Research Project: Distributed Cognition in Technology Education


What is the context and background to this pilot project?

Recent OECD publications(1, 2) explicitly link effective education with future employability and highlight the importance of improved school-employment alignment, transverse and technical skills. Among these, problem solving within STEM subjects has been cited as highly sought after by employers(3).  This pilot study seeks to investigate activity, out with the scope of my PhD, in which pupils were seen to employ materials and resources in unexpected ways to support problem solving in the Technology class; and which may be better explained using a model of ‘distributed cognition’.

What is this project investigating?

The ways in which pupils interact with and employ tools, materials, objects and each other materto support cognition and problem solving.  An simple example of this is physically rearranging scrabble tiles to make it easier to generate new words (rather than doing this in your head).  The study will examine the extent to which such interactions can be explained as a whole cognitive system and whether this can form the basis for developing improved instructional strategies for pupils in the classroom.  As this is currently in a pilot phase, it is being investigated on a small scale to assess proof of concept.

What are the intended outcomes and potential impact?

Proof of concept for a larger scale investigation that will allow for a better understand of similar types of interactions to be developed through a distributed cognitive approach.  Such a study would:

  • Begin building a body of evidence on which refinements and developments could be made to pedagogy and instructional design.
  • Increase our understanding, in general, of the processes children employ to help them solve problems in similar practical contexts.
  1. OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing.
  2. OECD (2013), Action Plan for Youth, Meeting of OECD Council at Ministerial Level, Paris.
  3. STEM-ED Group (2007), Industry and the School Curriculum Across Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  University of Glasgow.

This project is funded by the Adam Smith Research Foundation and supported by the Curriculum, Assessment & Pedagogy Research & Teaching Group at the University of Glasgow .

Download an information leaflet for this project.




About dmorrisonlove

I am a lecturer and researcher in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. I am a member of the Curriculum, Assessment & Pedagogy Research Group and I am interested in the learning and teaching within Technology & STEM subjects in secondary schools. I have a keen interest in studying learning within and across different contexts, how children develop technological understanding and capability and better understanding how they learn and problem solve through interaction with physical materials and objects. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the International Technology and Engineering Education Association. I also sit on the National Technologies Forum for Scotland. I am very keen to hear from anyone who shares interests in similar areas.
This entry was posted in Distributed Cognition, Research Project, Secondary Technology Education and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s