Steve Jeffares shares how he inspires students to develop a love of learning.
High expectations in years 7–8 technology
Steve Jeffares: Many students we come across today treat failure as something to be avoided and the result of that is that they don’t know how to respond to failure. So we have a different approach, where we see failure as a core component of learning and we want to make sure that students see failure as an integral part of learning and failure is the best thing that can happen. Often we’ll see a student who brings something up to me, up to us, to say, “This is not very good, but I’m happy with it”, and the response is, “We can do it better than that”, and so the next one, “We can still do it better than that”, and often three or four times later a student goes away very satisfied, very encouraged by their own abilities. And you don’t get that if you accept the first one.
Student 1: My last one didn’t really work out so well, it had heaps of malfunctions so I’m determined to make this one better.
Student 2: I’m trying to make it look cooler, because Mr J had to finish it off for me. So I’m trying to do it all by myself this time.
Student 1: It’s a real good challenge, and it’s not easy to do. And you get lots of chances to do that kind of thing here.
Steve Jeffares: We have a focus in each of our programmes that is a complete brief approach to every single project. So the first thing the students are exposed to when they arrive is setting up and structuring their projects in a way they will encounter in secondary school. They will develop a brief, they will work through developing attributes through the specifications and they will look at the resourcing that’s available to them and how we use that.
We want them to be confident in being able to identify attributes of a product before they start, and through discussion, through thinking, and through any processes they can use finding a way to set out specifications for their project. So we find specifications to be a really core part of every single programme and we find that students come in at the beginning of each project, take a seat, have a sharp pencil, and take a brief sheet ready to start their project. We introduce all of our students to technical drawing. We find a lot of students treat drawing as something you're born with and we have a different approach in that you can learn to draw, in the same way that you can learn to build and construct. They can set out orthographic drawings, they can set out isometric drawings, they can use the instruments T-squares, set squares.
The result of that is that students come in thinking they can’t draw, and go away knowing they can learn to draw. We find by the time students have completed 2 years in our technology centre they are confident and competent in using tools across those six disciplines.
Student 3: When we’re finished at the week, the end of the week, or whenever we finished a project and we had time left Mr. J let us build whatever we wanted. I built about three different dolls' houses, I built a few little cars, I built lots of things. Miss Whycherley – we weren’t allowed to play around with her as much because of the cost. But then we were still allowed to experiment with sauces and stuff.
Steve Jeffares: We’ll usually try and allow them some time to adventure into design and have some free form in their work, and we find that they need very little guidance in that. They are very good at setting up sewing machines; they are very good at changing saw blades in the scroll saws; they can comfortably rivet and weld and fold in the metal shop. Their electronics they will easily find and follow a circuit diagram.
Student 4: I’ve learnt a lot in how to use machines and what they are called. My favourite project that I’ve made at tech is the speakers. I’m learning to use the soldering iron and the drill press to make the holes for the speakers to sit in.
Steve Jeffares: We also find that their design skills move as their construction skills move, we find the students can variably design towards what they know they can build.
Student 2: Oh, I love it! I look forward to every Tuesday.