Curricular Implications for Participative
Management in Technology Education
James E. Smallwood
Carl Harshman (1982) believes the United
States may be experiencing the most signif-
icant change in the work place since the In-
dustrial Revolution. The movement involves a
transformation from the traditional, bureau-
cratic style of management to a more
participatory relationship. This new philos-
ophy, known as participative management, at-
tempts to improve the utilization of human
resources by involving individual workers in
decisions affecting their work.
The growth of participatory and work in-
novative programs such as quality circles,
participative management, and employee in-
volvement has taken place in America since
the early 1970s. The concept, which has ex-
perienced considerable success in other coun-
tries, is currently being implemented in both
industrial and non-industrial settings.
While only a small fraction of U.S. work
places are currently governed by a
participative management model, the rate of
transformation from a traditional bureau-
cratic model is accelerating (The Indiana La-
bor and Management Council [ILMC], 1985).
Future indicators predict the trend will con-
tinue as we head toward the twenty-first cen-
AMERICA'S MOST VALUABLE RESOURCE
Management is beginning to recognize
people as America's most valuable resource, a
resource of untapped talent capable of solv-
ing problems and making decisions. Involving
employees in decision making has become a
significant trend in the American work place.
Corporations each year spend over $40 billion
to train their employees and develop their
management staffs (Weischadle & Weischadle,
The Indiana Labor and Management Council
(ILMC) (1985) recently discovered that em-
ployee participation increases productivity,
work quality, worker satisfaction, employment
security, and organizational flexibility.
Participation enhances the degree to which a
member takes pride in his/her job, and feels
a personal responsibility for the outcome of
The development of successful employee
involvement requires a basic change in the
way people within an organization relate and
deal with each other. Such a change requires
all participants to develop the proper cogni-
tive and affective skills and attitudes to
contribute in a participative work setting.
A 1985 study by the ILMC revealed that
most workers lack the necessary skills to be
contributing members in participative work
situations. Skills such as problem solving,
communications, math and logic, and coping
with conflict are but a few of the essential
skills identified in the study. The study
also revealed that little is being done in
the vocational and technical schools in
Indiana to prepare students for participative
work settings because they do not teach these
skills (ILMC, 1985). It is assumed there are
many other states in the nation with the same
As the change in management philosophy
unfolds, it appears something needs to be
done in the secondary and post-secondary
schools, and colleges and universities in
America to better equip students with the
proper cognitive and affective skills and at-
titudes regarding employee involvement.
IMPLICATIONS OF PARTICIPATIVE MANAGEMENT IN
Historically, the name of the technology
education discipline has changed several
times to reflect the direction of the profes-
sion. Within the last 25 years the content
has also been through some dramatic changes.
Digital electronics, CAD/CAM, and robotics
are just a few of the content areas being in-
corporated into technology education pro-
grams. One thing that has remained constant
throughout the years, however, is where the
content is derived. Contemporary technology
education programs draw their content from
industry and technology, a policy that is
unique to the discipline. As technological
changes occur, the profession attempts to in-
corporate these changes into the public
school and university programs in order to
better prepare students for a constantly
changing society. One of the most signif-
icant changes currently taking place in both
industrial and non-industrial settings is the
philosophy toward management of human re-
In 1982 the New York Stock Exchange did
an extensive survey of 49,000 U.S. companies
employing 41 million people. The study pro-
vided a comprehensive profile of the employee
involvement effort taking place in America.
The survey described a movement in its devel-
opmental stage with enormous potential.
Eighty-two percent of the corporations sur-
veyed by the NYSE felt that participative
management was a "promising new approach,"
compared to three percent who felt it was
"just a passing fad" (McKendrick, 1983). The
report (New York Stock Exchange [NYSE], 1982)
recommended improved workforce productivity
through educational programs in secondary
schools, better training of young managers,
and more employee involvement in decision
making and financial gain sharing.
The Carnegie Report recommends a study
of technology by all students. Ernest L.
Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching, has this to
We can and must help every student
learn about the technology revolution,
which will dramatically shape the lives
of every student. And it's here that
the industrial arts educator has a cru-
cial role to play. (American Indus-
trial Arts Association, 1985)
Technology education is faced with an
opportunity to prepare students for
participative work settings and should incor-
porate this into the existing curriculum.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study was to iden-
tify and validate a list of worker character-
istics necessary for participative
management. These cognitive and affective
skills can be used in planning, organizing,
and developing technology education programs
to prepare students to be contributing mem-
bers in work-group situations. The study val-
idated worker characteristics in order of
importance as perceived by selected indus-
trial personnel. Therefore, in planning cur-
riculum, emphasis can be placed on those
characteristics from highest to lowest prior-
ity. The primary objectives of the study
1. provide information on worker character-
istics in industrial participative man-
agement to be used in planning,
organizing, and developing technology ed-
2. provide information to determine whether
current technology education programs are
preparing students for participative work
3. better inform technology education teach-
ers and curriculum developers of the
participative management philosophy;
4. provide information that can be used to
better prepare students with the cogni-
tive and affective skills and attitudes
A survey was conducted of 38 randomly
selected industrial personnel, who function
as training directors, employee involvement
coordinators, and others interested in the
participative management concept. The par-
ticipants were chosen from a data base of
members in the Association for Quality and
Participation (AQP), formerly the Interna-
tional Association of Quality Circles. The
assumption was that since this group was so
close to the training process they could pro-
vide the most accurate data. The members of
the sample group were employed by companies
ranging in size from 150 to 13,000 employees.
