Proceedings of the Second AAAS Technology Education Research Conference

Possibilities for Research in Technology Education

David Barlex

Brunel University

Technology education is a new component in the modern curriculum, jostling for its place and resources with the more established subjects-English, mathematics, science, languages, the arts, and the humanities. It fights for its own identity to avoid being confused with information and communication technology, and sometimes it even bears the heavy and inappropriate burden of being responsible for a nation's economic well being. It is under a variety of influences, some less benign than others, and just as technology in the world outside school is continually developing, so too is technology education. Some say it is evolving. The creation of knowledge and understanding about technology education as it evolves will be important, providing insights that can inform the direction of its evolution. I am proposing a "feed forward" model dependent on the creation of new knowledge.

Two questions are facing us at this conference:

•  What sorts of new knowledge will be useful to technology education; and

•  Where will this new knowledge come from?

My presentation will be in three parts. 

Part 1 will present a brief discussion about knowledge creation and how this might be applied to technology education.

Part 2 will consider how my involvement in curriculum development work can be seen in terms of new knowledge creation.

Part 3 will propose areas for research in technology education and models for that research which take into account the relationship between knowledge creation and curriculum development.


Part 1 Knowledge Creation and its Application to Technology Education

New knowledge in education has traditionally been created by those who are university-based and involved in educational research investigating classroom practice with the cooperation of schools and classroom practitioners. Invariably, researchers set the agenda, carry out the research, and report it in peer reviewed journals seldom read by teachers. Until relatively recently, this was the kind of knowledge creation by which new knowledge in science and technology was created. But this form of knowledge creation has evolved into another kind. Instead of knowledge being created in a university by researchers and then applied somewhere in the real world by practicing professionals, it is now developed where it will be used. It will be developed in order to get something done and its worth will be judged by how useful it is in practice. Its dissemination will be mainly through informal communication networks. Over time, as those involved in its creation move, it will spread to new locations, though not necessarily appearing in books or academic journals. These two kinds of knowledge generation have been labelled Mode 1 and Mode 2 (Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny, Schwatzman, Scott, and Trow, 1994) . David Hargreaves, the chief executive of the Qualification and Curriculum Authority in England argued that "knowledge creation and dissemination in education must now move into Mode 2: teacher centered knowledge creation through partnerships." (Hargreaves, 1998)

Hargreaves is arguing for a knowledge creating school and suggests that such an organization will:

•  investigate the state of its intellectual capital,

•  manage the process of creating new professional knowledge,

•  validate the professional knowledge created,

•  disseminate the created professional knowledge.

I am going to parallel his features for a school with an exploration of a technology faculty within a school.


Investigating the intellectual capital. Let's say there are five teachers in the faculty. How many years of professional experience are there in the faculty? How much of their professional knowledge is

•  Shared by all the teachers?

•  Shared by some of the teachers?

•  Locked in the heads of individual teachers?

The typical answer to the first question is between 40 and 60 years and the answer to the second is that most of it is locked in the heads of individuals and consequently inaccessible to other teachers.

Making effective use of intellectual capital will require the faculty members to be clear about what they do and do not know-recognized knowledge and recognized ignorance. They will also need to realize that others outside of the faculty will have useful knowledge which they don't possess, and that within the faculty they will have knowledge that is useful to others.

In the world of technology education it is easy for teachers to concentrate on what they don't know rather than what they do, and yet it is essential that the richness of their previous experience is both acknowledged and utilized.

Managing the creation of new professional knowledge. Much of a teacher's professional knowledge is tacit and used to make many rapid and sophisticated professional judgements that are rarely articulated or made explicit. Nonaka and Tekeuchi (1995) argued that the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge plays a key part in knowledge creation, suggesting that new knowledge is created by the conversion of one form of knowledge into the other through four activities: (1) learning by doing; (2) sharing experience; (3) dialogue; and (4) networking. A key question for any faculty is how often do they engage in these activities in a coordinated way that leads to knowledge creation?

Knowledge creation requires faculty members to encourage, welcome, and respect new ideas. An atmosphere of cynicism kills knowledge creation. In an area of rapid change such as technology education where the worth of teachers' tacit knowledge is being questioned it is easy for cynical views to prevail and prevent professional growth.

