JITE v32n2 - Five Principles for Guiding Curriculum Development Practice: The Case of Technological Teacher Education

Volume 32, Number 2
Winter 1995

Five Principles for Guiding Curriculum Development Practice: The Case of Technological Teacher Education

Ronald E. Hansen
The University of Western Ontario

Curriculum development is a local, regional, or state/provincial level process that student teachers often have difficulty comprehending ( Hansen, Fliesser, Froelich, & McClain, 1992 ). In their eyes, it is something undertaken by authorities (e.g., regional advisory committee members or school board writing teams) with years of experience in the school system. The expectation of the teacher candidates, often enough, is that they will learn how to teach and thereby become effective at transmitting the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with a particular subject or program. Education practitioners with years in the profession know differently. Successful practice in the classroom is inextricably linked to curriculum development-the everyday decisions about both what to teach and how to teach.

Choosing technological education as the unit of analysis in this paper is intentional. Technological education is in the midst of an unprecedented curriculum reform in the schools. The origin of the reform, in pragmatic terms, is multifaceted. First, technology itself has changed ( Bell, 1989 ). Bell identifies four innovations that underlie what he calls the third technological revolution: the change of all mechanical, electric, and electromechanical systems to electronics; miniaturization-the invention and use of semiconductors for controlling and regulating machines and processes; digitalization-the conversion of systems from analog to digital form to enhance systems performance; and software-the basis of customizing/tailoring programs for particular computer user needs. Second, instructional strategies in schools are changing. New technologies, especially the use of the computer as an instructional tool, have given teachers and learners the opportunity to explore new ways to learn. Third, new conceptions of teacher development are evolving ( Feiman-Nemser, 1990 ). The syllabus associated with teacher development across all school subject or program areas, but especially with technological education, is tied more directly to school-level curriculum development than heretofore realized.

Layton ( 1993 ) is particularly effective in articulating the nature of the curriculum reform in schools while paying tribute to technological education. The schools, in Layton's opinion, have historically transmitted knowledge without contextualizing it:

No subject challenges the historic role of schools as institutions which decontextualize knowledge quite so strongly as does technology. What technology signals is the recognition that practical knowledge, i.e., knowledge which empowers its possessors in realms of practical action, is now being accorded equal status [to academic knowledge]. ( p. 15 )

The magnitude and nature of Layton's message is extensive. Beyond celebrating a pedagogical tradition that has been less than heralded as a model for instruction by school and university leaders, his words signal the need for technology educators to document, enhance, and showcase curriculum development study/practice in their field. The purpose of this paper is to interpret, distill, and simplify an expansive curriculum literature base so that entry-level technology teachers can more readily understand key elements of the curriculum development process.

The Importance and Place of Curriculum Theory

The principles upon which curriculum development practice has evolved date back to the early decades of this century. Bobbitt's ( 1918 ) view that schooling, like production processes in factories, could be reduced to an efficient technique was as commonly accepted by educators in that era as mass media is today. It was not until Tyler ( 1949 ) introduced a disciplined approach to instruction that the paradigm of curriculum-making that had prevailed for half a century changed. Educational psychologists, among others, gained substantial credibility in the 1950s and 1960s as behavioral objectives led the list of principles upon which the instructional process would be designed. Narrow preoccupations with discrete and abstract elements of the curriculum (e.g., objectives, teaching methods, and measurement) were the currency of choice in textbooks about contemporary instruction. The one exception to the emergence of what would now surely be called curriculum theory was voiced by Goodlad ( 1958 ) who called for a comprehensive and coherent framework for curriculum design. Schwab ( 1972 ) supported Goodlad's call for a conceptual system to guide curriculum decision-making. He blamed a reliance on theory for creating the unhappy state of curriculum study and practice. Progress, he claimed, would be by piecemeal improvement not by monolithic revolution and would start from a sophisticated understanding of existing practices and their effects. By the end of the 1970s, it was possible to say that curriculum design, if not curriculum theory, was on the threshold of emerging as a field of study.

