Designing Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving in Technology Education

  • Published on
    21-Feb-2017

  • View
    213

  • Download
    1

Transcript

  • This article was downloaded by: [Laurentian University]On: 06 October 2014, At: 13:59Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

    Research in Science &Technological EducationPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/crst20

    Designing Teaching Materialsfor Learning Problem Solvingin Technology EducationB. G. Doornekamp aa Department of Curriculum , University ofTwente , The NetherlandsPublished online: 25 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: B. G. Doornekamp (2001) Designing Teaching Materialsfor Learning Problem Solving in Technology Education, Research in Science &Technological Education, 19:1, 25-38, DOI: 10.1080/02635140120046204

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02635140120046204

    PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

    Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensorsmake no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy,completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views ofthe authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis.The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should beindependently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor andFrancis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings,demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, inrelation to or arising out of the use of the Content.

    This article may be used for research, teaching, and private studypurposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution,

    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/crst20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/02635140120046204http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02635140120046204

  • reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of accessand use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Research in Science & Technological Education, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2001

    Designing Teaching Materials forLearning Problem Solving inTechnology Education

    B. G. DOORNEKAMP, Department of Curriculum, University of Twente, TheNetherlands

    ABSTRACT In the process of designing teaching materials for learning problem solving in technology education,domain-specic design specications are considered important elements to raise learning outcomes with these materials.Two domain-specic design specications were drawn up using a four-step procedure and were applied to improveexisting teachinglearning packages. The study focused on a construction problem (open-ended) and an explanationproblem (constrained). Construction material (schertechnik) was used to solve the problems. In two experiments, thesenewly designed teaching materials were compared with the existing teaching materials. In all, 600 pupils participatedin these experiments. In the experiment with the construction problem, no learning gains were made at all: the smallgain in quality of the product made by the pupils cost too much time. In the experiment with the explanation problem,the quality of the pupils product was signicantly better in less time. It is argued that strongly structured teachingmaterials for constrained problems are more suitable for learners with little experience with construction material.

    Introduction

    In general and vocational education, problem-solving skills are believed to be veryimportant for pupils. Pupils are faced in life with situations in which they have to solvea problem. Because these situations cannot be predicted, they cannot be learned inadvance. Each new situation differs from previous situations. What would solve theproblem in one situation does not solve the problem in another situation. When vehicles,devices or machines do not perform well, it can be caused by various problems: forexample, it can be a mechanical problem or an electrical problem. Each of thesecategories of problems consists of many different problems and each problem needs itsown solution.In general as well as in vocational education, pupils are taught strategies to solve these

    problems. They can learn algorithms and heuristics, which help them to identify theproblem and take appropriate measures. The pupils need the basic knowledge and skillsto be able to solve the problem. They need to know which tools are needed and howto handle them. Besides, they must know the fundamentals of mechanics or electricity.If the problem deals with pneumatics, the pupils have to know about valves, connectors,tubes, pumps and so on.

    ISSN 0263-5143 print; 1470-1138 online/01/010025-14 2001 Taylor & Francis LtdDOI: 10.1080/0263514012004620 4

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 26 B. G. Doornekamp

    These skills are relevant because in most (technical) jobs problems have to be solved.This is obvious for people who are repairing all sorts of vehicles and devices, but also forthose people who perform service and maintenance activities.In job situations, problem-solving skills are considered to be among the many key

    competencies a worker should have. Van Zolingen (1995) describes key competencies asthe knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes that belong to the durable core of a vocationor a group of related functions. Van Zolingen distinguishes among others a cognitivedimension, which includes identifying and solving problems.After this short exploration of problem-solving skills and the need to learn them in

    education, the next question to be asked is how can these skills be learned, and howshould the teachinglearning packages be designed? This article deals especially with thedesign aspects of teachinglearning packages. When designing teachinglearning pack-ages certain design speci cations are applied. The study presented in this article focusedon design speci cations that are speci c to technology education in secondary education.Therefore, they are called domain-speci c design speci cations. First, the development ofthese domain-speci c design speci cations is described and then two experiments inwhich these design speci cations were evaluated are reported. The experiments are fromdifferent domains of technology education and will not be compared with each other.For each problem, a different domain-speci c design speci cation was applied.Although this study took place in the Dutch educational system, the ndings should

    be applicable to other educational settings in which teachinglearning packages fortechnology education are designed.