It is worth noting that there is a simple subject-construct model for technology education that has been used with some success in initial teacher training (Banks and Barlex, 1999a, Banks and Barlex, 1999b; Banks, Barlex, Owen-Jackson, Jarvinen, and Rutland, 2000). It identifies three areas in which new professional knowledge can be created. These areas are subject knowledge, pedagogic knowledge, and school knowledge. So the model indicates that teachers should "know their stuff" (subject knowledge); "know how to teach their stuff" (pedagogic knowledge) and "know how to teach their stuff in their school" (school knowledge). I believe this is a useful way of looking at your subject-whatever it happens to be-but particularly so for technology, as it is relatively new and there is still considerable uncertainty about its exact nature as far as many teachers are concerned. Teachers can use this model to explore their intellectual capital. It could also provide a useful means of establishing a research agenda.

The most promising ideas need to be selected using clear criteria, while those whose ideas are not pursued should not lose face. Testing new ideas against clear criteria involves the next consideration-validation.

Validating professional practice. I want to consider four forms of validation. The "that worked for me" validation by a teacher in isolation is probably the most common form of validation and the least satisfactory. Social validation in which teachers work together and comment on each other's practice is far more likely to be recognized as having some objectivity and authority. Validation by an independent and knowledgeable third party is another reliable method but one that can create teacher hostility. This has been the case in England with OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education) inspections where a major difficulty has been the failure of the scheme to transfer the skills of inspecting to the inspected. Education researchers can provide a fourth type of validation where observation can take place over time with the involvement and close cooperation of those being observed. Here we are almost full circle in noting that keeping an accurate reflective practice diary whose interpretation is supported through dialogue with an educational researcher is a powerful way of creating new professional knowledge in which, for the most part, the teacher is working in isolation making his or her own observations.

Disseminating the created professional knowledge. Several diverse channels for dissemination are emerging. The center to periphery model is clearly inappropriate as the center is unlikely to have access to the new knowledge. The other extreme of individual schools and teachers being exclusively responsible for dissemination is also unlikely to be effective. So partnerships will be a key feature in dissemination, partnerships between teachers and professional associations, curriculum development projects, education researchers, teacher trainers, other schools, local authorities, and government departments. A variety of formal and informal mechanisms for dissemination will exist with these partnerships.

I suggest that an important way forward for research in technology education is for those engaged in research to move from Mode 1 to Mode 2 as the means of operation.


Part 2 Does curriculum development count as research and can it create new knowledge?


Here I will scrutinize my own work and consider the extent to which it can be considered research and ask to what extent it created new knowledge, as well as whether these activities are best described as Mode 1 or Mode 2 ways of working. I will examine the following five activities:

  1. The Secondary Nuffield Design and Technology Project, dealing with students aged 11-16 years.
  2. The Primary Nuffield Design and Technology Project, dealing with students aged 5-11 years.
  3. Millennium Product Case Studies for children aged 11-14 years.
  4. Young Foresight, dealing with students aged 14 years.
  5. Interaction, a report on the relationship between design and technology and science in the secondary school curriculum.

The Secondary Nuffield Design and Technology Project

This project began in 1990 just as design and technology was introduced into the English National Curriculum. At that time there was considerable confusion as to the nature of design and technology and how it should be taught. There was also considerable rivalry between the different professional groups of teachers who had just been re-branded design and technology teachers-home economics teachers, CDT (craft, design and technology) teachers, art and design teachers, information technology teachers, and business studies teachers. The first activity of the project was to set up a series of meetings to discuss with teachers from these various groups how they taught the new subject and what they thought they could bring from their previous teaching experience to the new subject. These discussions revealed the following:

  • Many of the teachers were confused about how to teach the new subject.
  • Many of the teachers were reluctant to use their existing teaching skills in case they were seen to be backward looking.
  • Many of the teachers were allowing such a wide range of choice to students that managing the classroom and the learning was very difficult.
  • All of the professional groups had some insight into engaging children with designing but these insights were not shared between groups.

The Project's response was two-fold: (1) to develop a clear pedagogy that could be used effectively by all the different professional groups; and (2) to collect the design strategies used by the different professional groups and make them available to all the groups.

The pedagogy developed has since been called the Big Three: (1) Resource Tasks; (2) Case Studies; and (3) Capability Tasks. Resource Tasks are short practical activities to make students think and help them learn the knowledge and skill they need to design and make really well. Case Studies are true stories about design and technology in the world outside the school, through which students learn how firms and businesses design and manufacture goods as well as how those goods are marketed and sold. Students also learn about the impact products have on the people who use them and the places where they are made. Capability Tasks are designing and making a product that works, building on the learning experience of Resource Tasks and Case Studies.

Does developing this pedagogy count as research? In the traditional sense it does not. But developing this pedagogy does count as creating new professional knowledge. Before 1995 teachers had been unable to conceive of their teaching in design and technology as a series of related tasks over which they had considerable professional control. The way this knowledge was developed is more in line with Mode 2 than Mode 1.

