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Ministry of Education.
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Developing junior high school technology programmes


This case study examines a strategic department-wide approach in the implementation of the technology learning area. It looks at the creation of an innovative teaching framework to ensure student progression through years 9-13 in a complex, large school environment.

The Havelock North High School technology department, led by co-heads of department, Doug Sutherland and Carol Rimmer, took a highly innovative and effective approach to establishing a strong foundation for their year 9 and 10 technology students. They built on the experience gained over the previous seven years of working with the technology learning area. 

They maintained a wide range of student options and used teaching staff from a range of disciplines. Core technology classes were established at junior levels using a planned programme of learning, generic structures, and teacher guides to maintain strategic control. The initial focus on progression through the year 9 and year 10 programmes is now being extended into the senior technology options.

The resource material developed for this programme is especially innovative and comprehensive and serves as a model for all technology teachers and planners.

Teacher guidance
  • Holistic approach to the implementation of a school's locally focused technology curriculum.
  • Maintaining strategic direction over a number of domains in a large school environment.
  • Planned programme of learning for students in technology.
  • Ongoing documentation and tracking of individual progress.
  • High quality practical outcomes.

Technology has had to struggle to overcome perceptions that it's "just cooking and woodwork." But full credit to our technology teachers, they've battled to overcome these misconceptions and I think they've won. They've certainly won it with the students, there's no doubt about that, and there's a greater understanding in the community in general about the changes that have taken place."

"The way in which technology is being taught is so fundamental to good teaching of thinking skills that maybe we need to be looking at this level of good practice across our whole curriculum and not just in technology. Maybe this is a way of teaching that is passing some subjects by.

Mairi Fitzsimons

Background overview

Initial implementation of the technology learning area 

When technology was introduced as a compulsory subject in 1999, Havelock North High School co-head of department Carol Rimmer took the opportunity to rethink the technology programme and to undertake what was to be a long-term overhaul. "We weren't going to do what we were already doing under a different name, and just change the sign on the door."

Forming an overall strategy planning group

A planning group was formed comprising co-HoDs Doug Sutherland and Carol, a biotechnology teacher, and an economics teacher. The group worked with a technology education facilitator to put in place an overall strategy, which was then presented to the department for adoption.

Developing technology programmes from a broad perspective

To help develop the year 9 and 10 technology programme from a very broad perspective, a larger group was formed comprising teachers from a traditional technical background and others interested in teaching technology. This group met weekly for a year to work on changes within the department, developing programmes of learning "by the boxful", an exercise that helped bring "all the thinking together and a 'whole team' ethic into the department."

The result was the introduction of a completely new year 9 technology programme comprising an introductory programme of learning and five six-week modules. A sixth module was also developed for this class's progression into year 10.

Iterative design

It became clear over the following years that the new programme was not as successful as was hoped and the quality of much of the finished practical work was disappointing. In retrospect, the six-week modules were "quite academic and prescriptive, not that well suited to the classroom". The programme did not allow time to develop relevant domain knowledge and skills.

Each module was therefore extended to one term of four hours per week. Students changed subjects and teachers each term. This modification proved more successful, but the department did not formalise what was being taught between those four teachers. Each teacher continued to address all three components of practice. There was a lot of repetition and only limited opportunity for students to progress their learning over the year.

A planned review and more radical modification of the approach and programme was then developed.

Implementing change

A diagram of a design process from issue to evaluation.

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