    Domain-speci c Design Speci cations

    Design speci cations are part of a design theory, a sub-theory of the curriculum theory(Beauchamp, 1981), and have a prescriptive character. Teachinglearning packages aredeveloped according to certain design speci cations. Two types of design speci cationscan be distinguished: domain-speci c design speci cations for a particular subject areaand general design speci cations that are independent of any subject area. Whenteachinglearning packages are designed, both general and domain-speci c designspeci cations are applied.In this study, domain-speci c design speci cations for teachinglearning packages

    (used in technology education) were drawn up in stage 1 according to a particularmethodology and applied to improve existing teachinglearning packages. In stage 2, theapplied domain-speci c design speci cations were evaluated in two experiments in whichthe outcomes of these design speci cations were measured. Finally, conclusions weredrawn with respect to domain-speci c design speci cations for technology education.

    Drawing up Domain-speci c Design Speci cations

    For the rst stage of this study, a four-step methodology was used to draw up thedomain-speci c design speci cations (Doornekamp, 1997).

    (1) Analyse

    Problem solving is studied from a practical, a theoretical and an empirical point of viewby analysing relevant documents. Attention is paid to aspects in these documents, whichcan be related to the design of curriculum materials and the instructional process for

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving 27

    technology education. This step results in three checklists of points meriting attention(one list per point of view).

    (2) Check

    These checklists of points meriting attention are used as criteria to check whether existingteachinglearning packages for technology education in secondary education meet thesecriteria. A criterion that is not met in the existing packages is regarded as a shortcoming.

    (3) Evaluate

    The shortcomings that are observed in the packages which are examined from each ofthe three points of view are considered as the major shortcomings that need to becorrected. These shortcomings have a domain-speci c character.

    (4) Formulate

    In order to correct these shortcomings, domain-speci c design speci cations are drawnup. The design speci cations refer to points meriting attention (step 1). By applying thesedomain-speci c design speci cations to the existing teachinglearning packages exam-ined, the shortcomings will be removed.

    Application of the Methodology to Technology Education in The Netherlands

    Step 1

    As indicated, this step starts with the analysis of documents. Problem solving is studiedfrom three points of view: a practical, a theoretical and an empirical point of view.

    Practice: technology education

    In The Netherlands, technology education in basic education (i.e. lower secondaryeducation) is characterised as a general subject in which practical technical activities leadthe way. The method is structured. During the technology lessons, pupils, girls as wellas boys, must gain an insight into the functioning of technical systems (systems approach)and learn to act technically in an adequate way. For the latter, concrete technicalproblems are used (Huijs & Hermans, 1993).During the development of technology education, problem solving has played an

    important role. For solving (technical) problems a stepwise approach, like the modelThinkingDrawingMakingEvaluating (TDME model), is used. Conceptual knowl-edge is considered as a prerequisite to be able to solve (technical) problems (Ploegmakers,1986; Huijs & Hermans, 1993).It is found that in technology education in basic education the following points merit

    attention:

    Problems have to be attractive and meaningful for both girls and boys. Solving a technical problem is a practical activity combined with knowledge andunderstanding. The system approach used in technology education is an overall approach and has auniversal character.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 28 B. G. Doornekamp

    The method is structured and systematic by using a model when solving a problem. Theoretical knowledge is a prerequisite to be able to solve problems. The pupils level of theoretical knowledge determines the degree of structuring of theassignment.

    Theory: problem solving

    Technical problems can be classi ed by the characteristics of a problem (constrainedversus open-ended) or on the content of the problem (e.g. construction and explanationproblems) (Huijs & Hermans, 1993). Both algorithmic and heuristic methods can be usedto solve a problem.In this study, solving a technical problem was considered to be a combination of

    problem thinking (acting mentally) and practical skills (acting manually). By means of astructured approach, the solution is reached. The TDME model is an example of suchan approach and shows the outlines of problem solving in technology education(Ploegmakers, 1986).The knowledge repertoire of a problem solver may be classi ed into four types of

    knowledge: (a) knowledge of problem situations, (b) conceptual knowledge, (c) proceduralknowledge, and (d) strategic knowledge (de Jong, 1986). There is a strong relationshipbetween conceptual and procedural knowledge (McCormick & Murphy, 1994).The control and guidance of the problem-solving process is called meta-cognition

    (Flavell, 1976; Brown in Schepens et al., 1981).Taking the above into account, the following points merit attention:

    The application of practical skills is assumed in problem solving. Explanation problems are constrained problems, which can be solved by using analgorithm.