And has this new knowledge been validated? If I use the criteria of becoming an accepted orthodoxy then the answer is "Yes." When the National Curriculum Orders for England were revised in 1995 (School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 1995) the recommended teaching approach involved designing and making assignments (i.e., Capability Tasks) supported by focused practical tasks and product disassembly tasks (i.e., Resource Tasks). Case Studies were not adopted in England, but in Scotland the Statement of Position on technology education cited the combination of case study tasks with proficiency tasks (i.e., Resource Tasks) and creative practical tasks (i.e., Capability Tasks) as an appropriate pedagogy for technology education (Scottish CCC, 1996). In both England and Scotland, when the technology curriculum has been revised these pedagogic models have been retained (Department for Education and Employment 1999a; Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2000).

The strategies collected are shown in Table 1. Again there is a question whether developing this set of strategies counts as research. But the project certainly created new knowledge for a lot of teachers and I believe the project did this in a Mode 2 way.

The project published a set of resources for teachers and students (Barlex, 1995a; 1995b; 1995c; 1995d; 1995e) which reflected the new knowledge:

•  Resource Task File

•  Capability Task File

•  Student's Book

•  Study Guide

•  Teacher's Guide

These publications are the physical manifestation of the new knowledge created by the project. One feature in the Student's Book is of particular note; the chooser charts which summarize technical information. (This information, however, had been reconceptualized by experienced teachers so that it could be used by students for the purpose of making design decisions.) Does this count as new knowledge? The information in the charts had not been presented to students or teachers in this way before. The charts were drafted and refined by many teachers using both explicit and tacit knowledge before being finalized by the project. Again, I think this leans towards the Mode 2 method of knowledge generation. One feature of the Study Guide which received particular mention by a reviewer (McCormick, 1996) was the attempt to provide accessible guidance to the process requirements of design and technology. This was essentially a comic strip approach to describing what was expected from students as they used the recommended pedagogy. Writing this material called on the work of the APU Project Assessing Design and Technology (Kimbell, Stables, Wheeler, Wosniak, and Kelly, 1991), and on the content of many conversations with teachers (Barlex and Welch, 2001). This again indicates a Mode 2 approach.

Table 1 Strategies for designing

Strategy Strategy

Identifying needs and likes


Observing people

Modeling appearance


Modeling performance

Looking in books and magazines

Modeling with computers


Using a systems approach

Looking at aesthetics; style, colour, feel, space and harmony

Planning tools

Image boards


Using briefs and specifications

Evaluating by user trip

Writing design briefs

Evaluating by winners and losers

Writing specifications

Evaluating by performance specification

Generating design ideas

Evaluating by appropriateness



Observational drawing


Making connections


Attribute analysis


The project employed 10 field officers (one or two days per week) to visit schools that had purchased the materials and discuss with them how to use the published resources effectively in their situation. They did not sell the resources; they worked with those who had already bought them. The results of their visits to schools where written up in the project's newsletter UpDaTe. Individually, each of these field officers acquired a lot of knowledge about the state of design and technology teaching in the schools they visited. As a group they possessed considerable insight into the problems facing teachers who struggled to make sense of this new subject. The newsletter enabled them to describe their findings and as such represented a significant amount of new knowledge, made available to teachers in over 1,000 schools. This knowledge was created by a complex interaction of tacit and explicit knowledge at the schools the field officers visited, and at the Project Center where the project director and the team of field officers discussed their findings. In retrospect, I can see that the four activities identified by Nonaka and Tekeuchi (1995) were in constant interplay. All field officers have indicated how professionally stimulating they found the work, particularly the team discussions. This is clearly a Mode 2 approach and the content of the newsletter received validation in that some issues were requested by OFSTED for use in maintaining the profile of design and technology in various government departments.

In 1998 the project investigated the use made by teachers of the material through a national questionnaire (Givens and Barlex, 2001). The results are intriguing. Task structures were used nearly as much in providing frameworks to structure teachers' own in-house tasks as were the Nuffield Tasks themselves; this suggests a willingness on teacher's behalf to adapt materials to local needs and opportunities. The findings appear to show some teachers adopting the pedagogy from a curriculum innovation while retaining content from their established practice. This is not always the case (Becher, 1971). The least used components were the Teacher's Guide and the Study Guide, but where they were used teachers reported the Nuffield approach added most value to their practice. This is clearly research, validated by peer review (it's in a refereed journal!) in the Mode 1 model. The main finding was that few teachers use elements of the materials that give most added value, thus indicating the need for more Mode 2 type activity where teachers are at the center of exploring the use of materials in their own practice.

