Great Expectations: Preparing Technology Education Teachers for New Roles and Responsibilities
Roger B. Hill
The University of Georgia
Robert C. Wicklein
The University of Georgia
Teaching is a challenge that requires long hours of work and preparation. Students preparing to be teachers in the public schools engage in a variety of studies that range from developing expertise in a given field of study to studying the psychology of learning. The efforts of technology education teacher educators address numerous topics with regard to the preparation of their students. A high percentage of instructional time is focused on specific technical content, as evidenced in the majority of articles in The Technology Teacher, Tech Directions, and TIES Magazine, as well as, by simple observation on the part of the authors. Although the development of technical expertise is very important to the success of the teacher, there may be other instructional roles that are equal to or greater than the technological specifics.
Numerous studies and reports have recommended changes in the teacher education community to better prepare teachers for the classroom of today and tomorrow (Burden, 1995; Charles, 1996; Charles & Senter, 1995; Henson, 1996; Kindsvatter, Wilen, & Ishler, 1996; Moore, 1992; Spaulding, 1992; Weinstein, 1996). Developing academic content expertise is an essential element of teacher preparation (Moore, 1992); however, there are other factors that are identified as significant to the teacher's role. Teachers are expected to encourage and develop personal qualities and attributes in their students (e.g., work ethic, character qualities), as well as to counsel students through life crisis issues. In addition, teachers must develop management skills to guide their students through disruptive classroom behaviors. Public school teachers are being asked to take on more and more of the roles traditionally reserved for parents, families, communities, and churches (Lickona, 1991). Teachers are now required to address issues within their classrooms that are well beyond the content of their academic subject. The roles of personal counselor and advisor, disciplinarian, personal and academic motivator, classroom manager, and even values development agent are becoming more commonplace in public schools. Successful teachers must be able to coordinate a growing variety of non-academic issues within their curriculum in addition to teaching their traditional lessons.
These problems are multiplied for most technology education teachers because of the additional challenges presented by their teaching environment. Technology education teachers must manage laboratories with hundreds of pieces of equipment, materials, and tools; accommodate significant numbers of disadvantaged students; and keep up with a complicated technical curriculum. The very content of technology education is rapidly changing, requiring teachers to continually upgrade their knowledge and expertise. These circumstances present a unique and critical concern for the field of technology education, especially for recent graduates entering the profession.
Perhaps the only challenge greater than functioning as a technology education teacher under these new criteria is that of preparing new teachers in technology education. Research on critical issues and problems in technology education has identified teacher preparation as a significant concern for proponents of the profession (Wicklein, 1993). Serious questions have been raised about the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs and their responsiveness to the changing needs of technology teachers (Israel, 1992).
A growing number of governmental leaders are addressing the issue of poor quality teachers in our schools (Cumming & Salzer, 2000). This criticism has made its way back to the perceived source of the problem-teacher education programs in colleges and universities. The extent to which teacher preparation programs are successfully shaping the next generation of teachers to cope with both academic and nonacademic curriculum content is unclear (Moore, 1992). Limited research has been conducted to examine the effect of university preparation on the ability of new teachers to successfully contend with both academic and nonacademic subject matter. This is especially true for technology education teacher preparation (Zuga, 1994).
Purpose of the Study
The focus of this study was an assessment of the extent to which first- and second-year technology education teachers felt prepared to address issues of pedagogy, technical content, thinking skills, affective attributes, counseling needs, classroom management, and administrative duties. This list is an expansion of one provided by Moore (1992) and represents the various areas of responsibility that technology education teachers are expected to cope with. Recommendations were also developed regarding changes that could be introduced within technology teacher preparation programs to better meet the needs of future technology education teachers.