    Construction problems are open-ended problems. Heuristic strategies are needed tosolve them.

    The TDME model shows the outlines of the steps which have to be taken to solve aproblem.

    Knowledge deals with conceptual as well as procedural knowledge. Both can bepresent with the pupil or are offered in a teachinglearning package.

    Meta-cognition promotes problem solving. Meta-cognitive skills can be developed bytaking up certain instructions in teachinglearning packages, such as making notes,drawing up study questions, adding teaching material, marking parts of the text,forming verbalisations and actions and explaining concepts.

    Research: effective design specications

    In The Netherlands, six studies have been carried out which focused on problem solvingin technology education, in junior secondary technical education and in scienti c subjectareas (physics, chemistry, mathematics). In these studies, the researchers tried to improvethe problem-solving skills of pupils and students by designing various teachinglearningpackages (de Jong, 1986; van der Sanden, 1986; de Jong, 1989; Kramers-Pals, 1994;Perrenet, 1995; Taconis, 1995).The applied design speci cations can be classi ed into two categories: strategy and

    knowledge. Two types of strategy have been distinguished based on: (a) the degree of

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving 29

    structuring and (b) the normative model of actions. These types are indicated as aninternal and an external strategy.Design speci cations applied in van der Sandens study (using weakly or strongly

    structured instruction materials, dependent on certain pupil characteristics) and in deJongs (1989) study (providing the necessary conceptual knowledge in advance by theteacher) appear to be effective. Van der Sanden used several psychological tests, amongothers the Group Embedded Figures Test for assessing eld (in)dependence. De Jong(1989) administered a Test for Problem Solving for assessing the effects of the treatments.No positive effects were attained with the other design speci cations.With regard to these studies, the following points merit attention:

    Problem solving can be improved by applying design speci cations aimed at acquiringknowledge, offering a strategy (internal and external), and co-operative learning. Conceptual knowledge appears to be an important condition to problem solving(Anderson, 1977; Greeno, 1980). Design speci cations related to knowledge can: offer the necessary knowledge to pupils in advance by the teacher; involve the pupils carrying out tasks given a speci c content. An internal strategy, by which guidance is given in the problem or the assignment(strongly structured), is effective for eld-dependent pupils and pupils who are notfearful of failure. Less or no guidance (weakly structured) is effective for eld-indepen-dent pupils and pupils who are positively fearful of failure. Design speci cations relatedto an internal strategy can involve: structuring with the help of a model for problem solving; varying instructional methods (oral versus written); varying instructional characteristics (concrete versus abstract instruction); varying the order of instruction ( xed versus self-paced order); varying the amount of written instruction (highly essential, moderately detailed,

    highly detailed). An external strategy for guidance is added as an expedient to existing teachinglearning packages. Design speci cations related to an external strategy can offer achart or worksheet with a systematic approach to problem solving, offer instruction inadvance about an approach to problem solving and handling co-operative learning.

    Steps 2, 3 and 4

    The above-mentioned points that merit attention were used to check whether twoteachinglearning packages met these criteria. For this study, two packages for technol-ogy education, developed by the National Institute for Curriculum Development (SLO)were chosen, namely Technology in Water Puri cation (Weber, 1991) and ProcessTechnology (de Jong & Huijs, 1991). These packages deal with a construction problemand an explanation problem, respectively. Pupils solve the problem by executing severalpractical assignments in which they use construction material ( schertechnik). Theconstruction problem in this package was an open-ended problem, while the explanationproblem was a constrained problem.The general impression of the analysis of these teachinglearning packages was that

    in both packages the instructions given to the pupils to solve the problem were limited.It appears that some shortcomings were found in each point of view listed above. Foreach problem the main shortcoming can be identi ed:

    For the construction problem the conceptual knowledge about the way the construction

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 30 B. G. Doornekamp

    material can be used is lacking. Especially when the pupils do not have muchexperience with the construction material, they do not know how to assemble thevarious parts of the construction material.

