Cognitive development and technology education at secondary level : matching abilities to the demands of the curriculum
This investigation was designed to explore the relationship between pupils' cognitive level of development and their response to design and technology curriculum. The purposes of the investigation were to (a) analyse the cognitive level of the pupils, (b) analyse the cognitive demands of design and technology in the National Curriculum, (c) develop a series of cognitively based questions dealing with design and technology, (d) determine whether pupils respond successfully to design and technology that was appropriately matched to their cognitive level of development. To accomplish these goals, pupils from schools across two inner London Boroughs were selected. The investigator selected and analysed design and technology in the National Curriculum using a design and technology taxonomy developed for the investigation. The taxonomy was designed using a Piagetian-type framework and modelled after the taxonomy developed by Shayer and Adey. The investigator developed practical tasks and some written questions that were administered to the pupils. All responses to the investigator's practical tasks and written questions were recorded and analysed using not only the Structure of Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) Response taxonomy, but also developmentally. Data from Piaget's test of formal reasoning was collected and compared to the pupil's performance in design and technology tasks. The results indicated that (a) analysing pupil's responses to questions that were cognitively rated provided a developmental sequence of the characteristics of the different cognitive levels. (b) pupils will respond to questions that are matched to their cognitive level of development. (c) the pupil's cognitive level of development and not the age of the student are related to hislher mean cognitive level of response. (d) in predicting a pupil's mean cognitive level, the most significant variables will be the mean cognitive level of the question and the pupil's design and technology achievement. (e) a taxonomy for estimating the level of thinking demanded by design and technology can be developed. (f) pupils in the early years tended to repeat actions (operation) illogically, then become increasingly logical (systematically) as they progress through the years. (g) technological thinking judged from the tests administered, involves factors that include 'general ability (intelligence)" 'perceptual analysis (spatial ability)', 'function/structure', 'practical ability', 'systematic/logical thinking', and 'science reasoning'. Curriculum implications for the development of design and technology curriculum, teaching and in-service training are drawn.