Teaching subjects in an engineering context


Otago Polytechnic is working on a project to develop engineering modules that can be taught as part of NCEA Technology, Maths or Science. This involves collaboration with local secondary schools and the University of Otago, and events to raise awareness of engineering.

Working with teachers

Otago Polytechnic was awarded Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project funding to develop project-based learning in schools. Working closely with local secondary schools and the University of Otago, the polytechnic will develop modules that can be taught as part of NCEA Science, Maths and Technology studies. They will include resources developed in collaboration with secondary school teachers and linked to NCEA Achievement Standards.

The polytechnic is making links with teachers through associations such as the New Zealand Graphics and Technology Teachers Association, New Zealand Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers, New Zealand Association of Science Educators and New Zealand Association of Maths Educators.

Teaching Maths, Science and Technology in context

The main aim of the project is to work with teachers to provide contextualised teaching material – instead of only learning abstract concepts, students will learn concepts and apply them to specific problem-solving activities.

A research project involving polytech staff and teachers is underway to identify achievement standards suitable for project-based learning in a Technology, Maths or Science class. “It’s not just about learning theory,” says John Findlay Engineering Programmes Advisor at Otago Polytechnic, “it’s about learning outcomes.’

Upskilling teachers

When the research group has decided on potential achievement standards, the project will move to providing professional development for teachers. Both polytech and university staff will be involved in helping teachers to contextualise Maths and Physics into ‘real world’ problem-solving.

It’s very early days in a long-term plan aimed at changing assessment of achievement standards, John says. “We’re looking at examples from around the country and STEM education around the world, drawing on best practice to design our programme.”

Engineering events

“We’re also trying to change attitudes to engineering and technology, and that will involve working with students, parents and teachers to increase their awareness of the opportunities and changing technologies.”

Engineering events being planned to encourage Year 10 to 13 students to consider a career in engineering include visits to engineering companies, Engineering Days where engineers and tertiary students can share their enthusiasm and projects, and competitions for school students.

Our thanks to John for his time and advice; if you have any queries please contact:

Image courtesy of Futureintech

January 2017