There has been considerable debate in the education literature ( Barrow, 1984 ; Goodlad, 1984 ; Pratt, 1994 ; Miller & Seller, 1985 ) about the importance and place of curriculum theory and curriculum design. Barrow provided a useful perspective on the debate:

Curriculum design is an otiose notion: we don't want curriculum designers in the sense of people adept at telling us formally how curricula should be set out, or laying down an invariant order of steps to be taken in formulating a curriculum. We want people to design particular curricula in intelligent ways. Much of the divergence between designers and between theories of curriculum design is essentially irrelevant, since it boils down to quibbling about how best to start tackling the problem, and how best to make an impact, rather than arguing about what a coherent curriculum proposal should involve. ( p. 67 )

The author's view, as reflected partly in the curriculum principles which follow, is that curriculum is necessarily a complex concept that lends itself awkwardly, with equal challenge and passion, to theory and practice. To best address that complexity, teacher education programs may need to reassess their priorities with respect to the importance and place of curriculum theory. Well conceived notions about how curriculum theories guide educational change are, as Apple ( 1990 ) and Goodson ( 1991 ) point out, too simplistic. Often what appears on the surface to be a very coherent and rational argument for a curriculum policy direction in schools may never materialize, or if it does, the final result differs from what was envisioned. Whether one adopts Goodson's ( 1991 ) notion that curriculum theory, to be of use, must begin with studies of schools and teaching, or Apple's ( 1990 ) view that our ability to illuminate the interdependence and interaction of factors associated with curriculum reform is limited by political and cultural forces deeply embedded in the schools, the end result is the same.

Because curriculum and curriculum change are complex, the investigators in the University of Western Ontario teacher development project considered both curriculum and curriculum development as teacher- and school-level phenomena that require an eclectic and applied approach. Technological education curriculum ideology in the above context has, until recently, been an ignored subject/program area ( Layton, 1993 ). The work of Zuga ( 1993 ) and Herschbach ( 1992 ) is particularly helpful in charting the technological education curriculum theory and design terrain. Herschbach contends that "conceptual inconsistency has been a characteristic mark of the movement [technical/utilitarian or competency-based curriculum design variations in technology education]" ( p. 25 ). In his opinion, the curriculum design pattern (academic rationalism, technical/utilitarian, intellectual processes, social reconstruction, or personal relevance) that should underlie technology education is open to debate. Competencies, in Herschbach's view, need to be defined more broadly than "the ability to manipulate tools, use material and apply mechanical processes. Problem solving, critical thinking skills, ordered ways of working-these are competencies that can also be identified" ( p. 26 ). In contrast to Herschbach's desire to see technology education develop a "process design pattern," Zuga ( 1993 ) advocates a diversity of theories. While recognizing the need to modify Kliebard's ( 1992 ) categories (social efficiency, human development, social meliorism) to encompass the emergence of a post-modern philosophy, Zuga argues that technology education programs, for the most part, exemplify the social efficiency paradigm:

I believe that our theory needs to diversify. A problem is the positivist notion of one truth, one right way, one theory, one unified profession. Positivist theoretical underpinnings in the social efficiency theory never serve the diverse needs of a diverse population; rather, positivist theory attempts to force everything into a homogeneous blend… . I see no reason for a single curriculum theory underpinning technology education. ( p. 62, 63 )

In the author's opinion, technological education leaders, in Canadian schools and universities at least, have never contemplated how one theory might have power over another for explaining program evolution or a need for change. It is only in recent years that universities with a technological teacher education program have begun to examine the role of theory in curriculum development policy and practice. What remains to be seen is how competing and complementary curriculum theories will inform our understanding of this emerging field.