The Primary Nuffield Design and Technology Project

Begun in 1997, it was immediately clear that the major focus of this project should be providing materials for teachers rather than students. The project was to some extent compromised from the beginning by introduction of national literacy and numeracy strategies (Department for Education and Employment, 1998; 1999b), which placed considerable time constraints on the curriculum, with the result that the teaching of design and technology was put "on the back burner" by many schools, while in theory it remained a statutory obligation to teach the subject. Nevertheless, the project developed a pedagogic model it believed appropriate for primary schools and produced units of work with this model. While similar to that developed for the secondary project, the model had two significant differences. (Task structure still involved Capability Tasks and Resource Tasks, but these were called Big Tasks and Small Tasks.) The first significant difference was that Small Tasks were dedicated to a particular Big Task; they were not free standing as was the case for Resource Tasks in the secondary project. The second difference was that the units of work contained detailed lesson plans which "hand held" the teacher through each session. Initially, I had been concerned that this would be seen as too restrictive, but the independent evaluation commissioned by the project found that inexperienced teachers valued this, subject co-ordinators found it useful because it enabled them to help colleagues, and experienced teachers were happy to adapt it to meet the particular needs of their students. This evaluation is in the Mode 1 model; i.e., university researchers observing and interviewing practitioners. However, I also believe that as it was done in the context of a curriculum development project, there is a Mode 2 element about it as the response from the teachers clearly indicated they felt they had some ownership of the activity. Several teachers, for example, developed additional student material during the trials and the provision of such material has become a feature of the units of work. The research did help the project to identify those elements in a unit of work which are important; particularly, a clear articulation of the design decisions that students will be expected to make and the need for experiential small tasks to inform that decision making. To date, details of this research have not been published in an academic journal, but it has considerably influenced the structure of the units of work, the content of the teacher handbook and the tutorials that will be available on the project's website.

The project was unable to find a commercial publisher willing to publish the materials; not because the publishers found the materials wanting, but because they felt that in the prevailing climate's emphasis on literacy, numeracy, and to a lesser extent science and ICT, in addition to the average primary school's modest "spend" on design and technology, it did not make commercial sense to publish the materials.

The project has since its inception been concerned about how it would reach the large numbers of primary schools in England. There are 20,000 primary schools as opposed to about 4000 secondary schools. The dissemination problem is considerable. The project decided that a website might provide the answer particularly at a time when the government was promoting the use of ICT by teachers through nationwide in-service provision ( The project website can be found at and has been in operation since 1998. The project sees the website as both a means of involving teachers in the project as a curriculum development activity and also as a means of supporting and growing a community of good practice once the curriculum development is finished and the project moves into aftercare mode. The project made trial materials available as free downloads and in a 16-month period (September 1999-December 2000) almost 8,000 units of work had been downloaded. This indicated a possible strategy for making the reformulated units of work available; simply give them away from the website. From September 2001, teachers will be able to purchase a short handbook for teachers, plus a CD-ROM containing the units of work and a guide to the website for under £10.00. This has been possible because the project is using DATA (the Design and Technology Association) as the marketing agency for these materials. This is an interesting example of a partnership between an educational charity (which does not need to make a profit) and a professional association (which from a small investment might actually make a profit) to provide curriculum materials and professional support at a time when commercial publishers are unable to do so. This is only possible because of the availability of ICT and I believe we are seeing the beginning of a whole raft of partnerships that can support teachers by utilising these new technologies. The availability of ICT will have a clear impact on Mode 2 type research activity enabling widely separated teachers and others to engage in classroom-based research and to communicate rapidly and efficiently.

The trial materials were in a design sense quite raw. While they were attractive and well illustrated, they were not always easy to read and lacked a clear brand identity. The project commissioned an experienced graphic designer to completely reformulate the materials so that they would be attractive, highly accessible, instantly recognizable, and in no way threatening to teachers who were, in many cases, quite alienated from design and technology. The results are impressive and include a deceptively simple and elegant renaming: primary solutions in design and technology. The role of good design and high production values in materials for teachers is important; the place in a research paradigm where the knowledge and insight of the graphic designer may be brought to bear to add value to the materials produced by a curriculum development project is an interesting question.

Millennium Product Case Studies

This small curriculum development project was funded by a Design Council "special projects" grant. The outcome consisted of a set of 11 written case studies to be used primarily with students aged 11-14 years. The aim of the written case studies was two fold: (1) to give pupils insight into the product from a variety of perspectives; and (2) to give pupils an appreciation of how those responsible for the product worked.

