Attitudes to and perceptions of design and technology students towards the subject: a case of five junior secondary schools in Botswana
University of Wales
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The nature of design and technology in the school curriculum is shifting with the times, from a distinct subject associated with notions of craft and vocational preparation to an emerging technological literacy subject that supports education for democracy. This paradigm shift has resulted in diverse views about the place of design and technology in the curriculum internationally and in the context of the present study, Botswana. Here, where the subject declined in uptake over a period of 10 years by up to 6% per year, despite positive encouragement by the government, understanding student attitudes towards the subject is central to providing evidence-based options to policy makers. This study illustrates how quantitative approaches used in the social sciences and based on multivariate analysis (categorical Principal Components Analysis, Clustering Analysis and General Linear Modelling), can complement qualitative analysis to inform educational policy. The combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis can provide effective, evidence-based information and support policy development. The study was conducted with design and technology students in their final year of junior secondary school (15 – 18 years old). An attitude survey of 233 students, focus group interviews involving 47 students, and semi- structured interviews involving 22 teachers and other staff were conducted in five junior secondary schools across Botswana. Qualitative interviews indicated consistently that age, gender and school performance all affected attitudes of students towards design and technology and gave an in-depth understanding of the issue. Multivariate analysis provided information in ranking how different attitudes contributed to the overall perception of the subject (PCA-Factor analysis), in assessing the relative and interacting effects of external determinants like age or gender; and in classifying students into attitude groups. The findings show that design and technology enrolment could be improved by targeting children, girls in particular, who deemed the subject to be too difficult or unimportant, and by reinforcing perceptions of design and technology as an enjoyable life-skill.
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