The premises for establishing guiding principles for curriculum development practice in such a context are crucial. First, a conceptual framework within which to plan learning activities and design curriculum may be a more significant element in a teacher's preparation than is currently acknowledged ( Feiman-Nemser, 1990 ). The teacher education literature has not given curriculum design the attention it deserves ( Haughey, 1992 ; Pratt, 1994 ; Sanders, 1990 ). Second, aspiring technology teachers should have an opportunity to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs about learning ( Hansen, 1995 ). The understanding gained by having some way to conceptualize personal attitudes and beliefs about learning, according to Feiman-Nemser, is a crucial element in a teacher's development. This is especially so in technological education because of the eclectic nature of the belief systems held by technologists/technicians with business and industry backgrounds or ideological tendencies. Third, there is a need to explore an epistemological foundation for technological education. The "technological method" ( Savage & Sterry, 1990 ) notwithstanding, the difference between knowing and doing in the building of an epistemological and pedagogical rationale for technological education is important for education practitioners to understand. Fourth, the curriculum development process needs to be more clearly understood, fully appreciated, and consistently applied at all levels in school systems. The task analysis method of developing curriculum ( Fryklund, 1970 ) has been an integral part of technological teacher education for years. Despite the outdatedness of task analysis, more needs to be done to expose the lineage of scientific curriculum making ( Kliebard, 1992 ) and test its applicability in today's technocentric society. Lauda ( 1994 ), while he does not use the term technocentric , refers to the need for a global understanding which rightly has the study of technology at its core. Finally, and perhaps most salient, is the premise that aspiring teachers need to understand the political realities associated with curriculum development work. Politics in education is a field of study that is overlooked in the teacher education curriculum. It is least understood and discussed, and yet it is critical to the successful adoption of curriculum.

The structure of this paper conforms to the five premises articulated above. Each premise is explored and a principle for improving practice in curriculum design is developed. While each principle is described as a separate entity for emphasis and clarity (somewhat like a literary sketch), the reader may make useful connections between and among them. The guiding principles articulated above (i.e., the need for a conceptual framework, opportunities to reflect on attitudes and beliefs, exploration of the epistemological foundation of the subject, an understanding of the curriculum development process, and an understanding of the political realities) represent signposts from which bearings, related to curriculum study and practice, may be charted.

The experiential base for this paper was a technological teacher development project completed recently at The University of Western Ontario. The project involved a program modification that altered the way technological education teachers were recruited, prepared, and placed in the school systems of southern Ontario. One result of the action research component of the project was a critical look at the teacher development process in technological education. Among several areas identified for study and reflection, helping technology teachers become curriculum writers was paramount.

Principle 1: The Essence of Curriculum Design The Need for a Conceptual Framework

Curriculum design, like education as a whole, relies on the explanation of phenomena that theory provides, but is not itself theoretical. The terms educational theory or curriculum theory can be employed only through a loose and nonscientific use of the word "theory." At its most scientific, curriculum design, is an applied science; like medicine and engineering, it draws on theory from the pure sciences, but itself develops not theory but operating principles to guide decision making in practical situations. ( Pratt, 1980, p. 9 )

Pratt's view about the place of theory in understanding the curriculum design process, clarifies the theory/practice dichotomy. Curriculum development, in his opinion, is a practical phenomenon that does not couple well with theory (i.e., theory does not drive curriculum development and curriculum development does not drive theory). Pratt is convinced that curriculum cannot be governed by theory alone.

Pratt defines design as a deliberate process of devising, planning, and selecting the elements, techniques, and procedures that constitute an organized learning endeavor. Embedded in the notion of designing, according to Pratt , is a deeper set of understandings that imply the production of something that is conceptual as well as material ( p. 5 ). "The curriculum designer … must develop priorities to guide the selection of tasks to be performed, as well as be able to perform them" ( p. 10 ).

