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Difficulties and Opportunities when Teaching About Technological Systems in K-12

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.545.1 - 26.545.9



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Paper Authors


Lena B. Gumaelius KTH Royal Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr Lena Gumaelius has a background as a researcher in Biotechnology, in which field she still teaches undergraduate students at KTH. (Lena got her Master of Science in chemistry 1993 and her PhD in Environmental Microbiology in 2001.)

In parallel with her research, she worked for several years with development of experiments for students at House of Science. In 2006 Lena became the director of House of Science, which she remained until 2012. House of Science is a university based Science centre with about 40 000 visitors were the goal is to stimulate high school students’ interest for the natural sciences, math and technology. During these years Lena developed her pedagogical skills and competence in the pedagogic field and besides leading the activities she organised pedagogical training for teachers, pupils and university students.

Since 2011 Lena is head of the new Department of Learning at the School of Education and Communication in Engineering Sciences (ECE), KTH. Lena is responsible for building up a new strong research environment in engineering and technology education, K-12 to university level.

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Per G. Norström KTH Royal Institute of Technology

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Per Norström is a lecturer in technology and engineering education at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. His research interests include analytical philosophy of technology and its use in engineering education.

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Difficulties and opportunities when teaching abouttechnological systems in K-12.Large technological systems (socio-technical systems) are studied in K-12 technologyeducation in order to emphasize the interaction between technological artefacts, humans,institutions, and society at large.Teaching about technological systems is very demanding for teachers, as they need topossess knowledge in engineering as well as in social sciences. When successful, itprovides an opportunity to give students a comprehensive understanding of the importanceof technology in society. In this study we have investigated how Swedish teachers teachabout technical systems.The study of systems has been part of the Swedish technology curriculum for compulsoryschool since 1994, but many teachers still find it difficult to teach and assess. During aprofessional development course for technology teachers, special attention was thereforepaid to systems. Through visits, lectures, laboratory exercises, and literature, fourtechnological system types were studied: nuclear power plants, sewage systems, theInternet, and large factories. A part of the course’s examination was to design a teachingsequence for compulsory school about one of the four systems. This was presented in areport describing intended learning outcomes, teaching activities, sources of information,routines for assessment, etc.Twelve such reports have been analysed to find out how teachers include large technologicalsystems in their teaching. Preliminary results show that they are all convinced thattechnological systems constitute an important part of technology education, but also that theyunderstand them in different ways depending on their educational backgrounds. Teacherswho have started out in the natural sciences understand them differently than those whohave come to technology from the social sciences. While some teachers see the societalbenefits as most important, other highlight terminology or individual components’ functions.Suggested teaching methods vary, from book-based studies to construction of workingphysical models. Learning objectives were generally vague, and weakly aligned withteaching activities and methods for assessment.

Gumaelius, L. B., & Norström, P. G. (2015, June), Difficulties and Opportunities when Teaching About Technological Systems in K-12 Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23883

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