The purpose of this study was to investigate the manner in which technology teachers actualise critical thinking skills while supporting learners to solve technological problems. Technology as a subject was introduced in South African schools by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) with the intention to, inter alia, develop learners critical thinking skills while using the prescribed design process. The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for technology stipulates that technology should provide learners with the opportunity to solve authentic problems that are embedded in real-life experiences. Solving these authentic technological problems requires learners to engage with critical thinking skills. This entails learners interpreting, analysing, evaluating information, drawing inferences, providing an explanation, and conducting self-regulations.
While the importance of critical thinking is widely acknowledged, it seems that teachers find it difficult to actualise these critical thinking skills in the classroom. In addition to this, the literature suggests that technology teachers limit their teaching to the lower cognitive levels, failing to develop learners higher-order thinking abilities. This is problematic and a reason for concern. This study thus sought to investigate this problem.
The conceptual framework used in the study was based on the design process as prescribed by the DBE (2011) and Facione s (1990) critical thinking skills framework. The design process involves the following skills, to: Investigate, Design, Make, Evaluate, and Communicate (IDMEC). Facione s critical thinking skills encompass: Interpretation, Analysis, Evaluation, Inference, Explanation, and Self-Regulation. These critical thinking skills were linked to the DBE design process to demonstrate the way in which critical thinking skills could be actualised within the different steps of the design process.
This study engaged in qualitative research using a multiple case study design. Purposive sampling was used to select the participants. Technology teachers who obtained a Bachelor of Education in technology education with at least four years of experience teaching technology were considered as suitable participants. Data was collected by means of structured interviews and observations. Data was analysed using the conceptual framework. The research findings revealed that the sampled technology teachers had a limited understanding of what critical thinking entails. Also, the selected technology teachers were unable to explain how they support their learners in developing critical thinking skills. While the DBE outlines how technology teachers should use the design process, the observations indicated that the participants did not engage with the design process as stipulated in the CAPS document for technology.
This study recommends that technology teachers understanding of critical thinking, critical thinking skills and the disposition of critical thinking should be deepened. A proper understanding of critical thinking, and its associated skills and dispositions, are required to ensure that the specific aims of teaching technology are achieved. It is also recommended that technology teachers use the design process as prescribed by the DBE. Using the design process as intended may provide teachers with opportunities to develop critical thinking skills in the classroom.