Over the past thirty years much of curriculum practice has been driven by theory (e.g., behavioral psychology) in which interaction between teachers and students has been defined in scientific terms like behaviorism or cognitivism . Such theory has driven a curriculum design process that starts with behavioral learning objectives, proceeds with content decisions, and finishes with instructional methods. However, while behavioral theory derives its credibility from scientific knowledge about human behavior, it does not penetrate the complexity of what takes place when a person learns something meaningful. An alternative to the social efficiency model would be to adopt a human development/phenomenological design. A phenomenological approach would proceed based on the needs of learners; it would draw from the teacher's experience with, and knowledge of, human development. In this case the planning or curriculum design sequence would start with an understanding of how people learn, continue with instructional methods that match learning styles, then progress to content.

The nature of instruction in the two cases may be appreciably different. In the first case the goals and objectives of learning come from experts who believe they know best what should be taught and how it should be taught. Such instruction is predicated on a top-down, linear model, in which knowledge is static and is passed along or transmitted to the young. The second represents a blended model in which the needs of the student come first, knowledge is thought to be dynamic, and learning how to learn is as valid an outcome of schooling as the transmission of existing knowledge.

Adopting and implementing a curriculum design process that is phenomenologically rooted requires autonomy on the part of the curriculum designer. Prospective teachers have to become their own educational architects rather than relying on higher authority prescriptions for what and how to teach. British educator Sir Alec Clegg ( 1968 ) made this point forcefully:

I have no time whatever for any system which recruits high-powered thinkers to contrive and foist a curriculum on the schools. This cannot work unless we believe that the teacher of the future is to be a low-grade technician working under someone else's instructions rather than a professional making his [sic] own diagnosis and prescribing his [sic] own treatment. ( p. 9 )

The view reached by a teacher development group ( Hansen et al., 1992 ) at The University of Western Ontario is that curriculum development, as a practical phenomenon, does indeed contain distinct and identifiable elements. Those elements are similar to those identified by Pratt ( 1980 ): (a) the ability to design a set of learning activities within general provincial/state guidelines; (b) consult with community groups, school leaders, fellow teachers, students; and, (c) given the resources available to the teacher and a set of tried and proven curriculum principles, prepare a curriculum prospectus that provides parameters for budget allocation, resource availability, decision making, professional roles, and administrative contingencies.

How do successful technology teachers master the conceptual and practical complexities of curriculum design? Understanding the essence of the curriculum design process begins when teacher candidates grasp the genesis of classroom instruction. Dependence on higher authority prescriptions for what learners need undermines the human development process. It is relatively easy to work with a curriculum that is prescribed. It is more difficult to explore the genesis of that curriculum and decide for oneself, as a professional, if the curriculum content and process encompass what they should. A second stage to the UWO teacher development project promises to provide further opportunities to explore and evaluate the technology teacher candidates who were a part of the project. Such information will help validate the "curriculum as a practical phenomenon" view of the UWO research group and enhance the field of technological teacher development.

Principle 2: Conceptualizing Attitudes and Beliefs About Learning

Miller and Seller ( 1985 ) describe three orientations that are useful and pertinent to developing and understanding one's beliefs and attitudes about learning: (a) the transmission position, (b) the transaction position, and (c) the transformation position. Each is helpful in understanding the philosophical, psychological, and social contexts in which curriculum is developed. In the transmission position, the function of schooling is viewed as transmitting facts, skills, and values to students. This orientation stresses mastery of conventional school subjects through traditional teaching methodologies, particularly textbook learning. The people most often associated with this view are Thorndike and Skinner. In the transaction position, the student is seen as rational and capable of intelligent problem solving. Education is viewed as a dialogue between the student and the curriculum in which the student reconstructs knowledge through a dialogical process. The historical antecedent is the period of the Enlightenment, and the influential people most closely allied with the transaction position, according to Miller and Seller, are Horace Mann, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. The concept dialogical is described by Shor ( 1992 ) as a third idiom that relates academic language used in schools with or to concrete experience and colloquial discourse use in everyday life. The transformation position focuses on personal and social change, with attention to ecological interdependence and the interrelatedness of phenomena generally. The historical roots of this position are traced to Rousseau. The transformation position conceives of social change as a movement toward harmony with the environment rather than as an effort to exert control over it. This position embodies the idealistic notion that students should learn what they want to learn.

