Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

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

As an open access journal, the JTE does not charge fees for authors to publish or readers to access.

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Volume 3, Number 2
Spring 1992

                        Building a Defensible Curriculum Base
                        Thomas Wright
                            Educators seem to have a strong desire to relive
                        historical mistakes. During the 1960s, industrial arts
                        innovators divided into three fairly distinct camps. One
                        group could be characterized as the technology camp and was
                        championed by DeVore (1966)and others. Another group was
                        the industry group which was championed by the Ohio State
                        IACP staff (Towers, 1966). A third group was the
                        child-centered group championed by Maley (1973). These
                        people and their followers spent an inordinate amount of
                        time debating the content base for industrial arts and
                        criticizing the other camps' position. However valuable this
                        discourse was, the vast majority of the field was unmoved.
                        Most programs continued to focus their efforts on the skills
                        involved in woodworking, metalworking, and drafting,
                        (Dugger, 1980).
                            It took the Jacksons Mill Project (Hales and Snyder,
                        n.d.) to cause curriculum innovators to realize that a
                        central focus was necessary if industrial arts programs were
                        to change. For a period of time, the Jackson's Mill
                        curriculum consensus held and significant program
                        improvement occurred.
                            Today, technology educators are again beginning to
                        divide into camps over curriculum structure issues and to
                        dissipate the focus of the field. There are number of rea-
                        sons for this split. Some people feel they must make their
                        "unique" personal contribution to the field. Other leaders
                        are convinced that conditions in their state require a
                        special focus for their state's technology program. Still
                        other people feel that any curriculum structure over five
                        years old is obsolete.
                            These different positions are dangerous if technology
                        education is to become recognized as a vital area of study
                        for all youth.  Instead of everyone going their own way, the
                        leaders of the field must recognize that all subject areas
                        have a fairly stable curriculum structure under which
                        dynamic content fits.  For example, science does not change
                        its chemistry, physics, biology, curriculum structure every
                        five years. This action does not cause curriculum stagnation
                        because the content under each of these headings is open for
                        constant review and change.
                            The challenge to all technology educators is to apply
                        the same logic as science uses to determine the curriculum
                        focus and structure for the study of technology. This action
                        will require a logical, sequential approach.
                            First, the arena of the discipline must be established.
                        This action determines the scope of the curriculum. For
                        example, science relies on evidence to develop hypotheses
                        and theories to identify consistent patterns of things and
                        events in the universe (Project 2061, 1989). Its arena,
                        then, is focused on the procedures used to study the natural
                        world and the impacts these findings have on human
                            Technology education also has its focus.  Technology is
                        used to create the human-made world. Technologists apply
                        human and physical resources to design, produce, and assess
                        artifacts and systems that control and modify the natural
                        and human-made environments.  Also, developing and using
                        technology impacts people, society, and the environment.
                        Therefore the arena of technology is the practices used to
                        develop, produce, and use artifacts and the impacts these
                        actions have on humans and the natural world.
                            Once the arena of the discipline has been established a
                        second curriculum development step is required. A clear
                        distinction between the "hows" and "whys" of technology must
                        be made. For example, the Project 2061 report suggests "...
                        the various scientific disciplines are alike in their
                        reliance on evidence, their use of hypotheses and theories,
                        the kinds of logic used, and much more.  Nevertheless,
                        scientists differ greatly from one another in the phenomena
                        they investigate..."  This statement suggests there is a
                        fairly common way scientists investigate the universe and
                        that various scientists focus their investigation to
                        specific areas of science.
                            Technology, likewise, has a way new artifacts are
                        developed. It, also, has an accumulated body of knowledge
                        that explains existing technologies and provides the
                        foundation for new technological advancements.  Technology
                        educators need to look at these foci so students can study
                        (1) the processes used by practitioners to develop new
                        technology, (2) the areas of technology which represent the
                        accumulated knowledge of practice, and (3) the impacts of
                        technology. A program that focuses on one of these elements
                        at the exclusion of the others will be incomplete.
                            However, identifying the primary foci of a program is
                        not enough. The curriculum developer must address each of
                        these foci individually.
                            Investigating the first focus requires identifying the
                        procedure used to address technological problems and
                        opportunities.  This procedure establishes the "scientific
                        method" of technology. Over time it has been described as
                        the design method (Lindbeck, 1963), problem solving
                        (Waetjen, 1989), and the technological method. A common
                        outline for this process includes (1) defining the problem,
                        (2) developing alternate solutions, (3) selecting a
                        solution, (4) implementing and evaluating the solution, (5)
                        redesigning the solution, and (6) interpreting the solution
                        (Savage and Sterry, 1990).
                            This procedure describes how technologists approach a
                        problem or opportunity. It describes the way the human-made
                        world is created through discovery, invention, innovation,
                        and development. However, it is only part of a study of