    The procedure for building the model with the explanation problem is weakly structured.The necessary procedural knowledge is lacking. A black and white photograph of themodel is insuf cient to build the model. When the model is not built properly, thepupils cannot explain the working of the model.

    The shortcomings identi ed in these teachinglearning packages had to be corrected.Therefore, for each problem separately, a domain-speci c design speci cation wasformulated, to provide the knowledge (either conceptual or procedural) that the pupilslacked.In teachinglearning packages for technology in which problem solving arises, it is

    desirable that for:

    (1) open-ended problems, the necessary conceptual knowledge is available as writteninstructions about the way the construction material can be used;

    (2) constrained problems, the necessary procedural knowledge is available which indi-cates the order in which the available construction material has to be used.

    Teaching Materials

    On the basis of these domain-speci c design speci cations for each of the teachinglearning packages, a new variant of the teaching material was developed:

    The teaching material for the construction problem was extended with a written instruc-tion (pictures and explaining text) about how the construction material ( schertechnik)can be used for building the drive mechanism and the transmission.

    To the teaching material for the explanation problem, six step-by-step drawings wereadded. The drawings show the order of building the model with the constructionmaterial ( schertechnik).

    The original teaching material is now indicated as the weakly structured variant and thedeveloped teaching material is indicated as the strongly structured variant.Table I summarises the situation at the end of the rst stage for each problem

    separately.

    TABLE I. Overview of the situation at the end of stage 1

    AppliedOriginal domain-speci c Elaboration in

    Type of teaching design teaching Variant of theProblem problem material speci cation material teaching material

    Construction Open-ended Technology 1 Written Strongly structuredproblem in Water information

    Puri cation None Weakly structured

    Explanation Constrained Process 2 Step-by-step Strongly structuredproblem Technology drawings

    None Photograph Weakly structured

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving 31

    The new developed teaching materials were used in two experiments, one for eachproblem. In the construction problem, the pupils start with assembling a rotating lter. Thenthey study the written information on making a drive mechanism and a transmission,and a parts list or only a parts list (depending on the variant used) and experiment withparts of the construction material. With this information they design the drive mechan-ism and transmission. Next, they build the drive mechanism and transmission as theydesigned it and nally they test their solution.In the explanation problem, the pupils start with building a model of a time switch. They

    have six step-by-step drawings or a black and white photograph at their disposal(depending on the variant used). Then they connect the leads to the electric motor andto the transformer, and test their model. If it is working well, they enlarge the model byadding parts to the wheel and test the model once more.It is now expected that pupils undertaking the construction problem who use the strongly

    structured variant of the teaching material will have a better quality of nal product. Itis also expected that they will need less time than the pupils who use the weaklystructured variant of the teaching material.For the explanation problem it is expected that the use of the strongly structured variant

    of the teaching material by the pupils will lead to a higher quality of nal product. It isalso expected that these pupils will be more able to explain the working of the model.By guiding the pupils in this way, they will need less time than pupils who use the weaklystructured variant of the teaching material. The quality of the nal product is based onthe judgements by the experimenter of certain practical assignments (the number and theresults of the efforts) and the complexity of the solution (construction problem) or the orderin which the model was built (explanation problem). For each part, one or more points aregiven. The quality is the total of these points.Therefore, the following research questions were formulated:

    (1) Are the results, in terms of the quality of the nal product and the elapsed time,obtained with the strongly structured variant for the construction problem better thanwith the weakly structured one?

    (2) Are the results, in terms of the quality of the nal product and the elapsed time,obtained with the strongly structured variant for the explanation problem better thanwith the weakly structured one?

    (3) Which characteristics of the pupils in uence these results positively, and does this alsodepend on the variant used?

