Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

Current Editor: Chris Merrill,
Previous Editors: Mark Sanders 1989-1997; James LaPorte: 1997-2010

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Volume 3, Number 2
Spring 1992

              A Framework for Technology Education Curricula Which Emphasizes Intellectual
                        Scott D. Johnson
                            As the field of technology education evolves, its
                        unique mission to provide relevant and experiential
                        learning opportunities for students is becoming clear.
                        Through well developed curricula, technology education
                        programs are able to reinforce academic content, enhance
                        higher order thinking skills, and promote active involvement
                        with technology (Johnson, 1991). The development of cur-
                        ricula which addresses such goals is both difficult and
                            A variety of curriculum perspectives exist which
                        greatly influence the direction and results of curriculum
                        development efforts (Eisner & Vallance, 1974; Miller &
                        Seller, 1985; Zuga, 1989). These perspectives include
                        academic rationalist, technical/utilitarian, intellectual
                        processes, social reconstruction, and personal
                        relevance. While curricula developed through each curriculum
                        perspective vary in their contribution toward a well-rounded
                        education, this article is based on the assumption that the
                        development of intellectual processes should be the primary
                        goal of education. Therefore, the purpose of this article is
                        to establish a rationale for technology education
                        curricula which emphasizes the development of intellectual
                        processes and lay the foundation for an intellectual
                        processes curriculum framework.
                        The Importance of Intellectual Skills in the Future
                            There is little doubt that the development of
                        intellectual processes is critical in this age of advancing
                        technology. Tremendous changes have occurred and will
                        continue to occur in the workplace. Equipment and proc-
                        esses are becoming more sophisticated. This sophistication
                        has resulted in fundamental changes in the skills needed by
                        workers. Increased levels of skills are required to
                        maintain the complex equipment. There has been a switch from
                        concrete (hands-on) tasks to abstract (minds-on) tasks which
                        require mental skills such as symbolic and abstract thinking
                        (Grubb, 1984). Management strategies have also changed in
                        recent years. Just-in-time manufacturing, participative
                        management techniques, statistical process control, and an
                        increased emphasis on teamwork are just a few examples of
                        the changing nature of the workplace.
                            As a result of the advances in technology and the
                        organizational changes to the industrial infrastructure,
                        job expectations for workers have changed. Rather than
                        simply performing repetitive tasks, workers are now expected
                        to be skilled in many jobs. While technical skills are still
                        needed, they are not enough. Workers need to have a broader
                        understanding of their role in the organization, be able
                        to work in teams, and possess   higher levels of
                        communication and computational skills. Consequently,
                        business and industry needs a workforce that possesses a
                        broad general education with heavy emphasis on math and
                        science. While these changes suggest the need for a greater
                        emphasis on academic skills, the most important job skills
                        may be the ability to think creatively, solve problems,
                        and make decisions. In actuality, the workforce must have
                        the ability to learn in order to keep pace with the
                        constantly changing world.
                            While technological and organizational changes are
                        impacting the workforce, similar challenges face the general
                        public. The impacts of technology on our society, culture,
                        environment, and political systems need to be analyzed and
                        evaluated by citizens. Without well developed intellectual
                        skills and an understanding of technology, it is doubtful
                        that the general public will be willing nor able to make
                        critical decisions regarding technological issues.
                            Given the fact that the skills needed by the workforce
                        are changing and the increased need for all citizens to have
                        high level thinking skills, are students being provided with
                        the opportunity to acquire those skills? The answer to that
                        question is a disappointing NO! These skills are not being
                        taught in the majority of the schools; students are left to
                        discover them on their own. School curricula has
                        traditionally been developed based on behavioral psychology
                        foundations and traditional task analysis methods which lead
                        to a focus on rote learning and physical and basic skill
                            Because contemporary curriculum needs to emphasize
                        understanding rather than rote memorization and heighten
                        higher level cognitive skills in addition to physical and
                        basic skills, curriculum development is more complex than
                        it has been in the past. Part of the difficulty in
                        developing curriculum that emphasizes intellectual processes
                        is the fact   that these processes occur only in the mind
                        and are therefore not directly observable to the curriculum
                        developer. In addition, good thinkers and problem solvers do
                        not know how they think and solve problems because intel-
                        lectual processes become so automated that they occur
                        instinctively (Ericsson & Simon, 1984). Because the
                        intellectual processes are not directly observable, teachers
                        often neglect these processes in their instruction.