                        technology. The other part becomes clear when the second
                        program focus is describe which will result in developing a
                        system to identify and categorize the accumulate knowledge
                        of technology.
                            This system must meet the rules for all category
                        systems (Ray and Streichler, 1971):
                        1. Each entry must be mutually exclusive of other entries.
                        2. The entries must be totally inclusive of the phenomena
                           being categorized.
                        3. The system must be functional.
                            Establishing a way to structure the knowledge of
                        technology causing the profession considerable trauma and is
                        dividing the profession the most. A number of systems have
                        been developed to meet this challenge.  Two that seem to
                        have the most promise are the Jackson's Mill (Hales and
                        Snyder, n.d.) human productive activities of communication,
                        construction, manufacturing, and transportation and the
                        Dutch pillars of technology (Wolters, 1989) which allow for
                        studying energy, information and matter (material)
                            Whichever model the field chooses, one of those listed
                        above or some other, we must resist the product consumption
                        mentality presently being used by some change agents.  We
                        need not discard our curriculum structures and philosophical
                        foundations with the frequency we do automobiles and
                        clothing. Chasing fads and personal promotion will do little
                        to develop a credible profession or defensible programs. We
                        urgently need to reach a curriculum compromise in the spirit
                        of Jackson's Mill. Only then can states or local districts
                        address their need for curriculum change with confidence
                        they are not buying into a fad or an incompletely developed
                        curriculum structure.
                            The third focus of a complete technology education
                        program has received the least attention and may well be the
                        most important.  It requires identifying the relationship
                        and interaction among technology, people, society, the
                        environment and other disciplines.  Technology is not a
                        natural phenomena. It is the product of human volition.
                        People saw its development, production, and use as necessary
                        or economically profitable. However, reaching this human
                        vision has positive and negative impacts on people,
                        societies, and the environment.
                            Likewise, technology is not an isolated body of
                        knowledge. It has strong connections with all other areas of
                        knowledge. Science explains the naturals laws that are
                        applied by technology. Mathematics and mathematical models
                        explain the operation of technological systems. Language and
                        art can be used to describe technology and its impacts. The
                        social studies can describe how technology has, is, and may
                        well impact and be impacted by people and society.
                            This challenges educators to seek content and course
                        integration. In a recent discussion, an aeronautical
                        engineer (Thompson, 1991) suggested that he didn't see
                        knowledge as discrete subjects like educators do. He said
                        that life's experiences and challenges immediately
                        integrated knowledge.  The solutions to the challenges
                        facing society are not the domain of a single discipline.
                            Clearly defining and describing technological knowledge
                        while seeking its integration with other disciplines will
                        lead the profession, as a whole, to a recognition that (1)
                        technology education is the study of the human-made world,
                        (2) technologists use the technological (problem solving)
                        method to develop new and improved artifacts and systems,
                        (3) technology is used to help people meet their
                        communication, product, and transportation needs and, (4)
                        technology impacts and is impacted by people, society, and
                        the environment.
                            This four-point philosophy leads us to believe that,
                        like science, there is a generic way to approach a
                        technological problem or opportunity; there are unique
                        practices used to produce, operate, and maintain each device
                        or system; and these actions operated in historical,
                        personal, and societal contexts (see Figure 1). Standing on
                        this solid philosophical ground we can get on with the
                        important task that must be addressed:developing meaningful
                        laboratory-based, action-oriented courses that will introduce
                        students to the exciting field of technology. Only then can
                        we build a case for requiring all students at all grade
                        level to study technology.
                        Figure 1.  A model of the relationship between problem
                        solving, technical actions, and technological contexts.
                        (GET FIGURE1 JTE-V3N2)
                        Dugger, W. E. (1980). Report of survey data.  Blacksburg,
                            VA: Standards for Industrial Arts Education Programs
                        Hales, J. & Snyder, J. (n.d.) Jacksons Mill industrial arts
                            curriculum theory. Charleston: West Virginia Department
                            of Education.
                        Lindbeck, J. (1963). Design textbook. Bloomington, IL:
                            McKnight and McKnight.
                        Maley, D. (1973). The Maryland plan. New York: Benziger
                            Bruce and Glencoe.
                        Project 2061. (1989). Science for all Americans. Washington,
                            D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of
                        Ray, W. E. & Streichler, J. (1971). Components of teacher
                            education. Washington: American Council on Industrial
                            Arts Teacher Education
                        Savage, E. & Sterry, L. (1990). A conceptual framework for
                            technology education. Reston, VA: International
                            Technology Education Association.
                        Thompson, J. Personal discussion on October 4, 1991
                        Waetjen, W. (1989). Technological problem solving. Reston,
                            VA: International Technological Education Society.
                        Wolters, F. (1989). A PATT study among 10 to 12 year-olds.
                            Journal of Technology Education, 1(1).
                        Wright, R. T. (1991). Implementing technology education.
                            Technology Focus, Spring/Summer.
                        Tom Wright is Professor of Industry and Technology, Ball State
                        University, Muncie, IN.

              Journal of Technology Education   Volume 3, Number 2       Spring 1992