The value of transfer activities when developingtechnological knowledge and skills

Rowsome, P., Seery, N., Gordon, S. and Lane, D. (2012) The value of transfer activities when developingtechnological knowledge and skills. [Conference Proceedings]


The heritage of many post-primary engineering curricula is grounded in the development of craft and vocational education. In recent years the consensus of policy makers and educators internationally has centred on developing a broader skill-set that includes design, innovation, and creativity. The need to understand the physical properties of materials, the ability to select and execute appropriate processes, and implement effective manufacturing systems still forms the core of engineering education. The nature and purpose of engineering education demands that students acquire specific technical content knowledge and develop practical skills in the context of a collaborative student centred environment applying knowledge and skills in an innovative and creative way. This study attempted to elicit the critical variables that scaffold design and creativity by using the divergent nature of decorative metal craft to explore the relationship between the 'transfer' of newly acquired knowledge and skills with students' performance in a design based activity. In this study, 140 students in initial teacher education at the 'University of Limerick' completed four transfer activities. The pedagogical approach to the activities reflected the stages of Kolb's theoretical learning cycle, where students (n= 140) observed a demonstration of a skill (concrete experience), reviewed technical details (reflective observation), transferred information into a new design idea (abstract conceptualisation) and then produced an artefact (active experimentation). The degree of transfer from the demonstration to the student's new design was assessed by seven subject experts. The findings showed that there was a diverse response to the activities. At first it was difficult to distinguish between the diverse responses so the expertise of the subject experts was employed to help decide the level of transfer for each artefact. However some students merely mimicked what they were shown while others pushed the level of their understanding and experimented to explore the boundaries of their capability. This aligns with the constructivist belief that knowledge is not transmitted but constructed through hands on activities or personal experience which generates knowledge. It was also found that certain activities allowed for a greater depth of experimentation than others. This has an impact on the pedagogical approach taken by educators and highlights the importance when allowing students to experiment when constructing new meaning. © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education.

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