    Two Experiments

    Design

    The second stage of this study consisted of two experiments, one for each problem. Inthese experiments the two variants (see Table I) were compared with each other. Theexperiments were based on the independent group design (Willems, 1989). An exper-imental group used the strongly structured variant and a control group used the weaklystructured variant.During the experiment, pupils from lower secondary education worked individually on

    one problem and had the same construction material ( schertechnik) available to them.The experiments took place in a normal classroom situation under the leadership of anexperimenter. Previously trained university students observed the activities of the pupils.The students used a structured observation scheme for registering the activities of the

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 32 B. G. Doornekamp

    pupils at 1 minute intervals and the elapsed time. This scheme consisted of a list for eachpractical assignment with possible activities of the pupils. They also collected informationon the nal product by either taking a photograph (construction problem) or byrecording on paper the completed parts of the model (explanation problem).

    Sample

    For this study a sample of 200 teachers was taken who were members of the Associationof Teachers in Technology Education. The teachers were asked to participate with aclass in one of the two experiments. Because the participation in an experimentdemanded a lot from the schools, a large sample was taken. In all, 21 teachers respondedpositively. More than half took part in both experiments. From the schools, 305 pupilsparticipated in the experiment with the construction problem and 295 pupils in the explanationproblem. About half the pupils used the strongly structured variant in each experiment.Most of the pupils were 13 years of age.In Dutch education, there are several types of secondary education. For the experi-

    ments, two levels of secondary education were distinguished: (a) junior level (i.e. juniorvocational and junior secondary general education); and (b) senior level (i.e. seniorsecondary general and pre-university education). In each experiment, both levels ofeducation used both variants of the teaching materials.

    Instruments

    Before the experiments started, a short questionnaire regarding some pupil characteristicsand three psychological tests for assessing their mechanical and spatial orientation (bothsubtests of the Differential Aptitude Test (the DAT 83) namely the subtest MechanicalReasoning and the subtest Space Relations) and eld (in)dependence (the GroupEmbedded Figures Test) were administered to the pupils.The two experiments are discussed separately. First, the results of the experiment in

    which a construction problem had to be solved, and second the results of the experiment inwhich the working of a model had to be explained (explanation problem).

    Construction Problem

    Results of the Practical Assignments

    The teaching material of both variants contained ve practical assignments:

    (1) Assembling a rotating lter;(2) Reading the instructions for using schertechnik;(3) Designing the drive mechanism and the transmission (drawing);(4) Building the drive mechanism and the transmission;(5) Testing the built solution.

    In all, 191 of the 305 pupils (626%) executed these practical assignments and instruc-tions within the available time (two lessons). The time limit caused a selective loss ofpupils. The conclusions concern only those 191 pupils who completed the assignmentsin time. Such a restriction did not hold for the quality of the nal product.From the results of each practical assignment it appeared that with practical assign-

    ment 3 about half the pupils made the drawing afterwards instead of beforehand. When

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving 33

    TABLE II. Results of the experiment with the construction problem

    Quality of the nal product* Elapsed time

    Mean Value of t Mean Value of t

    Variant of the teaching Weak 125 095 560 211material Strong 129 608

    Gender of the pupils Girls 119 373** 623 310**Boys 133 552

    Level of secondary Junior 129 079 554 224**education Senior 126 605

    Experience with construction Low 118 373** 625 296**material High 132 556

    * See section Teaching materials for an explanation** p , 005 (n 5 191).

    building the drive mechanism and the transmission (practical assignment 4) a chain waschosen most frequently for the transmission. Hardly any combinations of several types oftransmission were selected. Usually the connection of the transformer was successfullyachieved in practical assignment 5. The solutions functioned well in only half the cases.Something had to be changed to the built solution, then the solution worked. The pupilsbuilt simple to very simple solutions for the construction problem.The mean quality of the nal product was 127 (standard deviation 5 26; maximum

    score 5 20). There was a signi cant difference between the mean quality of the nalproduct of girls and boys. Also, there was a signi cant difference between the meanquality of the nal product with respect to the experience with construction material.The variant of the teaching material did not in uence the mean quality of the nalproduct. A similar situation was also observed for the difference between pupils from thejunior level and pupils from the senior level (see Table II).For all practical assignments (including the instructions), 582 minutes, on average,

    were required. Comparison of the mean times between groups showed that pupils whoused the weakly structured variant required less time on average than the pupilswho used the strongly structured variant. Boys, pupils from the junior level and pupilswho had high experience with construction material required less time as might beexpected. In all these cases the differences between the means were signi cant (see TableII).

