Friday, February 12, 2010

Relating Technology Education Goals to Curriculum Planning

As representations of the aims, mission, and aspirations of industrial arts/technology educators, the written goals of the field have always prescribed a liberal educational role for industrial arts/technology education. Goal statements exceed the single goal of skill development and include such goals as helping students to become wise consumers and problem solvers and to understand industry and technology. Industrial arts/technology education goals have evolved over time. This evolution has reflected a drift towards more liberal education ideals with goals which specify the study of the relationships among industry, technology, and society, the interdisciplinary nature of the field, and general problem solving.

The practice of industrial arts/technology education, however, has not always demonstrated a clear relationship to those goal statements. Industrial arts/technology education laboratories and student activities often resemble vocational education laboratories and student activities. Moreover, much of the prescriptive theory of curriculum planning for industrial arts/technology education is technical in nature, relying upon curriculum planning techniques which are based upon behaviorism. A discontinuity exists in the descriptive theory (goal statements) and prescriptive theory (curriculum-planning practices) of industrial arts/technology education. This discontinuity is caused, in part, by the strategies used for planning curriculum and the limited prescriptive theory which exists in the field.

Identifying alternative curriculum-planning processes could have a sizeable influence on the future of technology education. If teachers were able to know and to use curriculum planning processes which are compatible with the goals they choose to implement, then the congruence between the goals and practices of technology education should improve. This is especially critical for a subject matter which is in a state of transition. Learning about a variety of curriculum designs and processes would result in a more informed technology education teacher, capable of making more accurate curriculum decisions. Accurate decisions about content and the presentation of that content should result in observable differences in the conduct of technology education.

The goals of industrial arts in the beginning of this century were more restricted and less varied than recent goal statements referring to technology education. Furthermore, as the goals of technology education have changed, the priorities of technology education have changed also. These changes reflect a mission of technology education which differs from the mission of industrial arts education at the beginning of the century. Written curriculum documents, compared over a period of years, reflect an addition of goals and a repositioning of goal statements which represents a theoretical shift. Tracking that shift is difficult because of the involvement of numerous people and agencies, such as specific authors, state departments of education, and school committees. Nonetheless, by looking at specific examples of the general trend, educators can see both the addition of new goals and a change in the priority of goals for technology education. Documents which synthesize goals from selected time periods of approximately 20 year increments can illustrate this shift.

Early industrial arts goals included statements about career exploration and vocation, consumerism, and skill development and heavily emphasized the purpose of the subject matter as prevocational study. Recent technology education goals reflect an increased emphasis on the study of industry and technology, critical consumerism, and the development of intellectual processes and interpersonal behavioral skills. Essentially, industrial arts and technology education goals can be grouped into the following seven categories: physical development, career exploration and vocation, intellectual processes, skill development, critical consumerism, industry and technology, and integration of the disciplines. Physical development refers to largely historical goals of the field which represent the effort to improve motor control and coordination through tool instruction, but not for the purpose of skill development in the use of tools. Career exploration and vocational goals are concerned with preparing students for either entry into an occupation or entry into vocational education programs by providing exploratory activities which can be developed for avocational purposes in many occupational areas. Intellectual processes refer to those goals which develop critical thinking and problem solving ability, in addition to other processes which emphasize working together, communicating effectively, and taking leadership roles. 

Skill development goals point to the specific instruction and perfection of the ability to use tools, machines, and processes. Critical consumerism goals address the relationship of industrial arts/technology education to society through a variety of efforts, including the ability to be a wise consumer and a technologically literate citizen. Industry and technology goals are those which specify the study of industry and technology as a subject. Finally, the integration of the disciplines are those goals which provide for the relationship of industrial arts/technology education to other disciplines, fields of study, and subject matter.