What do others think is the point of design and technology education?, PATT29 Plurality and Complementarity of Approaches in Design & Technology Education,

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Conference: PATT29 Plurality and Complementarity of Approaches in Design & Technology Education, At Marseille, France
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Abstract
As a result of a national curriculum review in England (Department for Education [DfE], 2011), a new curriculum for design and technology (D&T) is being taught in secondary schools from September 2014 (Department of Education [DoE], 2013a). This curriculum is compulsory for a decreasing number of schools; two potential consequences are the nature of D&T in secondary schools changing to reflect local perceptions of the subject and maybe D&T being removed from the curriculum completely. The pressure on D&T’s curriculum content is likely to come from different stakeholders such as senior school leaders, D&T teachers, and pupils. D&T school departments could respond to this pressure by adapting the curriculum to popularise the subject or produce high exam results with a consequence that much of the subject’s value is lost. This paper reports on a small research project conducted in two secondary schools where stakeholder representatives were interviewed to identify their values of D&T. These different stakeholders were interviewed using the active interview method (Holstein & Gubrium, 1995), coded following Aurebach and Silverstein’s method (2003) and their values compared to Hardy’s values framework (Hardy, 2013b). Analysis shows most stakeholders believe a key value of D&T is to provide ‘practical life skills’ (Hardy, p.226), whilst only one recognizes that learning in D&T involves ‘identifying problems to be solved’. The outcomes from the research are being used to support critically reflective conversations within both D&T departments (Zwozdiak-Myers, 2012) framing their evaluation of their local curriculum and making changes to their curriculum.
What do others think is the point of design and technology education?
Alison Hardy, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham,NG1 4BU, UK. T: +44
115 8482198. E: Alison.hardy@ntu.ac.uk
Kaylie Gyekye, The Nottingham Emmanuel School, Gresham Park Rd, West Bridgford,
Nottinghamshire, NG2 7YF, UK. T: +44 115 977 5380. E:
KGyekye@emmanuel.nottingham.sch.uk
Claire Wainwright, Kimberley School, Newdigate St, Nottingham, Kimberley, NG16 2NJ, UK.
T: +44 115 938 7000. E: wainwrightclaire@hotmail.com
As a result of a national curriculum review in England (Department for Education [DfE],
2011), a new curriculum for design and technology (D&T) is being taught in secondary
schools from September 2014 (Department of Education [DoE], 2013a). This curriculum is
compulsory for a decreasing number of schools; two potential consequences are the nature
of D&T in secondary schools changing to reflect local perceptions of the subject and maybe
D&T being removed from the curriculum completely. The pressure on D&T’s curriculum
content is likely to come from different stakeholders such as senior school leaders, D&T
teachers, and pupils. D&T school departments could respond to this pressure by adapting
the curriculum to popularise the subject or produce high exam results with a consequence
that much of the subject’s value is lost.
This paper reports on a small research project conducted in two secondary schools where
stakeholder representatives were interviewed to identify their values of D&T. These different
stakeholders were interviewed using the active interview method (Holstein & Gubrium,
1995), coded following Aurebach and Silverstein’s method (2003) and their values compared
to Hardy’s values framework (Hardy, 2013b). Analysis shows most stakeholders believe a
key value of D&T is to provide ‘practical life skills’ (Hardy, p.226), whilst only one recognizes
that learning in D&T involves ‘identifying problems to be solved’.
The outcomes from the research are being used to support critically reflective conversations
within both D&T departments (Zwozdiak-Myers, 2012) framing their evaluation of their local
curriculum and making changes to their curriculum.
Key words: Values, stakeholders, design and technology
Introduction
A new curriculum for design and technology (D&T) has been taught in English secondary
schools since September 2014 (DoE, 2013a) but it is compulsory for a decreasing number.
Two potential consequences are the nature of D&T in secondary schools changing to reflect
local perceptions of the subject, such as to support pupils into local employment by providing
vocational education, and maybe D&T being removed from the curriculum completely.
Pressure for change will probably come from key stakeholders, such as senior school
leaders, D&T teachers, and pupils, who may have conflicting views about the purpose of
D&T.
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Our research question is: how do three different stakeholders in schools value D&T and
what are the similarities and differences in their values? This research explores three
stakeholders groups’ values of D&T in order to help D&T teachers in schools understand
where there maybe conflict and consensus about the purpose of D&T. We will show how two
schools have begun to reflect on these values in order to clarify the purpose of D&T in their
schools.