    Analysis of the Results

    Correlations between the pupil characteristics, mechanical and spatial relations and thequality of the nal product were calculated. These correlations were signi cant but verylow ( , 035). However, no signi cant correlation occurred between the amount of timespent on the practical assignments and mechanical and spatial orientation, and eld(in)dependence.Regarding the elapsed time, there appeared to be a signi cant interaction effect

    between the variant of the teaching material and the characteristic of eld(in)dependence (F (2,183) 5 385). Likewise there was a signi cant interaction effectbetween the variant of the teaching material and the experience with schertechnik (F(1,178) 5 441).

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 34 B. G. Doornekamp

    With the strongly structured variant, more time was spent on cognitive activities (e.g.reading instructions and assignments) than with the weakly structured variant. When adistinction was made between girls and boys and between pupils from the junior leveland pupils from the senior level, there were only differences in the motor activities (e.g.making a drawing, assembling parts of schertechnik). Girls and pupils from the seniorlevel spent more time on average on this type of activity. Lower experience withconstruction materials had no in uence on the time spent on motor and cognitiveactivities.

    Explanation Problem

    Results of the Practical Assignments

    The teaching material included four practical assignments which were executed withinthe available time (two lessons) by 192 of the 295 pupils (651%). These assignmentswere:

    (1) Building a model of a time switch;(2) Connecting the leads and the transformer;(3) Testing the model;(4) Enlarging the model with angle blocks and testing once more.

    The conclusions concern only those pupils (192) who were able to execute the assign-ments within the available time.In practical assignment 1 the pupils built the model of the time switch in different

    orders. The order according to the step-by-step drawings was followed in the main bythe pupils who used the strongly structured variant, but not by the pupils who used theweakly structured variant.Connecting a double wired lead appeared to be easier than connecting the single

    wired leads (practical assignment 2). In practical assignment 3 many pupils had to changethe model they built, before it worked. There was hardly any difference between the twovariants of the teaching material. Nearly all the pupils used four angle blocks in orderto enlarge the model in practical assignment 4, and most of the students models workedafter this enlargement.The mean quality of the nal product was 79 (standard deviation 5 25; maximum

    score 5 14). The mean quality of the nal product of the pupils who used the stronglystructured variant was signi cantly higher than the mean obtained when the weaklystructured variant was used. Likewise the difference between the means of boys and girlswas signi cant. The means of pupils from the junior level and pupils from the seniorlevel, and of pupils with low experience and pupils with high experience with construc-tion materials did not differ signi cantly (see Table III).The mean elapsed time on all practical assignments was 538 minutes. The compari-

    son of the mean times between the groups showed that less time was required when theweakly structured variant was used than when the strongly structured variant was used.Also pupils from the junior level nished the assignments quicker than pupils from thesenior level. These differences were not statistically signi cant.A signi cant difference between the mean times of the girls and boys was observed.

    Boys required 8 minutes less than girls. Pupils with high experience with constructionmaterials required 5 minutes less than those who had low experience. This difference wasstatistically signi cant (see Table III).

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving 35

    TABLE III. Results of the experiment with the explanation problem

    Quality of the nal product* Elapsed time

    Mean Value of t Mean Value of t

    Variant of the teaching Weak 71 392** 545 079material Strong 85 532

    Gender of the pupils Girls 73 271** 587 511**Boys 83 503

    Level of secondary Junior 78 053 533 067education Senior 80 544

    Experience with construction Low 75 180** 568 274**material High 81 520

    * See section Teaching materials for an explanation** p , 005 (n 5 192).