                            Zuga (1985) acknowledges that there have been few
                        attempts to design and operationalize an intellectual
                        processes curriculum; partly because of the lack of a co-
                        herent framework. However, recent research in cognitive
                        psychology has provided conceptions and techniques for
                        identifying intellectual processes. Findings from these
                        studies can provide an initial framework for the development
                        and implementation of an intellectual processes
                        The Content of an Intellectual Processes Curriculum
                            Before laying the groundwork for an intellectual
                        processes curriculum, conceptual and operational definitions
                        of intellectual processes are needed. Intellectual processes
                        are those mental operations which enable one to acquire new
                        knowledge, apply that knowledge in both familiar and
                        unique situations, and control the mental processing that is
                        required for knowledge acquisition and use.
                            There are many paradigms which attempt to describe
                        intellectual processes. In this article, the framework
                        provided by Marzano, Brandt, Hughes, Jones, Presseisen,
                        Rankin, and Suthor (1988) will be used to depict in-
                        tellectual processes. Through a synthesis of recent
                        research, Marzano et al. identified five, nondisparate
                        dimensions of thinking; (a) thinking processes, (b) core
                        thinking skills, (c) critical and creative thinking, (d)
                        metacognition, and (e) the relationship of content to
                        thinking. These five dimensions become the focus of an
                        intellectual processes curriculum.
                        Thinking Processes
                            Thinking processes are complex mental operations which
                        result from a combination of specific thinking skills.
                        Marzano et al. (1988) identify eight thinking processes
                        which are used during knowledge acquisition and use. The
                        first three processes (i.e., concept formation, principle
                        formation, and comprehension) are used primarily to acquire
                        new knowledge. The next four processes (i.e., problem
                        solving, decision making, inquiry, and composition) are
                        used primarily during the application of knowledge. The
                        final process, oral discourse, is used during both knowledge
                        acquisition and knowledge application.
                        Core Thinking Skills
                            Core thinking skills are the specific mental operations
                        that are used in combination to achieve a particular goal
                        (Marzano et al., 1988). It is the unique combination of
                        these core thinking skills which define the broader thinking
                        processes identified above. Marzano et al. have generated a
                        list of 21 core thinking skills which they have grouped into
                        eight broad categories. The following list of thinking
                        skills is not all inclusive, however, it does provide a way
                        of organizing the specific skills which students must learn
                        in order to become good thinkers (see Figure 1).
              Focusing Skills                   Analyzing Skills
              1. Defining problems              11. Identifying attributes and components
              2. Setting goals                  12. Identifying relationships and patterns
                                                13. Identifying main ideas
              Information Gathering Skills      14. Identifying errors
              3. Observing
              4. Formulating questions          Generating Skills
                                                15. Inferring
              Remembering Skills                16. Predicting
              5. Encoding                       17. Elaborating
              6. Recalling
                                                Integrating Skills
              Organizing Skills                 18. Summarizing
              7. Comparing                      19. Restructuring
              8. Classifying
              9. Ordering                       Evaluating Skills
              10. Representing                  20. Establishing criteria
                                                21. Verifying
                   Figure 1. Core Thinking Skills (Marzano et  al., 1988, pg. 69).
                        Critical and Creative Thinking
                            While many people equate critical and creative thinking
                        with thinking processes, Marzano et al. (1988) suggest that
                        they are unique aspects of all thinking irrespective of the
                        type of process used. People can engage in varying degrees
                        of creative and critical thinking while solving problems,
                        making decisions, and conducting research. For example,
                        when attempting to design a more efficient alternative
                        energy collector, one student may develop a very creative
                        solution while another student contemplates a typical
                        design. Problem solvers may also differ greatly in the
                        degree of critical thought used to reflect on the process
                        needed to solve the problem.
