Design, system, value: The role of problem-solving and critical thinking capabilities in technology education, as perceived by teachers

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Patrick Schooner Charlotta Nordlöf Claes Klasander Jonas Hallström


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2013) defines its views on necessary skills for 21st century citizenship and life-long learning, advocating a generic skill set of literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in technology-rich environments. Other sources also include critical thinking as a vital 21st century skill. There are also those who question the concept of 21st century skills, claiming that, although very important, these skills are in fact old and have been around for decades, or even centuries. Therefore, in many countries, skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving are already addressed in technology education as part of the core subject matter, especially regarding competencies connected to technological literacy. Critical thinking and particularly problem-solving have been well researched in technology education, but seldom from the teacher’s point of view. 

The aim of this article is to investigate Swedish compulsory school technology teachers’ views on problem-solving and critical thinking as curriculum components and as skills addressed in teaching. Twenty-one teachers were subjected to in-depth qualitative interviews. The findings of the study show that the interviewed teachers can be said to express three approaches to teaching about technology in a critical thinking and problem-solving mode: (1) the design approach, (2) the system approach, and (3) the value approach. Even though the present Swedish technology curriculum does not explicitly mention these skills, the teachers say they incorporate critical thinking and problem-solving in different settings within the subject of technology. Problem-solving and critical thinking are not seen as generic capabilities but they are always connected to and integrated with subject content in technology by the teachers. The teachers mix the approaches depending on the teaching content, especially when teaching about complex technology, although there is a tendency to disregard critical thinking capabilities when dealing with design, and neglect problem-solving skills when addressing values.

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How to Cite
SCHOONER, Patrick et al. Design, system, value: The role of problem-solving and critical thinking capabilities in technology education, as perceived by teachers. Design and Technology Education: an International Journal, [S.l.], v. 22, n. 3, p. 60-75, dec. 2017. ISSN 1360-1431. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 25 jan. 2022.
problem-solving ; critical thinking ; teachers ; design ; system ; value