The case studies were seen as worthwhile because they would help teachers deal with an area of acknowledged difficulty-product evaluation (OFSTED, 1998). To meet these aims through studies on a wide range of products it was essential to develop a set of questions which authors would use in writing the studies. These are summarized in Panel 1 and Panel 2. It is clear that not every case study will deal with every question and some questions are more easily dealt with through some products than through others. Over the entire set of studies students will be exposed to a consideration of all the questions. To ensure consistency across the studies it was essential to establish a clear writing framework for the six authors, consequently, the authors were required to use a planning grid to identify key ideas on each page, how this content linked to the questions underpinning the case studies, possible visuals, and devices to help children interact with the text. The word count for each page was strictly limited. To ensure that the resulting studies had visual appeal the overall design for the studies was developed by an experienced graphic designer and each study was individually laid out according to this design.

The development of the question sets and the writing framework can be seen as the creation of new knowledge, knowledge developed specifically to allow the production of a resource to meet an area of teaching and learning in design and technology recognized as problematic. The question sets and the writing framework were developed by the project director by means of a dialogue with the authors. This is clearly a Mode 2 way of creating new knowledge. It might also be argued that developing a high production-value design that appealed to students is knowledge creation. However, when this was reported in the Journal of Design and Technology Education (Barlex, 2000), it was assigned to the curriculum development section, not the research section, even though the article contained a short report of the findings of an independent evaluation of the trial case studies carried out by Murphy. Her findings revealed that, for many teachers, using written case study material with students would take them outside their normal pedagogic repertoire. As a result of these findings a considerable amount of the teacher handbook which accompanies the case studies is devoted to considerations of pedagogy.

The case studies and teacher handbook are being made available to teachers through twilight inset sessions over the next few months and it is here that I hope some undisputed Mode 2 knowledge creation can take place. The leaders of the inset sessions will suggest to participants the possibility of using the case studies as the means of exploring their own approaches to teaching and learning in order to extend their own pedagogic repertoire and provide transferable models of good practice. This research would entail the teachers working in cooperation with educational researchers based in higher education but the research agenda would be to a large extent generated by the teachers themselves. While results of the research may be reported through conventional channels, it will be interesting to track the informal networks by which it also spreads. It remains to be seen whether teachers will see this as an area worth considering and an activity worth pursuing.

Panel 1 Questions for Reading the Product

Thinking about needs and wants

What needs and wants are met by the product?

What is it for?

Thinking about the user

Who is likely to use the product?

What effect will it have on their lives and relationships?

Thinking about production

What materials are used and why?

Is the product one-off/batch/mass produced? Why?

What manufacturing processes are used? Why?

What skills are needed?

Where do the materials and other resources needed for production come from?

Are they likely to run out?

Is there a problem with side effects-waste disposal or pollution?

What are the social and economic effects of manufacturing the product?

Thinking about performance

How does it work?

How easy is it to use?

What manufacturer's information is supplied with the product?

Does the user require written/graphical information?

Are there any risk assessment issues in relation to the use of the product?

Thinking about trade

How is the product promoted?

Does it have an identity or image?

How has this been achieved?

Does the promotion target a particular age group or sector of people?

Does the promotion target potential buyers and/or users?

What assumptions have been made about the potential buyers/users?

How is it sold?

Where is it sold?

What is the importance of the packaging in selling the product?

What is the products cost in relation to the income of potential buyers/users?

Thinking about use

How will it be used?

What effects will using it have, including those beyond intended use and user?

Thinking about disposal

How is any packaging disposed of?

What happens to the product after use?

How long will it last?

What factors limit/lengthen its life span?

Can it be repaired? Can parts be replaced?

How easily can it be recycled?

Who would pay for the cost of recycling?


Panel 2 Questions for Designers


Who commissioned the work?

Have you designed this sort of product before? If not, why were you asked?

Issues and constraints

What brief were you given?

What were the key design issues?

What were the main constraints on your design?

Were you given a more detailed specification? If so, at what stage?


Did you consider many alternatives before arriving at this solution?

What (if any) was the driving generative idea behind the design?

What influences informed the development of the design?

How did you justify the aesthetic decisions within the design?

How did you justify the technical decisions within the design?

Did you have to abandon an idea that you liked? Why?

What was the most difficult problem/sticking point that you had to resolve?

How did you resolve it?


Whom did you consult about the design? Why?

At what stage(s) did you consult them? Why?

How long did the designing take?

How many people were involved in the designing?

Who were they/what roles did they play?