    Analysis of the Results

    Signi cant positive correlations between the quality of the nal product and the pupilsmechanical and spatial relations were observed. Likewise there was a signi cant positivecorrelation between the elapsed time on the practical assignments and mechanical andspatial relations, and eld (in)dependence. However, these correlations were all very low( , 0.30).Experience with schertechnik was related to the variant used: pupils who did not

    have this experience required less time with the strongly structured variant, while pupilswho had experience with schertechnik required less time with the weakly structuredvariant. Only in those situations did they perform better than when the other variantwould have been used. The F value for this interaction effect was (1,181) 1286, whichis signi cant.With the strongly structured variant, more time was spent on cognitive activities (e.g.

    consulting drawings or a photograph) and with the weakly structured variant more onmotor activities (e.g. connecting the leads, adding angle blocks). Girls spent more time onaverage on both types of activities. These differences were signi cant. The distinctionbetween pupils from the junior level and pupils from the senior level and between pupilswho had low experience and pupils with high experience with construction materials wasof less importance with regards to the elapsed time on cognitive and motor activities.

    Conclusions and Discussion

    Effectiveness of the Domain-specic Design Specications

    Fig. 1 shows the results of both experiments, in terms of the quality of the nal productand the elapsed time.Based on the results it can be concluded that in both experiments the quality of the

    nal product was higher when the strongly structured variant was used. The gain inquality was only statistically signi cant for the explanation problem.It can also be concluded that the strongly structured variant did not always lead to a

    gain in the elapsed time. The pupils required more time for the construction problem onaverage with this variant than the pupils who used the weakly structured variant. With

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 36 B. G. Doornekamp

    FIG. 1. Results of the construction problem and the explanation problem in terms of quality of the nal product and the elapsed time.

    the explanation problem, the strongly structured variant was more successful than theweakly structured one.The conclusion of these studies is that the domain-speci c design speci cation for a

    constrained problem is more effective in terms of the quality of the nal product and theelapsed time. The effectiveness of the domain-speci c design speci cation for anopen-ended problem is negligible. A very small gain in the quality of the product is atthe cost of much time. It should be kept in mind that these conclusions refer to the pupilswho have participated in this study. They did not have much experience with schertechnik. If they had been more experienced with this construction material, theconclusions might be different.What we may learn from these studies is that when pupils are at the beginning of the

    process in which they learn to solve technical problems, a strongly structured approachof constrained problems is more effective, especially when a construction material is usedto build the solution and the experience with the construction material is low. When thepupils have acquired more experience with the construction material, the approach canshift from strongly structured to weakly structured for constrained problems. At thatmoment, more open-ended problems can be considered. The pupils have acquiredsuf cient conceptual knowledge about the construction material to allow them to solvethese types of problems.Within the last few years, technology education has become part of the core

    curriculum in primary education (for pupils from 4 to 12 years of age) (Doornekamp,1995). The pupils who participated in this study did not have technology education inprimary education. This situation is different from the situation in the UK. There,Design and Technology has been part of the National Curriculum for many years. The ndings of this study apply to technology education in basic education in The Nether-lands. It can be expected that within a few years, when technology education will beinstitutionalised in primary education, the ndings may be equally relevant to primaryand basic education.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • Teaching Materials for Learning Problem Solving 37

    Pupils Characteristics

    Pupils gender and experience with construction materials do in uence solving anopen-ended problem as well as a constrained problem, in terms of the quality of the nalproduct. Boys and pupils who have considerable experience with construction materialsattain a higher quality of nal product. For these characteristics the quality of the nalproduct is not dependent on the variant of the teaching material used by the pupils.The characteristics of gender, levels of secondary education, and experience with

    construction materials do in uence solving both types of problems in terms of elapsed time.Boys, pupils from the junior level and pupils who have high experience with constructionmaterials need less time to solve the problem.For the explanation problem, the pupils characteristics in mechanical and spatial relations

    and eld (in)dependence in uence performance.For the characteristic of experience with schertechnik, the required time is also

    dependent on the variant of the teaching material used.Although some of these ndings were unexpected, this study shows clearly that the

    design of the teaching material and certain pupils characteristics play a role when pupilsin lower secondary education solve technical problems in technology education. Furtherresearch is needed to determine how problem solving can be improved by the design ofthe teaching material.

    Correspondence: B.G. Doornekamp, University of Twente Faculty of Educational Science &Technology, Department of Curriculum, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, TheNetherlands. E-mail: doornekamp@edte.utwente.nl

    REFERENCES

    ANDERSON, R.C. (1977) The notion of schemata and the educational enterprise: general discussionof the conference, in: R.C. ANDERSON, R.J. SPIRO & W.E. MONTAGUE (Eds) Schooling and theAcquisition of Knowledge, pp. 415431 (Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum).

