|dc.description.abstract||Technology Education has been a compulsory subject in the New Zealand primary school curriculum since 1999. Expert knowledge and practice in technology is important in the development of students’ technological knowledge. Whilst this may be acquired within the classroom, this study argues for, and investigates the viewpoint, that its achievement can be enhanced through education outside the classroom (EOTC).
Within New Zealand school culture there is general agreement that education outside the classroom is inherently good and impacts positively on student learning. However, there is a paucity of literature available on theorising or practice in integrating EOTC and curriculum-based teaching and learning in technology education. This study focuses on five-year-old students undertaking a technology unit that incorporated an experience outside the classroom of technological practice, which was designed to inform students’ classroom practice.
This research comprised a qualitative, case-study approach. Two classes of five year old students participated in a technology unit during which they visited a chocolate factory and investigated how to make chocolates for a Mothers’ Day gift. This context, and the nature and age-group of the participants, drew on an examination of literature from three distinct domains: Technology Education, EOTC and the nature and characteristics of five-year-old students. The literature provided principles that underpinned a planning framework that was co-constructed between myself and the two teachers of the new entrant classes. Over a six month period, data was gathered during three phases of the study: (i) preparation in the technology unit for the visit outside the classroom, (ii) the visit to the chocolate factory and subsequent development of the chocolate gift in the classroom; and (iii) exploring enduring understandings resulting from the visit within the context of the unit. Data was gathered through a series of interviews with students and their teachers, observations and analysis of student work.
The findings indicated that an EOTC visit integrated into a technology unit can enhance student learning by making links between the classroom and the real world, providing memorable experiences which students can transfer to new and varied contexts. These experiences were shown to develop context-specific language, understanding of technological process and equipment, and some understanding of material properties. These gains were shown to be most likely when supported by pre-visit scaffolding and post-visit reinforcement. A finding of additional significance was the key role that the parent-helpers played during the unit, visit and in student learning, and the importance of having a shared understanding of the teaching and learning goals of the technology project.
Whilst the study confirms young students’ abilities to transfer technological understandings from one context to another, it also highlights the parameters of five-year-old student knowledge in technology education, brought about by their lack of practical experience and their limited knowledge of materials and material properties. This has implications for the level of support and guidance which is offered by the classroom teacher, and the time provided for students to informally experiment and become familiar with the properties of a range of different materials.||