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A project about materials as subject content within technology education
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning, Learning in Engineering Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5477-7048
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning, Learning in Engineering Sciences.
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning, Learning in Engineering Sciences.
2016 (English)In: XVII IOSTE SYMPOSIUM Science and Technology Education for a Peaceful and Equitable World, 2016Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This project aims to found out what emerge as relevant when the school subject technology in primary school will include materials as content. Within technology education in compulsory school in Sweden, the knowledge area material is a core content. However, what kind of materials that are relevant, and which aspects that should be highlighted is not explicitly formulated in the syllabus. The aim of this study is to put light on the field of materials as a content area from different perspectives, and to specify possible aspects that are relevant for technology education. 

We have made an investigation based on three parts:


1.                   A Delphi study (Osborne et al. (2003)) of the Materials Expert Community to discover what experts think about materials as subject content within the school technology context.

2.                   An analysis of activities in the classroom in primary school when technology teaching is going on and materials is the content.

3.                   A review over what steering documents (syllabus, curriculum and comments) states when the technology subject is presented and a specific focus is on materials.


Our research questions are:

- What aspects of materials within technology teaching are highlighted in the three different arenas?

- What are the differences and similarities in terms of aspects of materials between the arenas?


We examined what emerges on different arenas in Sweden: on the expert arena, in the classroom and in the steering documents and comments. Are there similarities and differences? What emerges as relevant by experts when they suggest and prioritise educational themes and by the pupils with different ages when they work with technology activities in school?


In the Delphi study (Osborne et al. (2003)), the first round resulted in comments from what ten experts thinks about materials as subject content within the school technology context. All the responses were coded reflexively and iteratively. Themes emerged from this analysis and a summary was composed from each theme. Discussions among three researchers resulted in agreed categorisations of the responses. Our preliminary results show seven major categories of subject content: knowing there are different material groups (stone, textile, wood, ceramics, polymers, metals, composite), knowing properties of different materials, knowing how materials are created and refined, knowing how material groups are used and why, knowing how the material have changed over time, knowing about new materials, knowing environmental aspects related to materials.


In the second study, two teaching sessions in primary technology education (students 8-9 years old) in two different schools were video recorded. In both classrooms, different materials were focused on in the activities. The videos were transcribed, and the text was then read iteratively in order to identify categories of what aspects of materials that were highlighted in the interaction and activities in the classroom. The data was mainly analysed by using the activity theory (Engeström, 1987; 1990), focusing on the motives of both teachers and students in relation to the content. Our preliminary results show that the two teachers highlighted different aspects of material in their teaching. Naming the materials and giving examples of products made by the material was highlighted in one of the contexts. Properties of different materials, and why different materials are used, were not brought up specifically by the teacher.  The students, however, introduced these aspects in the classroom discussion. In contrast, this question was greatly emphasized in the second context, while naming the materials was taken for granted when constructing and analysing the properties of the materials.


We want to describe relevant subject content and want to relate to earlier research presented by for example Chatoney (2006) who is one of very few that has been investigating the concept of material in the school context. She has investigated text books and did see how institutional relations to knowledge objects of material at the primary school are time fluctuant. She describes how the concept of material implies several sciences and technologies in overlapping epistemological fields and she also express how teaching associated to the concept at primary school are an accurate challenge for the technology teacher. Chatoney also investigated classroom teaching about materials within technology.In the results she finds specific targets for the primary school students, a result that we relate to in the present study. In Chutneys’ investigation following categories emerge: naming a few substrates, knowing their origin, knowing a few intrinsic properties, and knowing how to use codes and language.  




Our study has the aim to give a more concrete relevant subject content dealing with materials and we can see how it could give implications to both teacher training and new more concrete curricula.



Chatoney, M. (2003). Construction du concept de matériau dans l’enseignement des sciences et de la technologie à l’école primaire : perspectives curriculaires et didactiques. Doctoral thesis.

Chatoney, M.  (2006). The evolution of knowledge objects in the primary school: A study of the material concept as it is taught in France. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 16(2), 143-161.

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit Oy. Retrieved March 28, 2015,

Engeström, Y. (1990). Learning, Working and Imaging. Twelve Studies in Activity Theory. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit

Osborne, J., Collins,  S.,  Ratcliffe, M.,  Millar, R., & Duschl, R. (2003). What “Ideas-about-Science” Sholud Be Taught in School Science? A Delphi Study of the Expert Community. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(7), pp. 692-720.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Research subject
Education and Communication in the Technological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-193337OAI: diva2:1010172
XVII IOSTE SYMPOSIUM, Braga Portugal 11-16 July, 2016

QC 20161018

Available from: 2016-10-02 Created: 2016-10-02 Last updated: 2016-10-18Bibliographically approved

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