    BEAUCHAMP, G.A. (1981) Curriculum Theory, 4th edn (Itasca, IL, Peacock Publishers).DOORNEKAMP, B.G. (1995) The Development of a Curriculum for Technology Education in Primary Education

    in The Netherlands. Keynote lecture at IDATER 95, Loughborough (UK), 46 September 1995.DOORNEKAMP, B.G. (1997) Probleemoplossen binnen het vak techniek. Een studie naar effectieve domeinspecieke

    ontwerprichtlijnen voor onderwijsleerpakketten (Enschede, Universiteit Twente-OCTO).FLAVELL, J.H. (1976) Metacognitive aspects of problem solving, in: L.B. RESNICK (Ed.) The Nature

    of Intelligence, pp. 231235 (Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum).GREENO, J.G. (1980) Trends in the theory of knowledge for problem solving, in: D.T. TUMA & F.REIF (Eds) Problem Solving and Education: issues in teaching and research, pp. 925 (Hillsdale, NJ,Erlbaum).

    HUIJS, H. & HERMANS, P. (1993) Een leerplan techniek, Bouwstenen voor de basisvorming(Enschede, SLO/Wolters-Noordhoff) .

    JONG, R. DE (1989) Probleemoplossen binnen het vak Techniek: Kenmerken en effecten van een onderwijsleerpro-gramma voor lbo-en middenscholen, Monogra een onderwijsonderzoek nr. 5 (Groningen, RION).

    JONG, T. DE (1986) Kennis en het oplossen van vakinhoudelijke problemen: Een voorbeeld uit een natuurkundigdomein (Eindhoven, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven).

    KRAMERS-PALS, H. (1994) Leren probleemoplossen van verklaringsproblemen in het scheikundeonderwij (En-schede, Universiteit Twente).

    MCCORMICK, R. & MURPHY, P. (1994) Learning the Processes in Technology, Paper presented at theAnnual Conference of the British Educational Research Association (BERA), Oxford (UK), 811September 1994.

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

  • 38 B. G. Doornekamp

    PERRENET, J.C. (1995) Leren probleemoplossen in het wiskunde-onderwijs: Samen of alleen: Onderzoek vanwiskunde leren bij 12-tot 16-jarigen (Deventer, Sneldruk).

    PLOEGMAKERS, B. (1986) Leerplanvoorstel Techniek: Inhoud van Techniek in de basisvorming: Deel 1(Enschede, Instituut voor Leerplanontwikkeling).

    SCHEPENS, J., STREUMER, W. & TRICHT, N. VAN (1981) Operationaliseringsvormen van (meta)cognitieveactiviteiten (Utrecht, Rijksuniversiteit UtrechtIPAW).

    TACONIS, R. (1995) Understanding Based Problem Solving: towards qualication-oriented teaching and learningin physics education (Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology).

    VAN DER SANDEN, J.M.M. (1986) Het leren van technische vaardigheden: Individuele verschillen bij het uitvoerenvan praktijkopdrachten in het lager technisch onderwijs (is-Gravenhage, SVO).

    WEBER, R. (1991) Techniek in de Waterzuivering (Enschede, Instituut voor Leerplanontwikkeling).WILLEMS, J.M.H.M. (1989) Sturen van leerprocessen met behulp van studietaken, in: P. SPAN, E.

    DE CORTE & B. VAN HOUT WOLTERS (Eds) Onderwijsleerprocessen: Strategieen voor de verwerking vaninformatie, Bijdragen aan de Onderwijsresearch nr. 22, pp. 113121 (Amsterdam, Swets &Zeitlinger).

    ZOLINGEN, S.J. VAN (1995) Gevraagd: Sleutelkwalicaties. Een studie naar sleutelkwalicaties voor hetmiddelbaar beroepsonderwijs (Nijmgen, Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen).

    Dow

    nloa

    ded

    by [

    Lau

    rent

    ian

    Uni

    vers

    ity]

    at 1

    3:59

    06

    Oct

    ober

    201

    4

Recommended

View more >