Population and Sample
Participants in this study were technology education teachers who had been teaching two years or less. The sample for the study was identified by first sending correspondence to all technology education teacher preparation programs listed in the Industrial Teacher Education Directory (Bell, 1998; Dennis, 1997) and asking for contact information for students who had graduated and entered the teaching profession within the past two years. A total of 139 institutions were contacted. Lists of student names and addresses were provided by 73 (53%) of these colleges and universities. The remaining 66 institutions either had no recent technology teacher education graduates, no longer had a technology teacher education program, or chose not to reply to the request for information.
The list of names provided by the teacher education institutions for technology educators who had graduated during the past two years numbered 434. Of this list, addresses for 43 (9.9%) were no longer correct, 23 (5.3%) had entered occupations other than teaching, and 223 (51.4%) did not reply. (In several instances, the replies from institutions indicated that the addresses being provided were of parents of students who recently graduated from their programs, rather than of the students themselves. It is likely that this factor affected the response rate for questionnaires sent out.) A total of 145 (33.4%) usable responses were returned. Three separate mailings were used to gather data. The initial mailing and the third mailing included cover letters, a research consent form, and a copy of the questionnaire. The second mailing consisted of a postcard reminder notice to encourage return of materials sent during the first mailing. No significant differences were noted between response patterns when t-tests were computed for overall mean scores on topical sections of the instrument comparing early and late respondents.
Usable responses, totaling 145, represented 33 states and included 137 (94.5%) men and 8 (5.5%) women. Grouped by age, 109 (75.2%) respondents were 21-30 years of age, 25 (17.2%) were 31-40 years of age, 10 (6.9%) were 41-50 years of age, and 1 (.7%) was over 50 years of age.
A 41-item questionnaire was used to gather data regarding how well teachers participating in the study felt prepared to deal with work-related roles in schools. The questionnaire included six items for demographic information and 35 items related to the issues examined by the study. It included the stem of "How well did the teacher certification program at the college you attended prepare you to:" followed by items related to teacher roles in schools. Solicited responses used a 5-station Likert-type scale with choices of Not At All (1), Poorly (2), Somewhat (3), Well (4), and Very Well (5).
The questionnaire used in the study was developed after investigating similar instruments used to evaluate teacher preparation in other disciplines. A search of literature located two instruments used in previous studies of teacher and guidance counselor preparation (Cains & Brown, 1998a, 1998b; Downs, 1980). Instruments developed by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (Nweke, 1998) and by the School of Teacher Education at the University of Georgia (D. Schneider, personal communication, October 26, 1998) served as models for the questionnaire used in this study.
In developing the questionnaire used in the study, a review panel of three technology teacher educators at a major southeastern university provided critique of the initial versions of the questionnaire. Following three iterations of review and revision, the instrument was completed by a group of upper-level undergraduate teacher education students to check for readability.
The items on the completed questionnaire included five questions for each of the topics to be investigated by the study. These topics were (a) pedagogy, (b) technical content, (c) thinking skills, (d) affective attributes, (e) counseling needs, (f) classroom management, and (g) administrative duties. As an illustration of the format of the items, one of the questions for pedagogy was "How well did the teacher certification program at the college you attended prepare you to accommodate the instructional needs of most of your students?" Five items applicable to each topic of interest were similarly constructed with the Likert-type scale response options.
To analyze the data gathered from technology education teachers, mean scores and standard deviations were computed for responses to each item on the questionnaire. Mean scores and standard deviations were then generated for each of the seven topics addressed by the instrument, using the corresponding clusters of five items each. Tables were developed to present these results and are provided herein to allow interpretation of the data.
Mean scores were calculated for each topical section of the instrument (see Table 1). For most sections, participants in the study rated the college preparation they received for being a teacher between the "somewhat" well and "well" range. To provide further detail in the analysis, frequency counts and mean scores were examined for each of the instrument items included on the questionnaire.