How were prototype designs evaluated with the client before final production?

To what extent are you satisfied with the finished product?

What might you have done differently?

Is there anything that particularly pleases you?


Young Foresight

This is a new initiative which challenges some of the currently prevailing orthodoxy in the teaching of design and technology in England. Here students have to design but not make products and services for the future. They do this by working in small teams using knowledge of local and global trends, new and emerging technologies and a consideration of modern materials. Teachers are supported in this by being able to work with a mentor from industry who has experience of using modern technologies in an industrial setting. Both mentors and teachers receive a full days' training together in which they are introduced to the resources (three TV programs plus a suite of student worksheets and a handbook explaining how to use these resources effectively) and are able to plan how they will work together in delivering the initiative. The implementation in four different schools has been studied closely by a research team from the Open University. There results are extremely encouraging.

The program targets an important curriculum need. All teachers involved saw the Young Foresight Program as a positive contribution to the design and technology curriculum. They were concerned that current practice missed the big picture of technology and its impact on society, and constrained students' creativity. Year 9 students came into the p rogram with a narrow perception of technology and design.

The materials were well received by teachers, students and industrial mentors. The development of a framework for teaching and learning about authentic design activity is a major innovation and strength of the Young Foresight Program.

The Program is effective in achieving the aims targeted. All students began to develop a wider understanding of technology and design and showed a capacity for creative thinking. This capacity was realized with support from teachers using the Young Foresight materials appropriately. Students began to see themselves as involved and influential in future action. The range of modes of learning used in the program provided opportunity for all students to develop strengths and address learning needs. This extended students' access to the curriculum. They described the experience as "cool" and wanted to do more. Students valued collaborative group work and the focus on design. These features of the Program were vital in supporting students' creativity.

The Program is meeting key educational policy needs in a cost effective way. Teachers, students, and mentors were very pleased with the progress achieved, and the quality of discussion, written outcomes, and presentations. The program allowed some students to experience a sense of achievement that was rare for them. This influenced their attitude toward school. The program allowed teachers to see qualities and skills in students that they had not recognized previously. They talked of the work being well above the level expected. Some teachers would have altered their key stage three assessments of students as a consequence.

The school-industry partnership is effective. The industrial mentors were major contributors to the program. They validated students' work and related it to the workplace. Mentors enjoyed the work and wanted further involvement.

Professional development benefits. Teachers who lacked confidence in teaching creatively were supported by the program and were able to develop their practice.

This is very much research in the Mode 1 model but there are indications that as schools become involved in the initiative they take ownership and this can move the activity into a Mode 2 research activity. The agenda for this research is partly developed by the emerging needs identified by the Open University group:

  • Additional guidance for teachers and students about the materials;
  • Development of the web site to extend the knowledge base about emerging technologies and new materials available to teachers and students. Web site support for teachers' implementation of the program;
  • Advice about how to assess the creative process students engage in, and its collaborative outcome;
  • Use of the evaluation data to support professional development for creative teaching; and
  • Development of additional materials to extend the program to cover other areas of design and services as well as products.

The initiative can work closely with teachers to develop approaches and resources that will engage with these needs as part of a teacher's professional development agenda creating new knowledge that will be of use to others taking part in the initiative. Already we have examples of strong informal networks being built between teachers in a locality.

Interaction-A Report on the Relationship between Design and Technology and Science in the Secondary School Curriculum

This report has at its roots my personal history as an educator in that I was trained initially as a chemistry teacher. As the science curriculum in England moved toward combined and integrated science, I taught physics and biology as well and became the head of a science faculty in a large 11-18 comprehensive school on a community campus. I then became head of the science and design faculty in the second school on that campus and began teaching design and technology. I soon learned about the intensity of learning that could be achieved through designing and making; quite different from that achieved through science education. I also became aware of the potential for synergy between the two subjects and tried to develop design and make activities that could be informed by science understanding. The curriculum moved on with the introduction of a National Curriculum for both science and design and technology and teachers' attention was focused very much on their individual subjects. So I was very pleased to be given the chance to revisit this area of interest with James Pitt from the University of York (Barlex and Pitt, 2000).

The report begins by exploring the nature of science and technology and clearly identifies their unique and distinguishing features so that this can underpin the discussion of the subjects within the school curriculum. In essence science is concerned with the production of tested knowledge whereas technology is concerned to transform this and other sorts of knowledge into techniques and artefacts for which there is human demand.

The report discusses the nature and purpose of science and design and technology education as revealed in the National Curriculum of England and how this is perceived by leading figures in science and design and technology education. This indicates that if there is to be a useful relationship between science and design and technology in secondary schools a first necessary step will be to find ways in which the two communities of teachers can begin to understand each other.