                            Metacognition refers to one's awareness about their own
                        thinking processes while performing specific tasks. Often
                        called "strategic thinking," metacognition involves the
                        planning that takes place before engaging in a thinking
                        activity, regulation of one's thinking during the activity,
                        and evaluation   of the appropriateness of one's thinking
                        performance upon the completion of the activity.
                        Relationship of Content Knowledge to Intellectual
                            A curriculum which focuses on the development of
                        intellectual processes cannot be developed in isolation.
                        Attempting to teach thinking skills without something to
                        think about is like teaching computer-aided design
                        principles without access to a computer; the theories and
                        procedures can be talked about, but the necessary skills can
                        never be fully developed.
                            Early attempts to create instructional programs to
                        develop intellectual processes were unsuccessful because
                        they focused solely on the thinking skills essential for
                        problem solving and neglected the importance of domain
                        knowledge (Newell & Simon, 1972). Recent cognitive
                        research clearly establishes the link between content
                        knowledge and intellectual processes. The classic study by
                        Chase and Simon (1973) found that the superior performance
                        of chess masters could be attributed more to their ability
                        to recognize board layout patterns from past experiences
                        than to their hypothesized superior mental capability. In
                        fact, Chase and Simon found that when the chess masters were
                        confronted with unconventional chess layouts, the experts
                        performed much like novices. A recent study by Chi,
                        Feltovich, and Glaser (1984) also provides support for the
                        importance of teaching intellectual processes within a con-
                        text of a domain of knowledge. In a study of the thought
                        processes of experts and novices in physics, Chi et al.
                        found that the two groups approached mechanics problems very
                        differently. The better performance by the experts was
                        attributed to their deeper understanding of physics
                        principles. Without this deep understanding of the domain,
                        the novices' intellectual processes proved to be in-
                        adequate for solving similar problems.
                        The Structure of an Intellectual Processes Curriculum
                            Given the importance of intellectual processes in this
                        world of constant change, what kind of curriculum design can
                        ensure that the processes are developed in students? The
                        following discussion provides an initial framework for
                        curricula which emphasize the development of intellectual
                        processes.  Goals of an Intellectual Processes Curriculum
                        Curricula which emphasize intellectual processes seek to
                        develop the capacity for general and complex thinking
                        skills. While not exhaustive, the following list identifies
                        several key goals for a technology education curriculum
                        which is designed to emphasize intellectual processes:
                        1. Students should acquire a repertoire of cognitive and
                           metacognitive skills and strategies that can be used when
                           engaged in technological activity such as problem
                           solving, decision making, and inquiry.
                        2. Through explicit emphasis on intellectual processes,
                           students should gain an awareness of the nature of
                           thinking and their mental capability to control
                           attitudes, dispositions, and development.
                        3. Through the numerous experiential activities found in
                           technology education curricula, students should be able
                           to use thinking skills and strategies with increasing
                           independence and responsibility.
                        4. Because technology itself is interdisciplinary,
                           students should attain high levels of knowledge in a
                           variety of subject areas including technology,
                           mathematics, science, social studies, and composition.
                        5. Because learning occurs best when related to experience
                           and transfers to situations similar to the conditions of
                           learning, students should be provided with activities
                           that closely represent real world situations and
                        An Instructional Model for an Intellectual Processes
                            A variety of existing instructional models are
                        appropriate for an intellectual processes curriculum.
                        Possibly the most promising model of instruction for
                        enhancing student intellectual processes is called cog-
                        nitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989).
