The Results of the Dependent variable T-test, which
was administered in order to compare the CAT pre and posttest
scores of the treatment groups at both Vocational and Anatolian
High Schools.
Pretest Posttest Significance
Vocational High School 13.43 13.93 0.518
Anatolian High School 23.75 22.14 0.193
Ta b l e 6 displays that there were significant increases
in both control groups at the end of the application.
Looking at these results, STSE approach could be iden-
tified as a productive teaching methodology for students
as the increase in the achievement levels of the treatment
groups were observed to be higher.
The findings in the literature are supportive of the
conclusions that have been come to in this study that
achievement levels in chemistry could be increased
through teaching via the STSE related teaching approach.
The results of this study are in line with Yager’s study in
1994, where he evaluated the effectiveness of the STSE
related teaching approach [32]. Students, having recog-
nized their own skills with the help of the approach,
have learnt the topics more meaningfully than the stu-
dents, who receive teaching through traditional method-
ologies. In practice, students, who receive education
within the STSE related teaching approach, are more
competent in relating new situations and concepts.
Another striking point of this study is the two differ-
ent types of schools chosen as grounds. In Turkey, Ana-
tolian High Schools require a placement test score for
enrollment. Students could register to these schools in
case they score above average in a central placement test.
On the other hand, while vocational high schools do not
have such requirements, their students experience a
score disadvantage in the university placement, and this
leads to a conclusion that students do not prefer to study
at vocational high schools. As the pretest average scores
display, students of Anatolian High Schools achieve bet-
ter than students of the vocational high schools. Fortu-
nately, teaching through STSE related approach con-
cluded with an increase in the achievement scores of the
treatment groups in both types of schools. In other words,
the choice of STSE related teaching methodology would
contribute to the achievement levels of vocational high
school students, where the expected university place-
ment average is rather low.
STSE related teaching enables students to make more
connections with the topics, which increases the interac-
tion during the lesson and creates a student-centered
Tab le 6. The Results of the Dependent variable T-test, which
was administered in order to compare the CAT pre and posttest
scores of the control groups at both Vocational and Anatolian
High Schools.
Pretest Posttest Significance
Vocational High School 10.00 14.18 0.000
Anatolian High School 23.68 27.46 0.000
learning environment. This is a natural result of STSE
related teaching practice. Students, therefore, get in-
volved in the research process themselves, while trying
to make connections with the concepts and topics.
This study concluded that, as students made connec-
tions between what they learn and what they experience
in the real life through STSE connections, their attention
to the lesson was also affected positively. Most of the
students do not get interested in chemistry because the
course is not taught in an attractive way. Therefore, stu-
dents do not have positive attitudes towards a course that
they do not get interested in. the disconnection between
what students learn and what they experience in the real
life decreases their level of interest in the lesson and
destroys the bridge between the student and science
education. In order to create more interest in students,
STSE related teaching should be considered and im-
It was determined that STSE related teaching applied
in developed countries resulted in different ways than
the applications in other countries. Therefore, in case a
well-qualified curriculum is to be administered in an-
other country, it should be adopted to the country’s cul-
ture. The recent studies on Chemistry curriculum should
take these into account in such a way to present the con-
tent attainments through making connections with STSE
related topics.
The content of the Chemistry course should enable
individuals to attain the adequate knowledge to live in
the modern technological environment. STSE relations
should allow students to recognize their environment
and technological condition, understand their contribu-
tions to the society and predict the possible damages that
could happen. Therefore, studies should be conducted in
order to prepare the teachers and equipments, which
could enable students to make STSE connections.
This study should not be limited to the Separation of
Mixtures as a topic of Chemistry, and should be applied
to their topics within the teaching program to research
on its effectiveness through different activities.
Within STSE related teaching sessions, by using the
interviewing method, students’ opinions about STSE
concepts could be examined more deeply.
Teachers, in countries where STSE related teaching is
N. Yörük et al. / Natural Scien c e 2 (2010) 1417-1424
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applied, are obliged to follow the changes and enhance-
ments in order to make connections with different topics.
Teachers tend to avoid using STSE related teaching as it
requires a separate preparation process for the lesson in
terms of making connections. Before the STSE related
science education is administered, teachers should be
acknowledged about the system. Secondary level chem-
istry teachers should be informed more about STSE ap-
proach. Considering the requirements of teachers for
understanding and getting prepared for the approach,
in-service training programs could be organized involv-
ing a similar study with the teachers.
Students, who do not prefer to get training in science
related tracks, could be taken as sampling and observa-
tions could be made on them to assess the effectiveness
of STSE related teaching.
Apart from teaching, STSE related science education
also differentiates the assessment methods. Therefore,
traditional assessment and evaluation techniques could
be enriched with alternative techniques, which could be
the focus of another study. This could be suggested as an
area for further research.
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