Design and implementation of the curriculum and learning programmes
How effectively does the content of the learning programmes reflect Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum?
A well-designed and well-implemented curriculum and learning programme is likely to enhance student engagement and achievement. In an effective technology programme the content of learning programmes will have breadth and balance and be in line with the national curriculum.
This section reports information on the design and implementation of the curriculum and learning programmes in technology. A rating of the overall effectiveness of the design and implementation of learning programmes in technology is presented first and information on aspects of curriculum design follow. The rating of the overall effectiveness of technology programmes was based on the following indicators:
- learning programmes have appropriate sequences and coherent progression over the years;
- there are clear links between the national curriculum statement (specifically those that relate to technology) and classroom planning;
- there is a match between learning outcomes and the learning needs of students;
- there is a clear relationship between planning documents and teaching delivered; and
- additional or supporting information.
Overall effectiveness of the design and implementation of learning programmes
ERO reviewed aspects of curriculum design and implementation that contribute to high quality teaching in technology. The findings are presented in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Effectiveness of the design and implementation of technology programmes
Nearly two thirds of all schools in the sample were ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’ in the design and implementation of their technology programmes. A further 31 percent were ‘sometimes effective’ and four percent of schools were ‘not effective’ in their implementation of the curriculum and design of learning programmes.
Year 4 and 8 teachers
The overall effectiveness of the curriculum design and implementation of the Year 4 teachers was compared with that of the Year 8 teachers. Overall, teachers of Year 8 students were designing and implementing more effective technology programmes than teachers of Year 4 students. The difference between the groups was found to be statistically significant.
Sequence and progression of learning programmes
In an effective technology programme, students’ learning in technology builds on previous learning experiences and achievements as they progress through the school, their. School-wide technology programmes were evaluated to determine the extent to which programmes had appropriate sequencing of course content and progression of difficulty over the years of learning.
About a fifth of the schools (17 percent) had developed comprehensive guidelines for the teaching of technology. In these cases, the teachers had developed effective guidelines that made provision for ongoing development and increasingly complex learning as students progressed through the school. School ‘schemes’ for the teaching of technology had been developed, often with all the teachers in the school participating in this development.
In effective school guidelines for technology there were clear links between Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum and the school scheme. The specific learning outcomes of the planned programmes addressed the achievement objectives of the levels of Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum. The schemes presented a framework that, when implemented by the teacher, would give students opportunities for meaningful and indepth learning in a range of technological areas and contexts over time. These schools also implemented systems for monitoring the coverage and balance of curriculum delivery in technology. The schemes also provided written guidance for teachers on the teaching of aspects of technology integral to the curriculum but not specific to one technological area, for example, design, drawing and graphics, and safety issues.
In about 70 per cent of schools the school guidelines for technology programmes were did not always help teachers to implement sequential and progressive technology programmes. In many of these schools, the school guidelines stated only suggested topics for learning over a stated time period – generally a two or three year cycle. The teachers then designed programmes based on this overview that were of a ‘one-off’ nature. Although students were likely to experience a range of interesting technological activities, the activities did not build on the learning that had occurred in previous units of work or lay a foundation for further learning.
In other cases, the guidelines were not meaningfully linked to Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum but set a prescriptive range of activities to be covered over the allocated time period. This was particularly evident where students were taught aspects of technology in concentrated blocks of time, such as when visiting a specialist teacher for learning in one technological area. For example, the guidelines for one school for soft materials technology were for 12-week cycles of learning. In lesson one, students were taught the routines of the sewing room, for lessons two and three the guidelines stated, ‘practice stitching’ and so on through the 12 weeks. The guidelines for this school did not address many of the achievement objectives of Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum.
In a few schools, school-wide guidelines had been prepared but were not being used by the teachers. This occurred most frequently when the teachers considered the guidelines to be out of date and of little support in implementing the technology programmes.
In the remaining schools (13 percent), the school guidelines were not effective in helping teachers to implement sequential and progressive learning programmes in technology. In some of these schools, the school guidelines for technology covered an extended time period – up to six years - and teachers taught one unit of work with a technology focus per year. The extended periods of time between the units of work limited teachers’ opportunities to build on students’ prior learning or to plan for the ongoing development of students’ knowledge, skills and technological practice.
In other cases there was either no school overview for technology or the prepared guidelines were obsolete and not used by the teachers. There was sometimes little sharing of specific information on the implementation of the technology curriculum between teachers in the school. In these cases, teachers were unable to provide evidence that, within the technology programme, students had opportunities to progress in their learning or receive sequential teaching over the time that they were in the school.
Classroom planning using Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum
About two thirds of the teachers had planned classroom programmes that were clearly linked to the national curriculum statement Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum. The planned learning programmes referred to the achievement objectives of the three strands of Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum, and the technological areas and contexts for learning that would be covered.
For the remaining third of the teachers there was little or no evidence that the teachers’ planning was linked to Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum. In some cases there was little documented classroom planning for technology. In other cases, although a series of activities for technology had been planned, it was not clear how the achievement objectives of the curriculum statement were being addressed. Teachers focused their planning on the completion of the set activities rather than progress within well-defined and explicit learning outcomes.