The systematic inclusion of higher order learning outcomes (e.g., critical thinking) into a curricular strategy provides an example of how conceptualizing attitudes and beliefs about learning can be useful. Previous curriculum theory has been bereft of explanations on how to connect higher order learning outcomes and everyday learning practices ( Wotherspoon, 1987 ). Technological educators have felt for years that their experiential pedagogical models were very productive in teaching inquiry and problem solving skills. Perhaps a belated rationale for that intuitive belief is now possible. Learning materials and activities or subjects can be arranged in patterns that allow for maximum flexibility. The belief that schooling needs to be problem-centered rather than subject-centered is one for which teacher candidates need context. Knowing about the evolution of schooling around separate subjects, and how an integrated curriculum makes it possible to explore relationships between ideas and concepts in different subjects [the transaction position], may free teacher candidates to develop curriculum more creatively. Technology teachers may not initially understand the consequences of integrating curriculum, but they are better off for having a framework through which to classify their actions and decisions about learning activities. Technological education is well served, in this context, by its eclectic nature and pedagogical tradition. Understanding one's own attitudes and beliefs about learning and schooling gives context to the instructional process. It also makes it easier to understand the views about learning held by others.

The attitudes and beliefs principle is relatively easy to conceptualize in the abstract. It is much more difficult to put the conceptualization into practice. Further study and debate among technology teacher educators with knowledge and experience in teacher development is necessary to refine this principle.

Principle 3: An Epistemological Rationale

Epistemology, that branch of philosophy that deals with the origin, nature, and limitations of knowledge, has fueled debate in education for years. The argument over academic versus utilitarian curriculum, for example, can be found in the education literature today ( Goodson, 1987) , as well as at the turn of the century ( Dewey, 1916/1966 ). The duration of the debate is testimony to the potency and relevance of the nature of technological knowledge as an issue.

When education, under the influence of a scholastic conception of knowledge which ignores everything but scientifically formulated facts and truths, fails to recognize that primary or initial subject matter of an active doing, involving the use of the body and the handling of material, the subject matter of instruction is isolated from the needs and purposes of the learner, and so becomes just something to be memorized and reproduced on demand. ( Dewey , as cited in Miller & Seller, 1985, p. 65-66 )

Dewey's views on problem solving, according to Miller and Seller , are almost household knowledge. "According to Dewey , intelligence is developed through the individual's interaction with the social environment, particularly through solving problems" ( Miller & Seller, 1985, p. 65 ). The distinction between an academic and utilitarian curriculum can be described as the difference between having knowledge [academic] and being able to demonstrate or apply that knowledge [utilitarian]. Learners in school settings are asked to demonstrate retention of factual information (i.e., short term knowledge, through tests, exams, quizzes, or some form of recall). Do they get a chance to apply that knowledge?

Often the knowledge needed to complete a concrete assignment or project gives students a fuller context in which to make sense of factual knowledge. When a need has been recognized and internalized by the learners, they ultimately respond to the need. The experiential learning model ( Lewin, 1975 ) illustrates the stages in the process (see Figure 1 ).

Figure 1
Lewinian Experiential Learning Model. (adapted from Kolb, 1984, p. 21 )

Lewin borrowed the concept of feedback from electrical engineering to describe a social learning and problem solving process that generates valid information to assess deviations from desired goals. This information feedback provides the basis for a continuous process of goal-directed action and evaluation of the consequences of that action.

Technology educators have a rich tradition of balancing the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective elements of individual development. Little is available in the literature, however, to describe and give credence to that balance. Lewis ( 1993 ) describes the technological education epistemological issue in terms of curriculum authenticity. "The validity of human endeavor as the basis of knowledge in its own right has, to a large extent, to do with the authenticity of the curriculum. How authentic is the curriculum if it denies everyday existence … if it relegates human practices supportive of life to an inferior plane?" ( p. 19 ). The curriculum authenticity notion is one that aligns well with the need for learning that is contextualized.

