Time to Re-Conceptualize the Role of Secondary Schools in New Zealand: Looking to the Future in Technology Education

Time to Re-Conceptualize the Role of Secondary Schools in New Zealand: Looking to the Future in Technology Education

Elizabeth Reinsfield (University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJAET.2020040104
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Technology education in New Zealand has evolved from a subject with technical beginnings, to be a learning area with the potential to develop the types of knowledge and capabilities that students are likely to need in a technologically mediated future. The recent review of the technology education curriculum, and proposed changes for our schooling assessment framework, presents opportunities for teachers to develop or embed their curriculum practices. This article reports on findings from an interpretivist, qualitative study, which considered secondary technology education teachers' perceptions and practice. The findings suggest that participants viewed their subject as a means to predominately develop student skills and specialist content knowledge, and practice was impacted by teacher ability to make meaning of curriculum intent. There is an urgent need to challenge some established teachers' views and teaching practices, which negate or marginalise curriculum policy and intent. Recommendations are made to support the alignment of technical and technological ways of thinking and practice, for those teachers who are motivated by the curriculum, which aims to develop student technological literacy.
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In New Zealand, technology education has evolved as a subject with technical beginnings to become a curriculum learning area, which offers opportunities for student to learn about design and visual communication, the development of digital products and systems, materials, and processes (Ministry of Education (MoE), 2007, 2017). Technology education is described in the curriculum as:

… intervention by design. It uses intellectual and practical resources to create technological outcomes, which expand human possibilities by addressing needs and realising opportunities. Design is characterised by innovation and adaptation and is at the heart of technological practice. It is informed by critical and creative thinking and specific design processes. Effective and ethical design respects the unique relationship that New Zealanders have with their physical environment and embraces the significance of Māori culture and world-views in its practice and innovation. Technology makes enterprising use of knowledge, skills and practices for exploration and communication, some specific to areas within technology and some from other disciplines. These include digitally-aided design, programming, software development, various forms of technological modelling, and visual literacy – the ability to make sense of images and the ability to make images that make sense. (MoE, 2017, p. 1)

In New Zealand, technology education is a mandatory subject until the end of junior secondary schooling (Age 13). The nature of students’ learning experiences can be impacted by teachers’ perceptions of the role of their subject. At the age of 14, students choose what they would like to study for their senior secondary education. In some secondary schools, there can be an emphasis on the teaching of content knowledge, which derives from teachers’ perceived need to enable specialization within technological areas, or to support students’ pathways towards the Trades (e.g., building) or University study (Jones, 2009; Granshaw, 2015; Reinsfield, 2016, 2018). For example, learning outcomes in technology education can focus on the skills and/or assessment requirements needed to prepare students for a particular the workplace (such as Building), rather than the capabilities they are likely to need to adapt in future technological times (Reinsfield, 2018, 2019). Such practices do not necessarily address all students’ learning needs or interests.

Technology education in New Zealand has dual purpose, as reflected in its history. In 1905 for example, the first New Zealand based technical school was opened, which offered practical subjects for those students who were deemed unsuitable for the academic nature of secondary schooling - these individuals were directed towards the Trades because there was a view that practical subjects required less knowledge than subjects perceived to be more academic in nature (McLintoch, 1966). Whilst this attitude may persist, it presents a tension in an age where advocated for teaching and learning in technology education should require to be adaptive, critical and creative thinkers (Ertmer & Newby, 2013; Loi & Dillon, 2006; MoE, 2007, 2017).

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