The next section discusses the relationship that currently exists between science and design and technology and identifies the following restraints:

  • In schools a separate and almost unrelated relationship exists between science and design and technology in direct contrast to that between science and technology in the world outside school. This is encouraged by the structure and content of the National Curriculum.
  • Science and design and technology teachers have an interest in developing pupils' ability to reflect on their own practice but as yet do not cooperate in developing pupils' meta-cognitive skills.  
  • Mental modelling is an essential component of both science and design and technology, but teachers do not share approaches or expertise.  
  • Curriculum materials designed to encourage pupils to use science in design and technology lessons appear to have had little impact on classroom practice.  
  • Curriculum materials designed to enable science teachers to use technological contexts to motivate students and improve learning appear to have had only limited uptake.  

The report describes three possible relationships between science and design and technology.

  • Coordination. Teachers in each subject become au fait with the work carried out in the other and plan their curricula so that the timing of topics within each subject is sensitive to each other's needs.  
  • Collaboration. Teachers in each subject plan their curricula so that some, but not all activities within each subject are designed to establish an effective relationship.  
  • Integration. This involves forming a single subject called science and technology. This is an inappropriate form of the relationship. Science and design and technology are so significantly different from one another that to subsume them under a "science and technology" label is both illogical and highly dangerous to the education of pupils.

In developing an appropriate relationship between science and design and technology schools should limit themselves to coordination and collaboration.

The report identifies a range of bodies and organizations that could cooperate in working toward implementing the recommendations. 

Recommendation One: Development of good practice . Partnerships should be identified that will release funding to enable teachers in secondary schools to work together to form appropriate relationships between science and design and technology. Initially this will involve developing and providing effective in-service training for some teachers from science and design and technology departments who are receptive to the idea of working together and developing a more productive relationship between the subjects. 

Recommendation Two: Evaluation of good practice. Partnerships should be identified that will release funding to enable the work of the teachers developing a more productive relationship between science and design and technology to be monitored to identify how it can be carried out with maximum benefit to pupils' learning in both subjects.

Recommendation Three: Dissemination of good practice. Partnerships should be identified that will release funding to enable the models of good practice that have been developed and validated to be widely disseminated to both science and design and technology teachers. 

Underpinning these recommendations is clearly a Mode 2 model of research activity embedded within the community of practice. The Engineering Council is applying for funding from a variety of sources to take the recommendations forward centered on the model of a development unit which will consist of three schools and a Department of Education from an Institution of Higher Education (IHE) with an established good reputation in either science or design and technology education. The role of each school is to provide a head of science and a head of design and technology both of whom are committed to exploring ways of developing a more effective relationship between the two subjects at either or both KS3 and KS4. The role of the IHE is to provide a person who can facilitate the developing dialogue within each school and between the schools in the unit. The aim is to have four development units chosen from those who are known to be experts in either science or design and technology education. The three schools for each unit will be chosen so that across the twelve participating schools there is a range of different types of school including technology colleges, schools in Education Action Zones, comprehensive schools, selective schools, grant maintained schools, Local Education Authority (LEA) schools. A further role for the IHE is to provide a researcher who, through observation, can gather data from the participating schools which can be used for evaluation purposes. The development and evaluation of good practice will lead to a body of data that can form the basis for the dissemination of evidenced good practice. Much of this will be disseminated through informal networks but dissemination will also include print and web format materials disseminated through the activities of the relevant professional associations - DATA and Association for Science Education as well as through the Engineering Council publications. Dissemination to the higher education community will occur through publication of findings in refereed academic journals.

Part 3 Some suggestions for research in technology education

Most countries in the developed world now have clear curriculum statements for technology education. In these curriculum statements there is usually a mix of three features; some technological knowledge (content), some technological procedures (process) some discussion of technology-society interaction (values). The exact proportions of each in the mix varies from country to country. The exact nature of each varies from country to country as do the proportions of each in the mix. To some extent these will affect the nature of what teachers and students do in the classroom but I firmly believe that it is only through the actions of teachers and students that these curriculum statements achieve any real or significant meaning, and it is in this arena that we should concentrate our future research endeavour.

I must return to my stated intention of identifying what knowledge will be needed and exploring how research activity can create this in a way that relates both to curriculum development and to a research paradigm that intends to develop a research-informed community of practice that is informed by research carried out by that community of practice in partnership with those already engaged in education research.

