Do you feel that the new national qualifications (National 4 and 5) will benefit learners?

I recently conducted a small scale study based on the Future of Technological Education in Scotland. The study was specific to the opinions of teachers in secondary education (or anyone else involved in Technological Education) e.g. what they thought about Curriculum for Excellence and i’ts impact on the technologies curriculum. A huge thanks to everyone (43 responses in total!) who took the time to complete the online survey.

I am not going to bore you with all the analysis, but as promised, here are some extracts from my paper:

1.0       RATIONALE

1.1       As Curriculum for Excellence continues to embed itself into the culture, structure and practices of education in Scotland, there has never been a greater need for innovative approaches to learning and teaching in Technological Education.

1.2       When young people make their learning journey through the broad general education (broadly 3 years to 15), and then into the senior phase, new national qualifications in Product Design, Graphic Communication, Engineering Science, Design and Manufacture and Practical Woodworking prepare our young people for life and work in tomorrow’s world. Indeed, employability skills and lifelong learning are born through new curricular arrangements which seek to develop successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. A focus on numeracy, literacy and health and well-being must be maintained throughout the Technologies curriculum.

1.3       The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the current landscape given recent changes to the Scottish curriculum and to identify areas requiring further investigation. 


2.1       This paper illustrates the responses made by 43 teachers from across Scotland, based on their perceptions of Curriculum for Excellence and the future of Technological Education.

2.2       The study utilised a survey, to which teachers were invited to respond. The survey was live for a period of 14 days and incorporated both closed and open ended questions.

2.3       The survey was promoted through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

2.4       The survey was hosted on WordPress using a Google Documents widget.

2.5       Cookies were used to restrict multiple responses from IP addresses and although respondents were asked for their role/base and email address, this was not a requirement and as such not all responses can be verified.

2.6       Conclusions were drawn from indicative responses. Where possible, both quantitative and qualitative analysis will be kept separate as to remain transparent, however where appropriate and relevant, methods will be combined and presented as such.

2.7       It is intended that further research be carried out between 2013 and 2015, to inform policy and practice. Areas for investigation have been highlighted in this paper.


There was general consensus amongst those whom responded that the new national qualifications would benefit learners, though this was by no means a point of view shared by everyone. 87 per cent of people indicated confidence in articulating National 4 and 5 with the experiences and outcomes – a possible indication of the time spent over the last 12 months developing courses and delivering new courses in S1. It is assumed that teachers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the ethos of Curriculum for Excellence. This is supported by the 72 per cent who also indicated that they believed to have increased flexibility in learning and teaching practices.

Within the core National 4/5 courses, Design and Manufacture is believed to require the most development time. This requires further investigation. It was suggested by one person that this may be a result of ‘combining’ elements of Craft and Design with Product Design – essentially merging two courses into one, though at this stage there is no evidence to support this statement. There were a number of people who thought that course content was weaker than in Standard Grade. As the SQA has only provided a framework (at the time of response), it is possible that some teachers may be unsure about some elements. Again, this will require further investigation.

There was some concern around assessment. One person asked for exemplar materials from the SQA. As each school may approach coursework differently, it may be difficult to produce a portfolio which meets the aspirations of all centres. Likewise, as the SQA had not yet published any examination specimen papers, this may have caused some.

There are a number of people who are struggling to make connections across the wider curriculum.

Given this conclusion, it is recommended that:

  1. Peer support / network groups be established and promoted so that effective and innovative practice and appropriate resources can be shared. Such groups would need to be responsive to further developments in the coming years.
  2. A suite of exemplars must be developed.
  3. Examples of inter-curricular work must be shared.
  4. The development needs of teachers must be captured and relevant CPD courses developed in response.
  5. Further investigation must be carried out to establish a more comprehensive view of teachers from across Scotland which is focussed on geographic location/clusters.
  6. Work must be carried out to establish similar analysis for the new Higher Grade and Advanced Higher Grade courses.
  7. Further investigation methodology around assessment – with a particular focus on differentiating National 4 and National 5 levels – is required. There may be issues regarding consistency between centres and guidance is needed to clarify this.
  8. Look to the National Assessment Resource to add value.

NOTE: This study was carried out as a personal interest before I was employed by the University of Glasgow. Saying that, I hope to draw upon the conclusions stated and work with colleagues across Scotland (and internationally) to build the highest quality learning opportunities for our young people and the best teaching experiences for teachers.


Posted by Lee Dunn

Academic Staff University of Glasgow and Author of Science Fiction

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