Context
Previous studies in technology education about attitudes and values have primarily focused
on attitudes towards technology (For example: Ardies, De Maeyer, & Gijbels, 2013;
Chikasanda, Williams, Otrel-Cass, & Jones, 2012; Volk, 2007). We have decided to use
values following critical analysis of Rokeach’s investigations about how values and attitudes
interdependency impacts on behavior. He determined that a value is an “enduring belief,
….a standard or criterion for guiding action, for maintaining and developing attitudes towards
relevant objects and situations….” (1968, p.160). He argues that because values are
enduring they influence attitudes and behavior; therefore by understanding stakeholder’s
values D&T teachers can take steps to change people’s attitudes and behavior towards D&T
if necessary.
There are two significant, timely arguments for this research; firstly a new National
Curriculum and secondly changes to the state school system.
A new D&T curriculum was published in February 2013 (DoE, 2013b) and then rewritten
(DoE, 2013a), with the final version being taught in schools from September 2014 (DoE,
2013a). Analysis of the first version revealed some alarming values of D&T potentially held
by the (unknown) author/s, which some influential stakeholders agreed with (Dimbleby,
2013; Royal Horticulture Society, 2013). Although derided by the D&T community (Design
and Technology Association, 2013; E4E, 2013; Hardy, 2013a; Prince, 2013) it is useful to
remember that there are some stakeholders who believe this is the value of D&T. By
exploring what people, other than D&T teachers, think is the point of D&T we hope to help
D&T teachers understand how others perceive the subject, which in turn might help them
reflect on the consequences of some of the D&T learning activities (Zwozdiak-Myers, 2012)
and respond to any pressures they might be under to change the philosophy and direction of
D&T.
The second argument is about the type of state schools pupils can now attend: free schools,
faith schools, academies and community schools. Each has different structures and
regulations but the most significant difference affecting D&T is that academies do not have to
follow the National Curriculum, it can be decided at local level and designed to meet the
community and business needs. Consequently the views and values of academy senior
leaders towards D&T could have a significant impact on who teaches or studies D&T. With
56% of all secondary schools in England (Mansell, 2014) now academies we argue this
time-context provides an imperative for the D&T community to determine how a school’s
stakeholders view D&T.
This research is based in two academy schools; St. John’s is a city school with a Christian
approach and Upton School, in the same city’s suburbs.
Each stakeholder in a school’s curriculum has different priorities for a curriculum and can be
categorized based on differing attributes (Mitchell, Agle, & Wood, 1997). Williams (2007)
illustrates the applicability of Mitchell et al’s (1997) theory of stakeholder identification in
determining the salience of different stakeholders dependent on their attributes. Taking
Mitchell et al’s definitions of the three attributes we have customized them for school
stakeholders rather than business stakeholders: “(1) the stakeholder's power to influence the
[curriculum], (2) the legitimacy of the stakeholder's relationship with the [curriculum], and (3)
the urgency of the stakeholder's claim on the [curriculum]” (derived from Mitchell et al., 1997,
p.854).
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So which stakeholders’ values should be explored? Using this theoretical framework and
William’s examples we have focused on three stakeholder groups ensuring coverage of the
attributes:
Senior leaders have power to influence the curriculum through organization of the
curriculum (timetabling), resources (budgets) and awarding status (profile), urgency
because of the demand for success in national league tables.
D&T teachers have legitimacy through their relationship with D&T and power because of
their influence in the classroom (Dakers, 2005).
Pupils have urgency because of their claim (need) on the subject and legitimacy
because their education is affected by D&T.
Method
In Upton School three D&T teachers and two senior leaders were interviewed and in St
John’s two from both groups were interviewed (Error: Reference source not found). In both
schools pupils in year 9 choose whether they will continue studying D&T towards a
qualification in years 10 and 11; the eleven pupils interviewed were year 9 (fourteen years
old) and included pupils who were both going to continue with D&T and those who were not.
We were conscious that each stakeholder’s ‘stock of knowledge’ (Holstein & Gubrium,
1995, p.30) might be drawn from more than one perspective. Although we initially placed
participants in one stakeholder group there was potential for them to belong to more than
one group, having more than one narrative about D&T. Consequently all stakeholders
completed a pre-interview questionnaire; the teachers and senior leaders gave information
about themselves and their personal D&T history (Did they study D&T at school? What was
it called?). We compiled this information and used Martin’s (2013) five eras of D&T (making,
personalising, designing, manufacturing and valuing) to determine in which era the
participant studied D&T at secondary school; our participants only represented four eras. By
using Martin’s theoretical framework we hoped it might help us explain why different
stakeholders held different values.
