JTE v3n2 - Curriculum Change in Technology Education: Differing Theoretical Perspectives

Volume 3, Number 2
Spring 1992

Introduction to Special Theme Issue

          Curriculum Change in Technology Education
          Differing Theoretical Perspectives

          Dennis R. Herschbach

              Professions periodically undergo name changes. The name
          "technology education" is rapidly replacing "industrial
          arts," and there seems to be little doubt that by the end of
          the decade the transformation will be complete. There is
          less certainty, however, concerning what is technology
          education. Is it industrial arts renamed? Does it reflect
          new instructional content or methods? Will a new student
          population be served? Most proponents of technology
          education argue for a significant restructuring of the
          former industrial arts. However, except for the wide use of
          general industrial categories for curriculum organizers,
          such as transportation, manufacturing, construction, and
          communication, there is little professional agreement on
          specific curriculum components. This is partly due to the
          complexity of technology. It defies easy definition. This is
          also partly due to reform itself. The intellectual disarray
          which often accompanies reform movements characterizes
          technology education.
              Curriculum theory provides one way to guide educational
          change. Although curriculum development is an inexact
          process because many of the decisions are largely value
          judgments, there are, nevertheless, ways to go about it
          which produce consistent results. Among curriculum theorists
          there is general agreement that there are five basic
          curriculum design patterns. Each is supported by an
          underlying rationale, and each produces a curriculum design
          with distinct characteristics. A curriculum design pattern
          provides a logically coherent way to organize instruction.
              While different theorists may use different
          terminology, the five basic curriculum design patterns are
          a) academic rationalist (separate subjects); b)
          technical/utilitarian (competencies); c) intellectual
          processes; d) personal relevance; and e) social
          reconstruction. Each design pattern is supported by a
          rational which guides the selection and ordering of content.
              The five articles in this special issue examine
          curriculum change in technology education through one of the
          different theoretical perspectives. In the first article,
          Erekson outlines the characteristics of the academic
          rationalist design pattern, and argues that technology
          education can clearly fit within this perspective. While
          acknowledging the lack of a clearly defined "discipline" of
          technology, the author suggests that a new discipline is
          emerging, and that the method through which technological
          problems are solved may be one source of curriculum content.
          The second article discusses from a historical perspective
          the competencies, or what is more recently termed the
          technical/utilitarian design pattern. This pattern has been
          applied widely to industrial arts. It is suggested that
          before a similar application can be made to technology
          education there are key issues that must be addressed.
              In the third article, Johnson outlines the
          characteristics of the intellectual processes design
          pattern, a newly emerged perspective. The author presents a
          rationale for this design pattern and identifies the sources
          of content and organizing concepts. In the fourth article,
          Petrina observes that while the personal relevance design
          pattern is compatible with most statements about the purpose
          of technology education, curriculum plans generally do not
          emphasize this perspective. After examining the development
          and characteristics of the personal relevance pattern, the
          author identifies some of the issues that must be resolved
          before wider application can be achieved. In the final
          article, Zuga explores the social reconstruction
          perspective. What is meant by social reconstruction is
          examined, and ideas are presented for organizing a social
          reconstruction curriculum. The author observes that this
          perspective will challenge technology educators to take a
          stand on many of the social issues that surround the
          creation and use of technology.
              Each of these design patterns has been applied to
          industrial arts education in varying degree. The extent to
          which they influence the development of technology education
          remains to be seen. Nevertheless, as the reconceptualization
          of industrial arts continues, technology education will have
          to draw from one or more of these design patterns if it is
          going to develop a coherent rationale for the selection of
          instructional content. The profession must continue to
          engage in a dialogue which explores the full curricular
          implications of the different theoretical perspectives. The
          articles in this issue are presented as a contribution to
          this dialogue.

          Dennis Herschbach is Associate Professor in the Department
          of Industrial, Technological and Occupational Education,
          University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

Journal of Technology Education   Volume 3, Number 2       Spring 1992