Concepts and Contexts in Engineering
and Technology Education: a Modified
Delphi Study and Expert Panel Report
Charlotte, NC - March 18, 2010
Marc de Vries
Delft University of Technology
The Netherlands
David Burghardt and Michael Hacker
Hofstra University CTL, NY USA
Context of the study:
a continuing concern
• International development of technology education
• 100-year transition from a craft-oriented subject to ETE
Industrial Arts
Industrial Technology
Technology Education
• Demands closer relationships with math, science and engineering
• Demands a sound conceptual base
Calling in help from experts
Technology Education
Philosophy of technology/design methodology
History and sociology of technology
Efforts to develop a conceptual framework
• UK: many design-dominated flowcharts (but where is the
engineering content?)
• France: industry-dominated flowcharts (limited view of technology)
• Germany: systems-dominated schemes (but where is the process of
• Netherlands, New Zealand and other countries: integration of
approaches (often without explicit set of core concepts)
• Many countries still: lack of coherence
• USA: Standards for Technological Literacy (very extensive, but
without ‘nucleus of essentials’)
• Earlier efforts in engineering education: temporary successes;
too far ahead of their time?)
• The Man-Made World (Engineering Concepts Curriculum Project,
Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, NY: (1971)
• Principles of Engineering, NYSED (1989)
Aim of the CCETE study
• To identify overarching, unifying core concepts
in engineering and technology that can form the
basis for a curriculum
• Generalizable over a wide range of ETE domains
• Subsume a set of related subconcepts
• To identify contexts that can be used for
teaching and learning those concepts
• Research shows that concepts should be taught in engaging
Earlier beliefs: teach general concepts and learners will be able to apply in any
context; learn in one context, generalize and transfer to other contexts.
More recent thinking: learn in variety of contexts and gradually general
conceptual understanding emerges and can be applied to new contexts
• Still a debate: What is a ‘context’?
Researchers, timeframe
• The study was funded by the US National Science Foundation’s
MSTP Project
• Study was done in cooperation by
• Ammeret Rossouw (Delft University of Technology)
• Michael Hacker (Hofstra University)
• Dr. Marc J. de Vries (Delft University of Technology)
• The study was done in May-July 2009
• A panel discussion to reconcile results took place on August 5 and
6, 2009 at Hofstra University
Nature of the study
• Delphi study
• Analogous: Osborne et al. (2004) for science education
• Three rounds of expert consultation
• Followed by panel meeting (August 5-6, 2009)
• Experts from a range of disciplines
• Technology (teacher) education
• Engineering education/engineering organizations
• Philosophy and history of technology/design methodology
• International group of experts
• Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Netherlands, New
Zealand, UK, USA
• Concepts and Contexts
Characteristics of a Delphi study
• Combine experts’ opinions without possibility of bias because of
personal dominance in meeting
• Output of previous round is input for next round: experts see the
average scores and can adapt their own scores
• Strive for consensus (with stability)
• Usually consensus in three or four rounds
• If not: seek out differences between sub-groups
• Methodologically, a bit weak, but not controversial (this was a
modified Delphi)
Philosophy and History of
Technology, Science Communication
Engineering Education and
Engineering Organization
Technology (Teacher) Education
Round 1
• List of possible concepts and contexts to show to experts the type
of concepts and contexts we aim for
• Opportunity to generate other concepts and contexts
• Opportunity for general comments
• Data processing
• List separately when two or more experts propose concept/context
• Try to deal with as many suggestions as possible by adding concepts
as sub-categories in concept list
• Same for contexts, but more loose on listing contexts separately
Final results:
Final result:
• Concept of ‘function’ made a drop from round 2 to round 3
• Concept ‘working principles’ and ‘modularity’ rejected but not
entirely by consensus
• Strong supportive individual opinions on ‘practical reasoning’,
‘complexity’ and ‘algorithms’
• Include as sub-concepts?
Final result:
Final result:
contexts (cont.)
• Contexts generally gave more rise to disagreement than concepts
• ‘Medical technologies’ accepted but not entirely by agreement
• Draws to medical schools rather than to engineering?
• Disagreement about ‘nanotechnology’
• Too difficult to put into practice?
• Trend among experts to stick with the traditional?
• Construction, production, transportation, communication
• Plus biotechnology
• New trend: seek for ‘big social issues’
• Food, water, health, sustainability
• “Make the world a better place”
Panel discussion
• Aim
• Add structure/hierarchy to the concept and context
• Make suggestions for next steps
• Contexts
• Panel recognized two types of contexts
• Traditional: (i.e., construction, production,
transportation, communication, biotechnology)
• Global concerns: energy, water, food, health,
security, sustainability
• Panel proposed one list that comprises both and is
based on human needs
Panel discussion (cont.)
• Panel identified concepts of primary and secondary
level of abstraction
• Primary: Design (as a verb), systems, modeling,
resources, human values
• Remaining concepts can all be put under these main
• Higher ones on the Delphi list can be mentioned as
examples with higher ‘status’
Next Steps - Contexts
Consolidating the contexts in a way that reflects issues
relating to personal, societal and global concerns
Food (e.g., agriculture, biotechnology)
Shelter (e.g., construction),
Water (e.g., supply and quality)
Energy (e.g., production, distribution)
Mobility (e.g., transportation)
Production (e.g., manufacturing)
Health (e.g., medical technologies)
Security (e.g., firewalls)
Communications (e.g., Internet, satellite
Next Steps – Curriculum
Elaborate into curriculum
When developing a curriculum, the contexts should be
elaborated in two directions:
• personal concern (or “daily life practice”) direction
• global concern direction.
Include both qualitative and quantative elements
Next Steps – Themes
• Design (e.g., optimization, trade-offs, specifications)
modeling (e.g., representation and prediction)
• Systems (e.g., function, structure)
• Resources (e.g., materials, energy, information)
• Human values (e.g., sustainability, innovation, risk,
failure, social interaction).
Next Steps – Framework
Next Steps – Sequencing Instruction
There is much to do in terms of deciding what is
needed at different grade levels.
How does one discuss systems, in the context of
water, with a 7-year-old? What is the discussion like
with a 15-year-old?
Who are the teachers?
Mobility – HS Auto Safety Example
Design a system to
activate brakes in
if driver falls
Design a system to
measure the effect
of temperature on
brake reliability.
Design, build, and test
various impact
attenuators for model
cars hitting a barrier.
Design, build, and test
improved road signs
and systems to
monitor/control speed.
Using models of
various vehicles,
determine CG and
effect on stability.
Resources Determine the kind Investigate use of
of information
clean energy
that should be
sources, and
available to drivers recyclable materials
while driving
for use in cars.
Determine the effect
of various radii of
curvature of turns on
car stability.
Choose appropriate
road construction
materials based on
Model a traffic
intersection from real
Design traffic light
system so that yellow
light does not result in
a dilemma zone.
Community decides
where to install traffic
Explain how police
radar systems work.
Modeling Graph drivercaused accidents
from real data.
Measure reaction
time needed to
provide feedback
for braking
Driver decisions
re: drinking and
Explain how
backup alarm
systems provide r.
Installation of
breathalyzers linked
to ignition systems
Discuss what role
government has in
establishing limits on
use of non-renewable
resources for cars.
Government regulation
of speed limits and
MPG requirements.
Thank you for your kind attention
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