Participant & stakeholder group Gender Age Era
Upton pupil group 1 (5 pupils) F & M 14 Values
Upton D&T teacher 1 F 52 Making
Upton D&T teacher 2 F 22 Values
Upton D&T teacher 3 F 61 Making
Upton senior leader 1 F 52 Making
Upton senior leader 2 F 30 Manufacturing
St John's pupil group 1 (3 pupils) F & M 14 Values
St John's pupil group 2 (3 pupils) F & M 14 Values
St John's D&T teacher 1 F 26 Manufacturing
St John's D&T teacher 2 M 45 Making
St John's senior leader 1 F 35 Personalising
St John's senior leader 2 M 37 Personalising
Table : Profile of participants
Two of the three researchers are D&T teachers in the schools, the third an academic at the
local university. This had ethical implications for the collection, data analysis and
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interpretation. The school-based researcher made the initial contact with potential
participants and contacted pupils’ parents. Interviews were conducted by the university-
based researcher, recorded with permission and later transcribed. Teachers and senior
leaders were interviewed individually and face to face with only the interviewer present;
pupils were interviewed in groups with a schoolteacher present. The school-based teacher
from Upton was one of the participants as well.
Holstein and Gubrium (1995) argue that the relationship between the interviewer and
interviewee can be active; they interact and create the knowledge collaboratively, which was
our approach to the interviews. The interviews were structured slightly differently for each
stakeholder group: pupils choose one photo from a selection picturing different D&T activity
that was the closest representation for them of D&T, the photos helped them explore what
was the point of D&T. The same photos were used with senior leaders but the interviews
explored what they thought was the purpose of the D&T activity in the photos. The teachers
were asked to talk about the value of the pupils’ learning in their most recent D&T lesson.
From all of these positions the interviewer was able to explore their opinions about D&T, why
it was useful, how it helped them today and in the future, also its unique place in the
curriculum.
Data analysis
Firstly we applied Value Codes (Saldaña, 2012) to all the interview transcripts using
Rokeach’s definition to identify a value:
‘an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or
socially preferable to an opposite or converse model of conduct or end-state of existence’
(Rokeach, 1968, p.160)
To test the coded value was a D&T value we checked that it either:
Explained why the speaker thought pupils should do D&T or
Gave some benefits of doing D&T or
Justified the point and purpose of D&T.
Next we established intercoder reliability for three interviews, agreeing the first code values
and then individually consolidated the value coding for different stakeholders. The two
school-based researchers only consolidated codes from the other school, not their own.
The second phase of coding was elaborative (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003; Saldaña, 2012)
building on previous research by Hardy (2013b) that explored the values espoused in writing
by trainee D&T teachers and interviews with academics from the discipline of D&T
education. In her research Hardy identified the values using the same definition and
checklist above to find themes (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003) leading to a series of twenty-
two different values (see appendix). Hardy does not claim these values to be definitive but
only from these two stakeholder groups, so in part we saw this research as an opportunity to
develop Hardy’s original framework but we also used it for deductive coding purposes (Miles,
Huberman, & Saldaña, 2013) to facilitate the comparison between our three stakeholder
groups. To compare the coded values we used the computer analysis data software
MAXQDA.
Findings
First coding revealed 673 text segments identified as a value, in the second phase of coding
forty-five items could not be assigned to one of Hardy’s twenty-two value codes. The most
commonly assigned value was ‘learn practical life skills’ with 120 coded segments, the
second was ‘using raw materials to make a product’ (n=62) and ‘identifying problems to be
solved’ was not recognized as a value of D&T by any of the stakeholders.
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Senior leaders and D&T teachers at St John’s School hold the same values of D&T (21 out
of a possible 22), where as the pupils hold a more limited range (12/22). At Upton School
there was no obvious correlation between the three groups, but the senior leaders do hold a
wider range of values (18) than both the D&T teachers (13) and pupils (14).
Analysis
Our research question was: how do three different stakeholders in schools value D&T and
what are the similarities and differences in their values? We explored the similarities and
differences between three stakeholder groups’ values in two schools: pupils, senior leaders
and D&T teachers. We have also done further analysis to see if the stakeholder’s age might
have a bearing on their values.