                        Cognitive apprenticeship uses many of the instructional
                        strategies of traditional apprenticeship but emphasizes
                        cognitive skills rather than physical skills. Traditional
                        apprenticeship contains three primary components; (a)
                        modeling, (b) coaching, and (c) fading. In traditional
                        apprenticeship programs, the master craftsman models
                        expert behavior by demonstrating to the apprentice how to do
                        a task while explaining what is being done and why it is
                        done that way. By observing the master perform, the
                        apprentice learns the correct actions and procedures and
                        then attempts to copy them on a similar task. The master
                        then coaches the apprentice through the task by providing
                        hints and corrective feedback if needed. As the apprentice
                        becomes more skilled, the master gives the apprentice more
                        and more control over the task by "fading" into the
                        background. Another important aspect of apprenticeship
                        includes the emphasis on "real world" activities which are
                        appropriately sequenced by the master to fit the
                        apprentice's current level of ability.
                            Cognitive apprenticeship uses the same modeling,
                        coaching, fading paradigm to enhance students' cognitive
                        abilities. During the modeling phase of cognitive
                        apprenticeship, the instructor shows students how to
                        complete a task or solve a problem while verbalizing the
                        activity. However, in contrast to typical school
                        instruction, the activity is modeled within the context of
                        real world situations. For example, if a lesson deals with
                        the concept of recycling, an activity for students should be
                        designed around a real  problem such as the development of a
                        community recycling program. As an introduction to this
                        lesson, the instructor should work through a similar problem
                        with the class to model the thinking processes to be used.
                        By modeling the desired intellectual processes, students
                        will discover that there are many ways to solve problems,
                        that experts make mistakes, and that seemingly simple
                        problems are very complex in the real world.
                            Following the modeling of the desired processes,
                        instructors need to become coaches. This involves observing
                        students while they carry out a task, analyzing their
                        performance, and providing hints and assistance if needed.
                        Finally, as the students' cognitive skills become more
                        accomplished they will be able to perform with less and less
                        instructor intervention. This fading aspect of cognitive
                        apprenticeship results in the gradual transfer of
                        responsibility for learning from teacher to student.
                            In addition to the three primary components, the
                        cognitive apprenticeship model includes several other
                        defining characteristics. These characteristics include
                        increasing complexity and diversity in lesson sequences and
                        providing a learning environment which promotes intrinsic
                        motivation, cooperation, and competition (Collins et al.,
                        1989). For example, the student space simulation activity at
                        McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Texas began as an
                        activity in one class and quickly expanded into a project
                        which involved virtually every program in the school. This
                        project also generated considerable interest and cooper-
                        ation among students and teachers due to its real world
                        relevance (McHaney & Bernhardt, 1989).
                        Instructional Principles for Developing Intellectual
                            Five broad, general principles emanate from the
                        cognitive research literature which   emphasize the
                        development of intellectual processes (Thomas, Johnson,
                        Cooke, DiCola, Jehng, & Kvistad, 1988). Those principles
                        include making thinking and learning easier, building on
                        what students already know, facilitating information
                        processing, facilitating "deep thinking," and making
                        thinking processes explicit. The following list identifies
                        the instructional principles which are used to enhance
                        intellectual processes. See Thomas et al. (1988) for more
                        detailed descriptions of these principles.
                            Principle 1: Help Students Organize  Their Knowledge.
                        Research shows that experts are able to process large
                        amounts of information when solving problems while novices
                        often get "mentally bogged down" when confronted with lots
                        of information. Instruction to improve intellectual
                        processes must reduce the overload on student's working
                        memory in order to enhance their ability to learn and solve
                        problems. One way to reduce the "load" on working memory is
                        through the use of an external memory. Use of an external
                        memory enables problem solvers to keep track of where they
                        are in the process of solving a problem, thereby easing the
                        load on working memory (Larkin, 1988). External memories
                        can be as simple as a bill of materials for a project or as
                        complicated as a diagram of an electronic device or complex
                        social system. Concept mapping is another form of external
                        memory that helps students organize new information (Novak,
                        Gowin, & Johansen, 1983).
                            Principle 2: Build on What Students Already Know.
