The thesis deals with how technology as a school subject is presented to the pupils in the Swedish compulsory school at junior high school level. The main focus is on how teachers work with the subject matter in teaching, which is on the level of the enacted curriculum. The official documents established by the national school authorities, the intended curriculum, and the hidden curriculum are both of special interest in the study. The hidden curriculum refers to possible, but not intended consequences of the enacted curriculum for pupils’ understanding of technology as a school subject.
The empirical analysis of the study is based on a narrative analysis on the one hand and the variation theory on the other. The empirical data collection consists of data from: (a) interviews with five teachers and (b) a series of classroom observations, covering an entire section of each teacher’s course of the subject matter.
The data from the interviews with these teachers indicated that they understood the concept of technology as human made artefacts aiming to satisfy practical needs. When it came to the understanding of technology as a school subject the teachers differed between understanding the aim of the subject as to: (1) practice craftsmanship, (2) prepare the pupils for future careers as engineers, (3) illustrate science, (4) strengthen girls’ technical self-confidence and (5) get the pupils interested in technology in order to become inventors in the future.
The data from the classroom observations indicated that the teaching presented in technology gave the pupils the opportunity to develop three specific capabilities: (1) evaluate and test functionality, (2) be precise and accurate and (3) construct, build and mount. The three capabilities were possible to develop when accomplishing tasks of practical character. Results also indicated that technology as a school subject was taught in different ways depending on the teachers’ educational background, the physical learning environment and the size of the school class. Variation theory was applied as a tool in the analysis of the data from the classroom observations, i.e. the teachers’ ways of working with the subject matter. The analysis indicated that the most frequently used pattern of variation was ‘contrast’. Through the contrast-variation the teachers managed to contrast better or worse alternatives of constructing and using artefacts. It can be argued that this pattern of variation, ‘contrast’, is the proper pattern when pupils are working with limited or expensive material.
The overall conclusion of the study is that teachers’ interpretations of current intended curriculum and their choices of subject matter and teaching methods affect which abilities the pupils are offered to develop in technology as a school subject. Based on the results of the study it can be argued that the education and the teaching of technology lacks realism and the result is that technology as a school subject may be experienced by pupils as not very important. It is obvious that the school subject technology, as well as teaching in technology, in the Swedish compulsory school, demands more attention from the national school authorities, in order to develop the pupils’ understanding that technology as a subject is related to the future development of society and social welfare.