1.1 Pupils’ values
None of the pupils interviewed held any of these values of D&T:
Meaningful activity of solving real problems with real solutions
Designing for future needs and opportunities
Freedom to take risks and experiment
Identifying problems to be solved
Helps the understanding of human beings' position and existence in the world
Whereas at least one pupil in each of the two schools held nine of the values of D&T:
Empowers society to act to improve the world
Personal ownership of decisions and actions
Learning of vocational skills and techniques that open doors to a range of careers
Alternative to academic subjects
Activity of designing
Provides a practical purpose for other school subjects
Examination and questioning of the made world
Using raw materials to make a product
Learn practical life skills
Senior leaders’ values
One idea that arose from our research question was that D&T teachers would have the
widest view of the subject, followed by pupils and then senior leaders; in fact the reverse is
true. We were initially surprised that the senior leaders have the widest view of D&T, but
further reflection and discussion acknowledged that their wider school role would probably
influence their view of each subject’s contribution to a pupils’ education.
D&T teachers’ values
We did not anticipate the narrowness of the values held by the D&T teachers from Upton
School. For example none of the Upton teachers held seven of the values, including:
Learning happens through using brains and hands together
Empowers society to act to improve the world
Designing for future needs and opportunities
Provides a practical purpose for other school subjects
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We were not surprised to see that D&T was identified as a subject that led to vocations,
correlating to the nineteen separately coded segments when D&T teachers indicated a
purpose of D&T was to help the pupils in ‘jobs they’re going to do in the future’; but we were
disheartened that the teachers suggested on forty-four separate occasions that a purpose of
D&T was to provide pupils with practical life skills (6.5% of the total number of coded
segments – the highest weighted value by the teachers).
Values and the five eras
In our conceptual framework time was linked to values through the implementation of a new
curriculum and changes to a school’s structure. It also made sense to consider if the time the
participants studied D&T made any difference to their values (Martin 2013).
Using Martin’s suggestion that there have been five eras of D&T we proposed that
stakeholders over the age of forty would have experienced a curriculum that focused on
making and we might expect to see this reflected in their values. When we considered the
variable of age we could see some differences, but taking into account the number of
participants it is difficult to suggest any significant reasons for these.
Discussion
Most disquieting to us was that none of the stakeholders believe that D&T is a subject that
involves ‘identifying problems to be solved’, both the previous (Qualifications and Curriculum
Authority, 2007) and current National Curriculum (Department of Education, 2013b) expect
children to be able to do this. We think this has implications for the curriculum content in both
schools.
Five of the values not recognized by pupils relate to either being free to design or free to
consider wider society issues. We wondered if this was due to the nature of D&T activity
primarily undertaken in their secondary schools.
The breadth of values held by the four teachers from the making era surprised us, but closer
analysis revealed it was the St John’s D&T teacher who held the widest range. This teacher
was the subject leader, working with a young team of D&T teachers, he is also studying at
postgraduate level and it is plausible that these three factors have contributed both to his
number of values and the impact he has had on the values of the other teacher in the
department and the senior leaders. The other three teachers in the making era group were
from Upton, over 50 years old and female, two of them were D&T teachers and between
them identified that D&T was about life skills nineteen times.
The values profile of the Upton D&T teacher who was also a researcher (Upton D&T teacher
2) in her first year of teaching and from the values era was consistent with the profile and
weighting of the other two Upton D&T teachers. This was a surprise to us, and more
personally to the researcher; we think the impact of ‘implicit attitudes and theories’ (Dow,
2014, p.152) could go some way to explaining this similarity. In her personal reflection on the
research process she wrote ‘this (first) year felt (like) mainly ticking boxes, exhaustion, all
new, pressures for contract to be made permanent and fitting in with school life. Didn’t have
many opportunities to question why I was doing particular lessons and what the students
were actually learning – if any value to them both present and future’. Although this reflection
has caused the researcher to feel slightly despondent there is an underlying strength to this
department, its’ cohesion and the close alignment between the pupils and D&T teachers
values of D&T. Consequently we think this area is worth further exploration as the age and
experience profile of a department could have implications for the values held by pupils and
younger teachers, and for teacher training institutions (Dow, 2014).
Implications for Upton and St John’s D&T Departments
At Upton School the school-based researcher is considering whether the school’s schemes
of work reveal more traditional beliefs and values of D&T and if this could be part of the
reason for the limited view of D&T the pupils have. As a new teacher she is also using the
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findings to develop her own practice and confidence: ‘(The) research has helped me
understand (the) department’s philosophy, I think it will impact on my confidence to explore
away from department (within reason). (Setting) themes for students to explore as opposed
to narrow briefs’
The school-based researcher from St John’s School is more established and been in post for
over three years, recently taking a curriculum leadership position in the department. This
research has helped her clarify her thinking about D&T and been able to communicate that
with her department. Consequently new activities are in place, which she hopes will align the
teachers’ values with those of the pupils.