                        Learning theories state that the ability to gain and use new
                        knowledge is greatly affected by the knowledge students
                        bring to a learning situation. Students use their existing
                        knowledge to interpret and understand what is presented
                        each day. If a student does not come to class with the ap-
                        propriate prerequisite knowledge, the student will have
                        difficulty understanding and remembering the new content.
                        In essence, prerequisite knowledge serves as an "anchor"
                        to hold new information in memory. Without an appropriate
                        anchor in the student's memory, the new information will
                        simply "float away." As a result, in order for learning to
                        take place, teachers must be sure that students have the
                        prerequisite knowledge needed to learn. Two instructional
                        techniques which address this principle are advanced
                        organizers and analogies.
                            Principle 3: Facilitate Information  Processing.
                        Cognitive science research has consistently indicated that
                        the way something is learned influences later use of that
                        knowledge. New knowledge is "indexed" in the mind when it
                        is learned so that it can be easily found and retrieved when
                        needed (Phye & Andre, 1986; Reiser, 1986). Indexing of
                        information in memory is analogous to using a card catalogue
                        to "index" books in a library. With such an indexing system,
                        specific books can be identified and located easily. Conse-
                        quently, instruction must ensure that new information is
                        indexed in ways that make it accessible at a later time.
                        Strategies which facilitate information processing include
                        supporting instruction through written, verbal, and graphic
                        materials, providing outlines and organizing schemas for
                        new content, and using real world scenarios for examples and
                        activities which match student interests and experiences.
                            Principle 4: Facilitate "Deep Thinking."  Any
                        instructional method that causes students to consciously
                        work harder at learning will help them achieve the
                        instructional outcomes. Thinking hard increases the clarity
                        of new information and aids understanding and recall. One
                        of the best ways to get students to think is to have them
                        elaborate on the material. In general, elaboration means
                        that students think about the meaning of the material,
                        identify relationships to other information, connect new
                        information to what is already familiar, and generate
                        expectations, predictions, and questions about the mate-
                        rial. Techniques such as cooperative learning, peer
                        tutoring, and paired problem solving can be used to get
                        students to think.
                            Principle 5: Make Thinking Processes Explicit. There
                        appears to be a growing consensus among researchers and
                        teachers that it is beneficial to explicitly and directly
                        teach students both the concept of metacognition and the use
                        of metacognitive processes. When using direct instruction,
                        teachers should explicitly teach strategies and skills by
                        explaining not only what the strategy is, but also how,
                        when, where, and why the strategy should be employed.
                        Problem solving, decision making, planning, evaluating,
                        and reflecting are all skills that can be reinforced in
                        technology education classrooms. The direct teaching of
                        these skills will improve student's overall performance by
                        teaching them how to learn better rather than teaching them
                        to perform isolated skills. In essence, the approach can be
                        described by the old adage "Give people fish and they are
                        fed for a day, but teach them to fish and they are fed for a
                        The Role of the Teacher
                            For an intellectual processes curriculum to be
                        effective, the instructor must view teaching as a
                        cooperative learning venture between student and instructor.
                        The instructor's role is not to transmit information to
                        the student, rather, the instructor should serve as a
                        facilitator for learning. This involves creating and
                        managing meaningful learning experiences and stimulating
                        student thinking through questions and probes. Above all
                        else, the instructor must be knowledge able about and pay
                        close attention to student reasoning and thinking processes.
                            An excellent example of the role of the teacher in an
                        intellectual processes curriculum has been developed for
                        teaching mathematical problem solving (Schoenfeld, 1983).
                        In this approach, Schoenfeld teaches a set of problem
                        solving strategies for solving mathematical problems to
                        his students. His teaching involves showing students how he,
                        as a mathematician, solves problems. However, unlike most
                        teachers, he does not work the problems out in advance in
                        order to show the students a smooth and successful solution.
                        He even encourages his students to bring problems to class
                        for him to solve. By being confronted with unfamiliar
                        problems, Schoenfeld is forced to solve them as a math-
                        ematician would; by using a variety of strategies and by
                        making errors. Through this technique, the students have the
                        opportunity to see that there are many ways to solve
                        mathematics problems and that even expert mathematicians
                        make mistakes.
