EDEC 646: Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Science
EDEC 647: Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Mathematics
COMP 599: Sociocultural and Epistemic Understandings of Computer Science

Instructor: Elizabeth Patitsas (to contact: Direct Message on Microsoft Teams)

Term: Winter 2021 (previous offering was Winter 2019)

Course description:
This course presents historical, philosophical and sociocultural perspectives on the 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.

Teaching assistants: Raziyeh Javanmard, Ky Brooks

Registration information

Prerequisites: Students must have completed, with a grade of C or higher, a minimum of 24 credits in {Science, Mathematics} courses. We will also consider enrollment from students with experience teaching secondary {science, mathematics}.

Number of credits: 3 credits for EDEC 646/647, 4 credits for COMP 599

Registering for COMP 599 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, gender studies, and/or education. If you have any experience teaching CS, note that also.

Schedule: Wednesdays 5:35-8:25pm

Course Forum: Microsoft Teams

Location: Online via Microsoft Teams (you'll need to join the Team to access the meeting; auditors will need to join the Team first)

Office hours: Tuesdays 5:35-6:25pm

CS breadth category: Category C: Applications

Auditing policy: Topics courses (e.g. COMP 599) only get offered if there is sufficient enrolment. Unfortunately auditors do not count towards these numbers. If you want to audit COMP 599, you need to get two friends to enrol for the course. Email Elizabeth if you want to audit the course and have gotten friends to officially join you for it.

Course Structure

The course has a seminar format; and will be heavy on reading, writing, and discussion. Each week we will have 2-3 hours of readings to read/watch/listen to in advance of class.

A typical class will involve a short (~30 min) lecture giving greater context for the readings and clarifying course concepts, then the remainder (2.5 hours) of class will be spent discussing and applying the readings in small groups.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, this course will be offered online for the safety of all involved. Given that this is a time when I expect students to have greater difficulty in focus, I've replaced many of the peer-reviewed academic readings for this course with shorter, more accessible materials (blog posts, news articles, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc). The schedule for writing your term papers will also be designed with flexibility in mind.

Readings and Schedule

See Schedule.

Course Learning Goals

  1. To analyse science/math/computing as sociopolitical institutions, with an emphasis on the role that education plays therein.
  2. To apply critical and postmodern social theories to illuminate contemporary issues in science/math/computing.
  3. To use critical and postmodern lenses to reflexively interrogate one's own professional practices (e.g. as a teacher, as a researcher, as a designer).


See Assessment.

Course Policies

Covid-19 Information

See the McGill Coronavirus (Covid-19) website (https://www.mcgill.ca/coronavirus/students) for information on McGill policies surrounding emergency online teaching.

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.

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

I understand there are many legitimate reasons you may not be able to attend class. If you know you won't be able to make class, please DM me with as much advance notice as you can. I will pair you up with any other students missing class that week so you can catch up together.

No documentation is needed for why you can't make class. Doctor's notes are an unnecessary strain on the medical system and on you when you're sick! You also do not need to tell me why you are missing class - I don't want you to feel like you must share your trauma in order to get the accomodations you deserve.