The word praxis is helpful in describing what it means to apply knowledge or to know how to do something. Praxis , according to Pratt ( 1980 ), typifies experiential learning ( p. 11 ). The importance of the connection between current action, future consequences, and alternative action cannot be overstated. Can knowing ever be separated from knowing how if real learning is to take place? Pring ( 1976 ), made the distinction between knowing that (i.e., belief-type knowledge) and knowing how (i.e., procedural-type knowledge) when he stated that "I feel that the neglect of this distinction is responsible for so much dead weight in the curriculum… . We are so concerned with `knowing that' that we forget that much of this kind of knowledge is a very sophisticated reflection upon `knowing how,' an attempt to make explicit and put into statements the principles that are already operating in successful practice" ( p. 19 ).

Schwab's ( 1972 ) introduction of practical versus disciplinary modes of inquiry, in combination with Lewin's experiential learning model and Pring's procedural knowledge, provide a starting point for an epistemology of technological education. A preoccupation with a discipline as opposed to a practical mode of inquiry in learning, according to Schwab , is too narrow a conception of knowledge. Practical, as opposed to disciplinary, modes of inquiry aim "to discover the relations which exist or which can be induced among the various subject areas" ( Schwab, 1972, p. 87 ). The new broad-based technological education programs being introduced in school systems around the world (e.g., communication technology) may represent Schwab's practical mode of inquiry at its best. If such programs do contextualize knowledge, as Layton suggests, they certainly represent an area for further investigation.

Formulating an epistemological rationale for the technological education program area generally points to and amplifies the importance of having technological education teachers become explicitly aware of the origins, nature, and limitations of the knowledge they are using. Further research on the importance and place of technological knowledge is needed if technological education is to assume its rightful place in the curriculum of the schools.

Principle 4: The Curriculum Development/Planning Process

The curriculum development process can be puzzling to new teachers. The process is often discussed in the literature as a blueprint for developing a curriculum that has applicability across a range of subjects (i.e., a macro view); however, it is also defined as the plan teachers adopt in the classroom for organizing learning activities (i.e., a micro view). Both interpretations of curriculum development are valid and helpful in conceiving and continually implementing successful learning activities for students. Having developed a conceptual framework and an understanding of the essence of curriculum design, it is important for aspiring teachers to become familiar with macro and micro level planning, learning theory, and student assessment/program evaluation.

Macro level curriculum planning in North America, whether highly centralized or decentralized, is often the result of task force reports and competing prescriptions of what should be taught in schools. The end products of such processes are interesting to analyze. The Commonwealth of Virginia ( 1992 ), for example, has produced a statewide technological education curriculum for its schools and school teachers. That curriculum has been carefully and professionally crafted, covers a specific band of the technological education curriculum spectrum, provides educators with excellent curriculum materials, and demonstrates one process for developing curriculum. An alternative approach has been adopted in the Province of Ontario, where only general learning outcomes are specified at the provincial level. Responsibility for the more detailed development of the curriculum has been embraced by school boards and systems of school boards. Both approaches to the development of a new curriculum-one centralized, the other decentralized-are valid and merit ongoing analysis and study.