The overall mean score was 3.66 (see Table 1) for responses to questionnaire items that related to how teacher certification programs had prepared the respondents to deal with issues related to pedagogy. For all five items, the station on the Likert-type scale labeled well received the highest number of responses. Of the individual items on this section of the instrument, items related to planning units of instruction and meeting the instructional needs of most students achieved the highest mean score ratings. Issues related to assessment, organization of materials, and time management had relatively lower mean score ratings (see Table 2).
Table 1 Mean Scores for Topical Sections of Questionnaire
Topic Mean SD
Pedagogy 3.66 0.78 Technical Content 3.48 1.03 Thinking Skills 3.73 0.79 Affective Attributes 3.44 0.90 Counseling Needs 2.62 0.90 Classroom Management 2.88 1.08 Administrative Duties 3.32 0.93
Table 2 Mean Scores for Responses to Pedagogy Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Accommodate the instructional needs
of most of your students
3.80 0.92 Plan units of instruction 3.93 0.93 Use a variety of classroom assessment strategies
to monitor and adjust your instruction
3.59 0.95 Effectively organize your classroom
environment for instruction
3.48 1.17 Make decisions related to covering instructional
content in the time allocated
Technical content, as a topical area on the instrument, had an overall mean score of 3.48 for responses recorded (see Table 1). Mean scores for individual instrument items within this category indicated higher ratings for teaching students about various technologies covered in the course and lower ratings for maintaining and repairing equipment (see Table 3). Operating equipment, using equipment in instruction, and explaining technical processes all had mean scores in the mid-range of ratings recorded for this section of the instrument.
Table 3 Mean Scores for Responses to Technical Content Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Teach students about the various technologies
covered in your course
3.92 1.00 Operate equipment in your classroom lab 3.58 1.34 Maintain and repair equipment
in your classroom lab
2.79 1.40 Use the equipment in your classroom
lab for effective instruction
3.45 1.27 Explain the technical process included
in the courses you teach
The topic covered by the questionnaire that achieved the highest mean score for responses was thinking skills (see Table 1). With an overall mean of 3.73 and individual item mean scores ranging from 3.41 to 4.05, this topical area included the top rated response patterns for the entire instrument. The instrument item related to including problem solving activities in instruction had a mean score rating of 4.05. Teaching students to question information had a mean score of 3.41. Other individual items related to emphasizing critical thinking, helping students think for themselves, and developing higher order thinking skills had mean scores ranging from 3.78 to 3.70 (see Table 4).
Responses to instrument items concerned with affective attributes had an overall mean score of 3.44 (see Table 1). An individual item related to encouraging good character had a mean score of 3.70, and items related to teaching students to be dependable and helping them develop a strong work ethic had means of 3.23 and 3.27 (see Table 5). Mean scores for instrument items related to developing interpersonal skills and initiative were in the mid-range of responses for this section of the instrument.
Table 4 Mean Scores for Responses to Thinking Skills Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Implement instructional strategies which
emphasize critical thinking
3.78 1.05 Devise units/lessons which encourage
higher order thinking skills
3.70 0.99 Include problem solving activities in
4.05 0.93 Teach students to question information 3.41 0.93 Help students think for themselves 3.74 0.90
Table 5 Mean Scores for Responses to Affective Attributes Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Encourage good character as part of your instruction 3.70 1.02 Develop student interpersonal skills 3.50 1.00 Encourage students to show initiative 3.52 1.09 Teach students to be dependable 3.23 1.06 Help students develop a strong work ethic 3.27 1.09
Of all the topics addressed by the questionnaire, the mean score for responses related to counseling needs was the lowest of all. The overall mean score for this topic was 2.62 (see Table 1), and mean scores for individual instrument items under this category were less than 3 for all items except one. An item related to introducing career planning topics had a mean score of 3.12, but items related to helping students cope with problems outside the classroom, counseling documentation, conflict management, and student's personal problems had mean scores ranging from 2.56 to 2.41 (see Table 6).
