ORIENTATION TO THE STUDY
This study aims to inquire into the role that problem-based approach can play in the teaching and learning of Technology in Thabo-Mofutsanyana Education District in Qwaqwa. When teaching is based on problem-based tasks a number of related teaching strategies can be considered. These, according to Nieman and Monyai (2006:112), include inquiry learning, problem-solving, and doing either a project or a research project. The mode of teaching that problem-based teaching and its related strategies suggest is a learner-centred one. As a learner-centred mode of teaching, problem solving helps with high order thinking (Nieman & Monyai, 2006:112). These authors further add that problem solving engages both the teacher, as learning mediator, and the learners because new discoveries emerge from such participation. Learners attach more meaning to information that they have acquired and discovered by themselves.
Solving problems by themselves instead of being told what the solution is or should be helps learners to construct knowledge in a meaningful way. New theories can be formulated because of assumptions that are confirmed or rejected by the solutions obtained (Nieman & Monyai, 2006:112). According to these authors, problem-based tasks and projects are highly motivational because of the high level of learner involvement.
According to Nieman and Monyai (2006:114), in inquiry learning the solution to the problem is not as important as the knowledge acquired of the topic under investigation and the process of inquiry. Problem solving is a type of discovery learning which, when deliberately applied, can help learners realise that the knowledge they already have may be applied in new situations, and that this process can lead to new knowledge (Killen, 1996: 98). Petty (1993: 222) adds that when well devised and managed, the discovery method offers active learning and an achievable challenge which engages learners. This author (Petty) also maintains that discovery activities
motivate all but the most apathetic learners and they are very effective in developing the learners’ understanding. In the discovery method, the learners use their previous knowledge and experience to develop their own understanding of the new learning. As a result, they create for themselves the important connections between new and existing learning (Petty, 1993:227). This means that the teacher should create a situation that enables the learner to see a gap or discrepancy between what they already know and any new knowledge, or what they know and what they need to know (Nieman & Monyai, 2006:114).
The nature of the Technology Learning Area (TLA) highly suggests the use of problem solving approach to teaching and learning because it contains problems and problematic situations that require a problem solving strategies. Problem solving allows learners to identify with the problem itself and thus to be in touch with the solution (Nieman & Monyai, 2006:115). Avenant (1990:117) adds that if learners are actively, thoughtfully and deeply involved in the subject matter, they are likely to understand it more easily (integration), experience it concretely (experience), exert themselves more purposefully (purposefulness and motivation), prepare more thoroughly (planning), exert themselves in accordance with their potential (individualization), teach and learn from their classmates (socialization), determine their progress towards a particular goal (evaluation), and train or drill more extensively (mastering).