Given the rapidly changing social needs and conditions facing North American school systems, it is difficult to imagine curriculum planning taking place only at the macro level. Pratt warns about the pitfalls of removing the planning process too far from the learner. He asserts, "in most schools, the programs offered reflect the areas of expertise and interest of teachers rather than an analysis of the needs of learners" ( p. 52 ). Pratt ( 1989 ) is convinced senior educators act too arbitrarily on behalf of the many constituents served by schooling:

… the clients of the schools-parents, employers, taxpayers-are ordinarily excluded from curriculum committees. Nor are their views accessed by means of needs assessment. Curriculum development is a process carried out almost entirely by educators, and the need for client opinion is ignored. Also ignored is the need for empirical data, both from needs assessment before the curriculum is developed and from field testing after development. The approach therefore is almost entirely bureaucratic and political: the development of curriculum is viewed as a quasi-legislative activity of writing rules and regulations. ( p. 308 )

Curriculum planning that is guided or informed by some rational process would seem to merit the attention of all educators. Before curriculum can be formulated, the curriculum designer must take into account a combination of constituent needs-including community, schools, teachers, and students. Because communities and regions are very different, student groups vary, schools differ, and teachers are not all alike, the idea of one prescribed curriculum for everyone is limiting.

With respect to the individual learner, one observation is central to curriculum planning; learning is an interactive process. Constructivist learning theorists ( Driver & Bell, 1985 ; Scott, 1987 ) may have a valid argument when they claim that learners have a base of experience through which new meaning can be constructed. They also may be right in assuming that people are purposive beings who set their own goals and control their own learning. In short, learning is best characterized as an adaptive process as articulated in principle number three, in which learners interact with their environment. The role of instructor is an intermediary one.

Another element in the curriculum planning process involves program evaluation. Few issues among education practitioners garner as much attention as assessment of student achievement and the relation of such assessment to program effectiveness. It is risky to make easy generalizations about the study and practice of program evaluation (macro or micro level). Measuring student achievement and determining the effectiveness of planned learning activities are, right or wrong, integral elements of schooling as it has evolved. Kramer ( 1990 ) provides an interesting perspective for consideration and a provocative illustration of how assessment of student achievement might be portrayed.

Kramer ( 1990 ) advocates that an evaluation scheme that (a) recognizes hard work, (b) provides opportunities for students to interact formally and informally, (c) promotes engagement between instructors and students, and (d) creates avenues for out-of-class use of skills. The object of curriculum planning, according to Kramer, is not to make an obstacle course. Schools and technology teachers would do well to consider Kramer's four rules of engagement:

  1. A successful program would always feature or be characterized as having a hard working student body;
  2. Students participating in a successful program talk a lot;
  3. A successful curriculum would be one in which students and instructors were genuinely engaged; and
  4. The context in which performance is usually assessed should reach beyond the school or institution (e.g., technological education students design a computer program for a hospital in which they are volunteers).

Meaningful learning experiences in school classrooms can be designed, presented, and shaped through a rational process. The importance of community input and support in that process cannot be overstated.

Principle 5: The Political Realities of Curriculum Development

To say that curriculum development matters in education are often highly politicized is an understatement. The reality in curriculum development at the school and university level is that many subject groups compete for a place in the school curriculum. Teacher education and, by association, schooling, are not neutral in their organization and curriculum content. Political scientists are thus inclined to ask questions like the following: Does the current spotlight on technological education constitute a conspiracy by government to augment business and industry interests, or is it a reform for the well-being of students, schools, and society? The importance of understanding political reality is that it forces educators to consider the way interest groups compete for the establishment of their vision of a particular area of the curriculum ( McCormick, 1990 ).

Goodson ( 1991 ), an educational sociologist, argues that curriculum practice "is a multifaceted concept, constructed, negotiated, and renegotiated at a variety of levels and in a variety of arenas" ( p. 49 ). In other words, it is a political process. Wotherspoon ( 1987 ), in an article entitled "Conflict and Crisis in Canadian Education," describes the negotiation through the structures of domination that have come to pervade Canadian education systems and practices. He suggests that "despite claims for `democracy,' `objectivity,' and `equality of opportunity,' schooling has continued to reinforce a social structure which is highly stratified along class, gender, and racial lines" ( p. 2 ). Educational change in Canada, he contends, has also repeatedly borne the mark of struggle by groups which have had alternative visions. Such a perspective is touted, according to Wotherspoon, to promote an active and critical rather than a passive and accepting way of looking at the world: "Education in this sense involves probing for a critical understanding of the patterns that underlie our observed social reality for the purpose, where necessary, of changing that reality" ( Wotherspoon, 1987, p. 2 ).