Conclusion
There were two parts to our research question of this paper, firstly how do three different
stakeholders in schools value D&T and secondly what are the similarities and differences in
their values?
All stakeholder groups held a range of values, the most significant of which was that D&T
provided practical life skills, the second most common was that pupils had the opportunity to
make products. Using Hardy’s (2013b) values framework to analyse the stakeholder groups’
values we saw that whilst there were several core values no one thought D&T provided an
opportunity for pupils to identify problems to be solved.
Analysing the values across the stakeholder groups within a school and between groups
across the schools we determined that the senior leaders in both schools held the widest
view about the value of D&T and the pupils had the narrowest view. Our interpretation was
that the senior leaders position gave them the greatest understanding how D&T contributes
to a pupil’s whole education. In both schools D&T teachers rated highly the subject’s
practical content. One explanation for this is that the teachers were focusing on the unique
practical aspect in order to influence the year 9 pupils to choose to continue with their D&T
study the following year.
There were noticeable similarities and differences between the groups within the schools. In
Upton School the D&T teachers and pupils’ values were more closely aligned to each other
than the senior leaders’; the converse was true at St John’s. Our view is that this could be
influenced by factors such as the teachers’ ages and the classroom activities.
This research shows that different groups and different schools have similar and different
values of D&T; we cannot say yet if this will have a consequence on the place of D&T in
these two schools. That is not to say that the consequence will be negative given our finding
that senior leaders have the widest view and the greatest power to retain D&T in a school’s
curriculum. However if our findings about the values held by D&T teachers are more aligned
to those held by the Upton School teachers then the challenges faced by other D&T
stakeholders (teacher trainers, university lecturers) could be significant. D&T teachers have
the power and legitimacy to influence what happens in the classroom, and it is this that
influences the perceptions of those with a more wide-ranging power, such as head teachers
and government ministers. In our opinion a key challenge is to address the dominant view
that D&T’s purpose is to teach practical life skills and bring forward the values relating to
D&T’s capacity to improve society’s quality of life.
This research could have broader implications for other countries that are also considering
the place, purpose and value of D&T in the curriculum.
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Appendix
Twenty-two values of D&T from Hardy (2013b).
1. Meaningful activity of solving real problems with real solutions
2. Learning happens through using brains and hands together
3. Empowers society to act to improve the world
4. Personal ownership of decisions and actions
5. Learning of vocational skills and techniques that open doors to a range of careers
6. Using raw materials to make a product
7. Designing for future needs and opportunities
8. Develops the skill of creativity
9. Freedom to take risks and experiment
10. Considers the ethics of technological development
11. Alternative to academic subjects
12. Identifying problems to be solved
13. Activity of designing
14. Helps the understanding of human beings' position and existence in the world
15. Become aware of the economic impact of technological development
16. Develops the skills of autonomy and collaboration
17. It is fun and enjoyable
18. Provides a practical purpose for other school subjects
19. Examination and questioning of the made world
20. Learn from evaluating personal success and failure
21. Contributes to the nation's industrial and economic competitiveness
22. Learn practical life skills
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  • Article
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    • Alison Hardy
      Alison Hardy
    One consequence of school performance measures is the prioritisation of some school subjects above others. The English Baccalaureate (EBacc), introduced in England in 2011, measures pupils' progress in five subjects only (English, mathematics, science, a humanities subject and a language), and excludes creative subjects such as design and technology (D&T). This suggests that some subjects have greater value than others but the justification for some subjects' inclusion and others' exclusion has been based on a perspective that draws on ideas from Hirsch (2006) and Young (2008). Counter arguments to this perspective have tended to focus on the economic and intrinsic value of the excluded subjects. This suggests that school subjects do have multiple values. The aim of this research is to establish a framework that could be used to explore and define the value of a school subject. Once the subject-value framework was established it was tested using data gathered from interviews with people who had an interest in education and specifically, D&T. The values they attributed to D&T, such as how it might benefit pupils whilst at school and in later life, were explored and analysed using the framework. The results suggest that the constructed subject-value framework can be used to analyse the values individuals attribute to a school subject. A range of goals and benefits related to the subject can be determined, although distinguishing between the different types of goals needs further research. Most values identified focused on how D&T helped individuals prepare for life beyond school. Additionally, the values reflected the economic justification for education, inasmuch that pupils learn skills in D&T they can use in future careers. This constructed subject-value framework could be used as a means of analysing curriculum policy as it influences the values different people attribute to a subject. Further work could assess if this paper's findings are replicable or similar by testing the framework against other non-Ebacc subjects.
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