In a few cases, the teachers said they had limited knowledge of Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum and were either not teaching technology or not using this document when planning their programme.
Planning to meet the identified needs of students
Less than half of the teachers (42 percent) were planning technology programmes that responded to the learning needs of their students. The teachers that were doing this assessed the learning needs and abilities of their students through both formal and informal assessment activities and then planned programmes to meet the specific needs of students. They provided multi-level programmes for their classes, often addressing the achievement objectives from more than one level of the curriculum within a topic of study.
In many of these cases, the teacher’s planning was very detailed. The learning outcomes for the teaching were clearly stated and the success criteria – how the teacher and the student would know that they had achieved the learning outcome – were also identified. The teachers often worked in teams when planning units of work for technology and also discussed the learning needs of their students and ways to meet these needs within the teams.
Some of these teachers said that the open-ended nature of many technology activities promoted a highly individualised programme. Students worked on technological activities either individually or in very small groups. This provided the teacher with frequent opportunities for individual instruction and opportunities to discuss progress and challenges with each student and identify their next learning steps.
For 58 percent of the teachers there was little or no evidence that they were adjusting their programme planning to meet the learning needs of their students. In most of these classes, technology activities were presented generally to the whole class and ad hoc adjustments were made to their teaching if they felt it was appropriate. Few of these teachers had developed procedures for assessing students’ prior knowledge and abilities before commencing a unit of work in technology. In many cases the students completed teacher-directed activities, with all students working through the activities at the same pace. The teachers typically provided limited opportunities for student choice within a unit of work or to work at their own pace.
ERO found that many teachers of Year 4 integrated at least some of their teaching of technology with other essential learning areas. ERO gathered information on the integration of technology with other essential learning areas from 71 teachers of Year 4 students and found that they did this in three main ways. Twelve teachers taught technology as ‘stand-alone’ units of work. Twenty-eight teachers taught technology as part of an integrated curriculum. In many cases, technology was taught as part of extended units of work and integrated with learning in science, social studies, visual arts and health. The remaining 31 teachers taught a combination of these two options – some learning topics were taught with an integrated approach supplemented with some ‘stand-alone’ units in technology.
At Year 8, teaching technology within an integrated structure was less prevalent. This was because most technology was taught by specialist teachers at this year level. Of the 66 teachers of Year 8 students in this sample, 63 were specialist teachers teaching aspects of technology (for example food technology or materials technology) as a stand-alone subject. Two teachers taught technology in an integrated curriculum and it was unclear how the remaining teacher timetabled the teaching of technology.
Where curriculum integration was managed well, students’ learning opportunities were significantly enhanced through richer learning experiences. Units of work were carefully planned to ensure that students had opportunities to meet the achievement objectives of the technology as well as those of other essential learning areas.
 The teachers worked together in developing the integrated units of work and subsequent units built on previous learning. While teachers modified programme content in response to evaluation information, the school or syndicate guidelines for the integrated units of work showed progressive expectations for the development of technological knowledge and capability.
At other times, curriculum integration was not well-managed. Only limited records of the achievement objectives or technological areas or contexts that had been covered in a unit of work were available or used to inform subsequent teaching. There was a danger that the achievement objectives for technology could be ‘lost’ in the integration process.
Offsite providers of technology education
For this evaluation, ERO selected a class in a school, either Year 4 or Year 8, and reviewed the quality of teaching of technology for that class. In all cases for Year 4 classes, the main teacher of technology was the classroom teacher. Most Year 8 students were taught at least part of their technology programme by specialist teachers of technology. In this sample of 66 teachers of Year 8 students in technology, three teachers were the students’ regular classroom teacher. The remaining 63 teachers were specialist teachers of aspects of technology. Thirty-three of these taught students from their own school and 30 taught students who travelled to that school specifically for specialist teaching in technology. Of those 30 teachers, five taught in a secondary school (either Years 7 to 15 or Years 9 to 15), 15 in an intermediate school (Years 7 and 8), nine in a full primary school (Years 0 to 8) and one in an area school (Years 1 to 15).
In most cases, the principal and teachers of the students’ home school believed that their students benefitted from the technology programme taught by the off-site specialist teacher. They said that the equipment and resources available at the off-site school were of a higher standard than their school could provide. They also believed that the specialist teachers had the expertise and skills to extend the range and challenge of learning activities for their students.
Where the provision of technology education through off-site specialist teachers was working well, there was good communication between the teachers at the host school and the students’ home school. The teachers from both schools discussed their programmes so there was cohesion in the learning for students. They shared information on students’ learning needs and abilities. The specialist teachers often saw large numbers of students over short periods of time; for example, students may have been timetabled to do a ‘block’ of technology over an eight-week period. In some cases the teachers said they felt under pressure to cover their planned lessons, which detracted from the time available to get to know the visiting students.
A few principals raised issues with the provision of technology through an off-site provider. Some principals said they had little choice in the outside providers especially in rural areas and, as a visiting school, they had little influence in improving the quality of the provision of technology education. Others were concerned about their students travelling to the off-site provider. They felt there were some safety issues with students travelling distances and some concerns over students’ behaviour on the bus. In some cases the travel time was quite extensive (up to 40 minutes) and encroached on the available learning time.