Technology educators who eschew organizational dynamics in favor of artisanship might benefit from having a regard and respect for partisan realities. How often has one heard of an instance where resources destined for technological education were reapportioned elsewhere? The controversial status of technological education in the common curriculum, in countries where status issues are prominent, is an example issue. Goodson and Mangan ( 1991 ) describe a social constructionist perspective that may be of use in having the accomplishments of technology educators recognized and valued more consistently:

It [the social constructionist perspective] demands that, as we seek to understand a social phenomenon, we must also recognize the importance of the larger social context in the construction of individuals' interpretive practices. This requires some grasp of the historical background of the phenomenon under study, as well as a recognition of the political and economic relationships within which sense-making takes place. ( Goodson & Mangan, 1991, p. 11 )

The underlying assumption in this view is that reality is socially created and sustained and often dissected or deconstructed (sometimes with ulterior motives in mind). Technology educators will need to ask whether or not any interest group has or is framing/constructing a new reality in which technological education is either credited or discredited. MacKenzie and Wajcman ( 1985 ), sociologists of technology, argue that technologists and technology educators have perilously ignored social concerns for too long.

The Need for Further Analysis

In labeling and describing the five principles, the author has attempted to analyze curriculum development practice in technological education. Several questions have been raised, some of which may lead to further research, analysis, and reflection. The technological education teacher development project recently completed at the University of Western Ontario ( Hansen et al., 1992 ) demonstrated that rationalizing curriculum and curriculum development in technological education and technological teacher education is a challenging process. Technology teachers come to the profession from a broad range of specializations and with an equally diverse range of values. Meeting the needs of such a group is demanding. The very fact that curriculum is so contested and curriculum development is such a dynamic process compounds the problem. Identifying a finite set of principles which can be applied widely is a daunting task.

The work of documenting and reaching consensus on the principles by which curriculum can be fashioned was accomplished at UWO through the introduction of curriculum studios ( Hansen, 1995 ). Technology teacher candidates were/are required to complete three studios (communication technology, engineering graphics, design studies), each providing an opportunity to design and write innovative technological curriculum. Through hands-on experience, experimentation, and analysis of educational materials, student teachers, faculty members, and associate teachers in the schools collaborate to generate learning units/modules/showcase projects. The creating and building of curricula, moreover, occurs concurrently with the development of the principles underlying and explaining it.

The challenge for technology instructors and scholars was articulated by Layton ( 1993 ), when he characterized the historic role played by schools as institutions that decontextualize knowledge. If the pedagogical imperative in schools is to contextualize all knowledge that is transmitted or transacted, the experiential pedagogical practice of technology educators may have more value than is currently recognized. The origins of those practices need to be articulated and internalized before increased value can accrue. The utility of technology as a means of adaptation, expression, and fulfillment for young people deserves to be more widely publicized and celebrated.

The five principles, as a collective and as specific entities, provide a backdrop against which curriculum planning, in teacher education settings and in schools, can be made and against which the nature of technology and technological education can be showcased. Ideological and practical curriculum work in education have a unique association. While curriculum theories and ideologies about curriculum evolve, the relation of those ideologies to practice is difficult to extricate. One's curriculum development experience, circumstance, and understanding of curriculum development principles, ultimately determine curriculum design. The unions and connections which evolve through practical curriculum writing and development experience in technological education may give schooling and curriculum practice the form, content, spirit, and direction Layton foresees.


Hansen is Assistant Professor and Coordinator, Curriculum Division, Technological Education, The University of Western Ontario.


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Reference Citation: Hansen, R. E. (1995). Five principles for guiding curriculum development practice: The case of technological teacher education. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education , 32(2), 30-50.