An authentic learning environment in a design and technology subject for preservice primary teacher education students

Year: 1999

Author: Ginns, Ian, McRobbie, Campbell J., Stein, Sarah J.

Type of paper: Refereed paper

A major emphasis in design and technology curriculum programs for primary school is the engagement of children in hands-on construction of technological artefacts. The children are expected to use design processes in an environment that may resemble, in various ways, the environment that designers and engineers work in. The concept of authentic learning environments may be used to describe such practices and contexts. This paper describes an investigation, using an interpretive research methodology, into preservice primary teachers' views of the learning environment established during their participation in a design and technology subject that included, as key components, an introductory, structured sequence of learning experiences followed by work on an open-ended technology project. Students enrolled in a one-year postgraduate teacher education program were the informants in the study. Insights into students' views about the learning environment were obtained using survey instruments, interviews, field notes and a Repertory Grid. Additional insights were obtained by videotaping and audiotaping the activities and discourse respectively of focus groups during practical sessions. For selected cases, the paper examines the reasons underpinning major changes in their views of the learning environment. An analysis of the influence of the design and technology subject and learning environment on students' thinking about teaching technology in the classroom is also presented in the paper. Implications of the findings for the preparation of preservice teachers in the key learning area of technology are discussed.