Problem solving and the tyranny of product outcomes

Robert McCormick, Marian Davidson
1996, Vol. 1, No. 3,


Technological activity is defined by its concern to create products that are part of our material world. But there are two ways of looking at the importance of these products in the educational context. One is to consider that they are the way we test the significance and feasibility of ideas, particularly design ideas. However, teachers of technology in schools in most countries in the world (where it exists in the curriculum) have a craft tradition, and hence a strong concern for 'making' and for the products that result. For both of these reasons, namely the centrality of the creation of products to the domain of technology, and the motivational role such products have in classrooms, we cannot avoid the creation of products. Along with this creation comes a form of tyranny, which we will illustrate from our research in technology classrooms. By considering the impact of a concern for products on pupils, through case studies of three classrooms, we are able to show that product outcomes undermine some of the design process and problem-solving activity that the teachers are concerned to foster.

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