Table 6 Mean Scores for Responses to Counseling Needs Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Help your students to cope with problems outside
of the classroom
2.56 1.07 Introduce career planning concepts and issues 3.12 1.09 Help your students cope with personal problems 2.41 1.04 Teach students conflict management skills 2.45 1.01 Follow documentation procedures and use other
safeguards when counseling students
Mean scores for responses related to classroom management were also low in comparison to other topics measured in this study. The overall mean score for this topic was 2.88 (see Table 1). Mean scores for enforcing school rules and managing student behavior were 3.06 and 3.00 (see Table 7). On the lower end of the range for this topical category were responses for working with school administrators on discipline problems and documenting discipline problems, with mean scores of 2.63 and 2.76 respectively.
Table 7 Mean Scores for Responses to Counseling Needs Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Effectively manage student behavior in your classroom 3.00 1.25 Solve classroom problems without outside assistance 2.99 1.22 Work with school administrators when dealing
with discipline problems
2.63 1.19 Enforce school regulations and rules 3.06 1.20 Properly document and record instances of
The overall mean score for questionnaire items related to administrative duties was 3.32 (see Table 1). Instrument items related to working with student organizations and establishing professional relationships with other teachers and staff had mean scores of 3.58 and 3.53 (see Table 8). The only individual instrument item in this category that had a mean score less than three was one dealing with managing purchases of materials, supplies, and equipment, which had a mean score of 2.79.
The data gathered in this study yielded interesting, yet not unexpected, results. The highest mean scores for instrument item responses were in the areas of pedagogical preparation (3.66) and thinking skills (3.73), which approach the "well prepared" classification on the rating scale. Additionally, these categories yielded the lowest standard deviation scores of all the categories on the instrument, 0.78 and 0.79 respectively, indicating general consensus on these teacher preparation areas. Overall the new technology teachers that participated in this study perceived that they were best prepared through their collegiate programs to address the teaching (pedagogy) functions for their curriculum
Table 8 Mean Scores for Responses to Counseling Needs Items on Questionnaire
Questionnaire Item Mean SD
Comply with state and federal regulations
concerning students with special needs
3.41 1.17 Manage your time effectively 3.34 1.12 Establish a professional, supportive relationship with
other teachers and support staff
3.53 1.18 Work with student clubs, organizations, and other
3.58 1.21 Manage purchasing procedures and requests fo
materials, supplies, and equipment
(e.g., plan instruction, organize the classroom instructional environment) and the development of thinking skills associated with the subject (e.g., emphasize critical thinking, problem solving activities). Both of these categories yielded data that indicated that the new teachers viewed their preparatory programs as having provided adequate instruction and grounding to enable them to be successful in the classroom.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the topical areas of counseling needs and classroom management were perceived as the weakest areas of preparation. These two categories yielded mean scores of 2.62 and 2.88, respectively, which represent a rating of "poor" to only "somewhat" prepared in working with these classroom concerns. The standard deviation for classroom management was the highest of all the categories (SD=1.08), indicating the widest variance within the participant responses. The participants overall did not view their collegiate program as having adequately prepared them to confront the counseling and classroom management needs that they are encountering as technology teachers.
The remaining three topical sections-technical content, affective attributes, and administrative duties-all fell into the "somewhat," or moderate, category of preparation, with respective mean scores of 3.48, 3.44, and 3.32. Each of these areas reflects important aspects of the teaching/learning environment. The technical content area (e.g., operation of equipment, explanation of technical processes, maintenance of lab equipment) is typically viewed as the most prominent aspect of the technology education curriculum, based on the amount of time devoted to its instruction, yet teacher education programs were perceived as only providing the mid-range preparation for new teachers (M=3.48; SD=1.03). The affective attribute section of the survey instrument focused on the issues relating to the interpersonal factors of teacher/student relationships (e.g., encouragement of student initiative, development of strong work ethic, development of student interpersonal skills). This area of teacher preparation is more subjective in nature and not typically a well-defined instructional criterion. It was somewhat surprising to the researchers that this variable scored as high as it did (M=3.44) in the evaluation. Hill and Womble (1997) have previously reported the difficulty teachers have locating appropriate materials to guide instruction in the affective area. The administrative duties items (e.g., time management, establishment of professional support system, managing purchasing procedures) on the instrument also yielded moderate preparation status (M=3.32). The participants in the study perceived that they were provided the basic essentials for accomplishing the administrative duties of their teaching roles.
