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Ministry of Education.
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Summary and Research Finding: Stage Three

The third and final stage of the research was focussed on the development and initial trialling of two teaching tools. This stage of the research ran from January 2010 to the end of June 2010.

What became apparent in Stage Two of the research was that specific teaching tools focussed on deep processing strategies would be required to teach the ideas captured in the achievement objectives above level 4 for Characteristics of Technology (CoT) and Technological Modelling (TM). With this in mind, it was decided to develop and trial a tool for each of these components.

The tool focussing on the CoT component was designed to develop students' ability to "unpick", describe, and critically evaluate the complexities of developments in technology. The second tool, focussing on the TM component, was designed to develop students' ability to use ethical frameworks to support their understanding about the issues involved in practical reasoning. That is, to help students better understand how technological modelling supports both technically feasible and socially acceptable decision making about what "should" happen and why.

The Characteristics of Technology (CoT) Teaching Tool

About the analytical model

An analytical model, developed by Hallstrom and Gyberg from Sweden, was modified and used to develop the CoT teaching tool. The model focuses on the role an analysis of the history of technology can have on understanding how and why technological developments change. The model describes the "Actors and Factors" that influence technological change, and provides five different "levels of meaning" to aid deeper analysis. The tool based on this work therefore consisted of an "Actors and Factors" template and five lenses (as related to the levels of meaning ideas).

Classes that were part of the trial

Six teachers trialled this tool in classes as follows:

  • one year 7/8
  • one year 8
  • one year 9
  • one year 11
  • two year 12.

Testing the "Actors and Factors" template

Each teacher used the "Actors and Factors" template as a diagnostic aid to determine "readiness" for pushing above Level 4. This involved providing the students with appropriate case study material to work with as they completed the template.

The teachers, in conjunction with the researchers, planned an intervention to run over one or two lessons. If the students demonstrated readiness to move beyond Level 4, the appropriate lens would be introduced and discussed before the students were asked to use it to analyse and discuss material to aid the exploration of the interaction between the actors and factors.

Assessing and adjusting the terminology

The "Actors and Factors" template was found to be too complex for students working below level 4 (both the year 7/8 and year 8 classes). In particular, the terminology caused considerable problems.

For those students working between level 3-4 (year 9 and 11 classes, and both year 12 classes initially), the "actors" remained a confusing term on the template. During the trial, when this terminology was changed to "users" and "developers", students were better able to complete the template. It was also noted that the other titles tended to direct student into only thinking of the impact on the technology, rather than the impact of the technology. This again was successfully addressed by changing the titles to encompass the two way interaction and splitting the table accordingly into influences and impact.

Trial results: Readiness to explore

Two of the classes of students (both year 12 classes) in this trial showed readiness to explore the lenses to extend their understandings to level 5 and beyond. The questions developed from these lenses appeared to provide some opportunity for this extension, however time was limited to test this aspect of the tools sufficiently.

The Technological Modelling (TM) Teaching Tool

Tool requirements and make-up

The TM tool was based on the requirements of the technological modelling component from level 4 and above particularly as it relates to underpinning reasoning – namely, practical and functional reasoning.

Earlier findings had shown that students demonstrated a reasonable understanding of technological modelling in terms of how to explore the technical aspects of design ideas to justify decisions based on functional reasoning about "how to make it happen" but did not reflect practical reasoning with regards to any moral or ethical aspects when testing design ideas or prototypes.

Such practical reasoning would support students to justify decisions about "what should be done".

The tool, therefore, consisted of a modelling Adidas soccer boot development video and pre-level 4 diagnostic template, the ethical thinking tool from Science Learning Hub, and one of two "implications" templates to determine any impact the frameworks might have had on the students subsequent decision making.

Classes that were part of the trial

Seven teachers trialled the TM tool in classes as follows:

  • one year 3/4
  • one year 5/6
  • one year 10
  • one year 11
  •  one year 12
  • one year 12/13
  • one year 13.

Carrying out the trial

The teachers began with the video and template. After that, they used the ethical thinking tool to introduce ethical frameworks to the students. The teachers then provided the students with an opportunity to apply these frameworks to their own practice, or to an additional video, and complete the appropriate implication template.

Findings: Primary classes

Both primary classes struggled to analyse the initial video in terms of technological modelling. A resource with more explicit reference to modelling was clearly required. In the year 3/4 class, no attempt was made to introduce the ethical framework as all students were working at level 1 or below. In the year 5/6 class, the framework categories were briefly outlined but the science learning tool was not used as the terminology of the frameworks was too complicated for most of these students. Most students were working at level 1 TM, although some students showed some understanding indicative of level 2.

Findings: Y10 class

The year 10 class (all girls) did not respond well to the video and did not complete the template. They also struggled with the terminology of the ethics thinking tool and while they attempted to apply some of these ideas in their own decision-making, little evidence of impact was noted. Evidence from the implications template suggested students were working between levels 2-3 of TM.

Findings: Year 11, 12, 13 classes

The teachers in the year 11, 12, 12/13 and 13 classes all supported the students understanding of modelling and ethical decision-making with additional resources and most students completed the initial template demonstrating robust level 3-4 understandings of TM. The teachers then used the ethical thinking tool to introduce the frameworks.

Overall, the students found the tool difficult to use and understand. The ideas introduced in each framework required significant intervention by the teacher and it was only in the year 11 and year 12/13 classes that any of these ideas were clearly brought to bear on the student's subsequent practice (in the case of the year 11 class) or ability to analyse the wireless car resource (in the case of the year 12/13 class).


Based on the Stage Three findings revised CoT and TM tools are being developed and will be trialled as part of the new technological literacy focused research.


See Gyberg, P. & Lee, F., 2009. The Construction of Facts: Preconditions for meaning in teaching energy in Swedish classrooms. International Journal of Science Education, 1 – 17 first article.

Hallstrom, J. & Gyberg, P., 2009. Technology in the Rear-View Mirror: How to Better Incorporate the History of Technology into Technology Education. International Journal of Technology and Design Education. Published online December 2009.

An Adidas soccer boot development video sourced from the Australian Beyond 2000 TV series

The Science Learning Hub is a teacher and student resource established by Waikato University. Ethics thinking toolkit provides a structured framework for scaffolding student thinking about an ethical issue.

Uniservices – bringing ideas to life. "We partner with the best minds at the University of Auckland to apply intelligent thinking to ideas that have the potential to change the world." UniServices Inductive Power Transfer or the UniServices Wireless Car.


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