I have identified three broad categories of new knowledge aimed at achieving three quite specific, different, yet related intentions relevant to our current situation:

  • gaining political support for technology education
  • improving public understanding of technology education
  • improving the teaching and learning of technology  

As our conference progresses I am sure that other categories will emerge.

For each of these I will attempt to articulate a range of research questions and how they might be addressed through a mix of curriculum development related to Mode 2 research activity. Again as our conference progresses I am sure that other research questions and approaches to them will be identified. 

Gaining political support for technology education. What research will enable the technology education community to lobby for commitment to and financial backing for technology education at national, provincial/state and local levels?

Here I think one of the issues is that of reliable data with which to lobby. So I see the need for quantitative studies concerned with finding out how much technology is taught, of what sort, to what ages of students, in what sorts of schools and then gauging the impact that this has in terms of attitudes towards technology, career aspirations and eventual career paths. This is long term research of the sort best conducted by established research professionals but within it there are interesting opportunities for partnerships at two levels. Cooperation with professional associations can establish a climate of opinion among teachers in which they are well disposed to taking part in such information gathering. Indeed some professional associations make an annual survey of such information including information about schools expenditure on technology curriculum (DATA, 1999) although such surveys are usually restricted to teachers who belong to that professional association. The statistics themselves nearly always need exemplifying in ways to which politicians can relate at a human level. So at another level small scale qualitative case studies illustrating the large scale quantitative findings are very useful and it is here that individual teachers working in consultation with those in education research can create the new knowledge to inform quantitative work. The class room activities that are studied can also be informed by curriculum development in which the teachers are involved. And of course this research can be part of that research which is also aimed at improving the teaching and learning of technology.

Another possibility is the role of a curriculum development project that appeals to and receives support from those in public office. With careful management and appropriate evaluation such a project can become a high profile vehicle for supporting technology education. It is important that the curriculum development project is conceived in a way that gives teachers ownership of the endeavour and involves both teachers and students in meeting with politicians where their work (and, as a result, the work of the project and the importance of technology education) are celebrated. And of course the curriculum development project can be part of the research which is also aimed at improving the teaching and learning of technology.

Improving public understanding of technology education. What will help to promote a better understanding of technology education by parents, school governors, trade unions, employers, politicians? Many in our society equate technology with computers and hence technology education becomes confused with information technology education. This is a cause for concern among many technology educators (Martin, 2001). State wide competitions such as those organized by KNEX® and LEGO® are useful ways of dispelling these misconceptions. If preparation for the competition and the associated learning can be embedded in the technology curriculum then the competition becomes in essence a curriculum development exercise and this can be organized along Mode 2 research lines with teacher and student ambassadors for the subject emerging. And in the regular activity of reporting to parents about students' progress teachers have the opportunity to pro-actively inform them about the nature of the subject rather than assuming they understand. There is an interesting cooperative piece of development here between a professional association and teachers in designing effective strategies to communicate technology education to parents and the wider community involved with schools.

Improving the teaching and learning of technology. This is clearly my major area of interest and as indicated above it engages quite naturally with the two previous categories for research. I can easily identify the following areas of investigation within teaching and learning technology as important and open to scrutiny through curriculum development linked to Mode 2 research activity:

  • how to plan a technology curriculum;
  • how to develop and use appropriate pedagogy;
  • how to assess learning and progress in technology education;
  • how to develop creativity, problem solving and designing in technology education;
  • how to introduce new and emerging technologies into the technology curriculum;
  • how to enable the use of learning from other subjects in technology lessons;
  • how to bring new perspectives into technology education.

There are of course many other possible areas of investigation.

Teachers interested in any of these areas of investigation can use their own practice as a means of engaging with that area of investigation. If that practice is informed by the involvement of the teacher in a relevant curriculum development project, then so much the better. An education researcher can be involved in both the curriculum development project and as mentor to the teacher researcher with the understanding that the agenda for the research is decided to a large extent by the teacher, their professional development needs and the exigencies of their particular situation.

And of course there is one very important issue that the above has not yet engaged with and that is the question to what extent does technology education contribute to a young persons overall development, particularly their cognitive development? This leads me to my final point because this question cannot be addressed without coherence, co-ordination and communication. If we develop a "grand plan" for future directions in technology education research (and we should because that is why we are here) then part of that plan should be a regular monitoring of its progress and communication to those able to contribute and all those who might be interested. There is an interesting role here for technology education professional associations in keeping au fait with the work of what I believe could be a new and dynamic research community. A community consisting of partnerships and developing relationships between those concerned with enabling the evolution of technology education; an evolution that will lead to a subject that can not only survive but thrive in a modern curriculum.


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