The results of this analysis provided a mixed perspective on how well new technology teachers are faring in their classrooms. From one viewpoint, we could deduce that teacher education programs are producing only moderate to poor results in preparing new teachers to be successful in the public schools. New teachers felt most prepared to address the areas of instructional pedagogy and critical thinking/problem solving skills. Collegiate programs in technology education are approaching the equivalent of a "good" classification in these two areas. However, teacher preparation programs score in the "poor" range in the areas of counseling needs and classroom management. The remaining three areas of technical content, affective attributes, and administrative duties fall in the moderate or mid-range category. Overall, the results yield a very average evaluation regarding the perceived levels of preparedness new teachers attribute to their university programs.
From a slightly different perspective, we could deduce from this study that teacher education programs are accomplishing their mission with very acceptable results. New teachers are entering the public school classrooms with appropriate entry level skills that will enable them to be moderately successful as they begin their teaching careers. Teacher educators could honestly submit that there is only so much that can be accomplished within the limited amount of time that they have to prepare entry-level teachers for the field. Beginning teacher qualities must be viewed from the perspective that initial preparation can only provide the basics in teacher preparation. To require higher levels of preparation from new teachers is to overstep reasonable expectations. Master teacher capabilities will only come after extended time in the classroom and many efforts on the part of the teacher to determine the best combination of pedagogy, technical content, and curriculum design.
As stated, the results of this research yielded interesting, yet not unexpected, results. As new teachers gain experience, they perceive that their teacher education programs only partially prepared them for the realities of the classroom. They are personally encountering the authenticity of the philosophical concepts that they discussed in their classes at the university and are learning how to work through the issues and problems related to these concepts. Teacher education programs are providing the essentials for new teachers, but there appears to be room for improvement in some areas of teacher preparation. University faculty should continue to explore alternative approaches to teacher education and, in particular, to consider ways to cultivate broader exposure to counseling and classroom management strategies. Efforts to gather feedback from graduates of technology teacher education programs should also continue, so that effectiveness can be monitored and the needs of the beginning teachers and the schools they serve are more fully met.
Recommendations for Further Research
Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations for further research are presented for consideration by the profession.
- Individual teacher educators should evaluate their current instructional program efforts to prepare technology teachers with regard to the variables used in this study. Based upon their analysis, they could then proceed to make changes to improve their programs to better prepare their constituents to be teachers.
- Qualitative research strategies should be employed to determine specific reasons for the difficulties teachers are experiencing in the public schools and to seek suggestions for improvements in the teacher preparation programs.
- Quantitative and qualitative research should be conducted with regard to the particular approaches that are currently being used in specific technology teacher education programs, in order to determine the instructional strategies that are the most successful in preparing beginning teachers.
- Quantitative and qualitative research should be conducted with exemplary experienced secondary-level teachers to identify strategies that are used to address the variables identified in this study. Based upon this analysis, teacher educators could employ these strategies in the preparation of teachers.
- Teacher educators should seek new ways to use experienced, exemplary teachers in the initial preparation of technology education teachers.
- Teacher educators should seek ways to personally experience the issues and problems faced by teachers. Based on these experiences, university professors could employ alternative strategies to better prepare new teachers.
- This study should be replicated in the near future to continue the evaluation of teacher preparation programs in the United States.
Hill is an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Studies at The University of Georgia, Athens.
Wicklein is an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Studies at The University of Georgia, Athens.
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