                            Schoenfeld does not stop his problem solving activity
                        when an answer has been found because mathematicians in the
                        "real world" continue looking for alternative solutions,
                        easier methods to solve the problem, and then attempt to
                        generalize the solution to other problems.
                            Because technology education content is often taught
                        through a problem solving method, Schoenfeld's instructional
                        approach can be easily adapted to the technology education
                        classroom. Technology teachers need to act like
                        technologists in their classrooms. They need to solve
                        unfamiliar technological problems for students and not be
                        afraid to make errors or have difficulties finding
                        solutions. By serving as a role model, technology teachers
                        can show students how to collect and use information to
                        solve technological problems and help them realize  that not
                        all problems have straight forward and simple solutions.
                        Evaluation of an Intellectual Processes Curriculum
                            Evaluating student attainment of the desired
                        intellectual processes is the weakest component of this
                        curricular approach. Evaluation for this type of
                        curriculum must focus on the acquisition of complex
                        intellectual skills. However, because students' intellec-
                        tual processes are not directly observable, it is difficult
                        to determine when students have reached the desired level of
                        performance. Current approaches to evaluation through
                        written examinations are not adequate for testing the
                        attainment of intellectual processes. Instructors are left
                        with evaluation methods which rely on their intuitive
                        skills to subjectively assess student intellectual
                        abilities. Clearly, considerable research in this area is
                        needed.  Constraints to an Intellectual Processes Cur-
                        riculum While there are many reasons for developing an
                        intellectual processes curriculum there are also several
                        obstacles which must be faced by curriculum designers
                        (Miller & Seller, 1985). First, the intellectual processes
                        curriculum can be criticized for its narrowness. An
                        intellectual processes curriculum focuses primarily on
                        left-brain oriented logical thinking and problem solving
                        while ignoring the more intuitive, rightbrain thinking.
                        However, a well planned curriculum which incorporates
                        learning experiences with ill-structured, designoriented
                        problems may help avoid this constraint.
                            A second constraint faced by an intellectual
                        processes curriculum involves a perception that many of
                        the learning experiences can be characterized as "playing
                        school, scientist, or engineer." To counteract this po-
                        tential constraint, students need to see the relevance of
                        the activities and be allowed to act on the issues so
                        problem solving is integrated at a deeper, more holistic
                            Third, intellectual processes curricula can be
                        criticized for its apparent neglect of content knowledge. On
                        the surface an intellectual processes curriculum can
                        appear to focus solely on thinking. However, as indicated
                        earlier, an intellectual processes curriculum cannot be
                        effective unless it includes a substantial amount of
                        emphasis on content knowledge. As a result, this con-
                        straint can be resolved by developing high quality
                            Building on the assumption that the most important
                        skill for the future is the ability to think, an initial
                        framework for an intellectual processes curriculum theory
                        has been described. While it is acknowledged that the
                        curricular framework is incomplete, it is hoped that a
                        critical examination and elaboration of the framework will
                        be undertaken by technology educators. Many of the exemplary
                        programs described in recent issues of The  Technology
                        Teacher (McHaney & Bernhardt,  1988; Thode, 1989a; Thode,
                        1989b) and TIES  magazine (Craig, 1990; Neuman, 1991; Todd &
                        Hutchinson, 1991) contain aspects of the proposed
                        intellectual processes curriculum and should serve as a
                        testing ground for further refinements of this initial
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                        Scott D. Johnson is Assistant Professor and Chair, Technology
                        Education Division, Department of Vocational and Technical
                        Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign,
                        IL. The preparation of this article was supported in part by the
                        National Center for Research in Vocational Education, under a grant
                        from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U. S. Department
                        of Education. This article has not been reviewed by the National
                        Center and is not an official publication of the Center.

              Journal of Technology Education   Volume 3, Number 2       Spring 1992