The Delphi process was the research
technique used to gather the necessary data.
The opinions of the group were solicited
three times, through survey instruments, in
order to arrive at a group consensus. The
three-round process was used in anticipation
that each round would further refine the list
and validate the data.
The initial data collection instrument
included a list of worker characteristics for
industrial participative management, con-
structed on the basis of a review of litera-
ture and research, and consultation with
specialists involved in work innovative pro-
grams. Faculty members from the School of
Business, School of Education, and School of
Technology at Indiana State University in-
volved in teaching the participation concept
were also asked for assistance.
In the process of developing the instru-
ment, doctoral students in curriculum and in-
struction and selected faculty members at
Indiana State University were asked to review
the initial draft to assure clarity of items
and instructions. For further clarity, accu-
racy, and validation the instrument was then
submitted to a small group of training direc-
tors involved in employee involvement pro-
grams for their review.
A coefficient of correlation was used to
determine the reliability between responses
on the first and second round instruments.
When tested, using a t-test, all the re-
sponses proved to be significantly different
from zero at the .05 level of probability. A
high positive correlation between the first
and second round instruments was revealed by
The Delphi technique for collecting the
data took place over approximately a five
month period. The initial data collection
instrument for round one included a section
for collecting demographic information about
the sample group and the company. It also
included a section addressing research
questions one and two regarding worker char-
acteristics necessary in preparing someone to
become a contributing member in a
participative work setting. The section per-
taining to research questions one and two was
a list of worker characteristics which the
participants were asked to evaluate by a
five-point rating scale ranging from non-
essential to essential. They also had an op-
portunity to list other characteristics
believed to be important to the participative
The data from round one were collected
and compiled in order to prepare the round
two instrument. The round two instrument was
designed to further validate the worker char-
acteristics as well as gather information to
answer research questions three and four.
Research questions three and four pertained
to those characteristics industrial personnel
teach their employees and which should be
taught in a technology education curriculum.
Once again, the data were collected and
compiled to prepare the final instrument.
The round three instrument was a rank order-
ing of worker characteristics along with the
group mean for each one. The respondents
were asked to review the list for validation.
The instrument was also designed to gather
additional information in answering research
Of the 38 subjects who agreed to partic-
ipate in the study, 28 completed all three
The analysis of demographic data re-
vealed a changing managerial philosophy from
a directed (autocratic) approach to a group
participatory approach. In all, 51.5% of the
companies surveyed have transformed from a
directed to a group participatory or deleg-
ated management philosophy within the last
All but one of the companies surveyed
had established employee participation groups
within the last ten years. Ninety-four per-
cent of the respondents anticipate a growth
in the number of employee participation
groups for their respective companies during
the next two years.
Some of the reasons for electing to im-
plement the participation concept were to:
(1) improve communications, (2) improve prod-
uct quality, (3) reduce costs, (4) improve
employee relations, (5) become more compet-
itive by increasing production, and (6) tap
the unused potential of all employees.
In regard to worker characteristics for
participative management, problem solving and
communication skills were considered the most
important by the sample group. The top 25
worker characteristics are listed in Table 1.
These characteristics are listed in order of
importance from one to twenty-five. Eleven
of the first thirteen worker characteristics
were directly related to problem solving and
Other characteristics considered ex-
tremely important were team building, gather-
ing, analyzing, and presenting data, group
process, and goal setting.
Those characteristics related to
problem-solving are the primary concern of
industrial trainers preparing someone to par-
ticipate in a work-group situation. Five
characteristics, all relating to problem-
solving, were taught by all the companies
surveyed on the second round instrument. The
characteristics were problem-solving, gather-
ing information, identifying and selecting
problem causes, generating problem solutions,
and evaluating problem solutions.
WORKER CHARACTERISTICS IMPORTANT TO THE
PARTICIPATIVE MANAGEMENT CONCEPT
1. Brainstorming 14. Group Process
2. Problem Solving Skills 15. ls Goal Setting
3. Identifying and Selecting 16. Implementing Change
4. Evaluating Problem Solutions 17. Recognizing and Dealin
with Verbal Comm.
5. Generating Problem Solutions 18. Coping with Conflict
6. Communication Skills 19. Motivation
7. Team Building 20. Patience/Perseverance
8. Gathering, Analyzing, and 21. Group Dynamics
9. Perception and Listening 22. Leadership Ability
10. Verbal Communication 23. Desire/Commitment
11. Identifying and Analyzing 24. Consensus Decision
12. Gathering Information 25. Negotiation (Strive fo
13. Displaying/Organizing and
In addition, group process, group dynam-
ics, team building, leadership ability, com-
munication skills, identifying and analyzing
problems, displaying/organizing and analyzing
information, gathering, analyzing, and pre-
senting data, and brainstorming were taught
by at least 85% of the companies surveyed.
Research question 4 was asked to find
out which of these worker characteristics the
sample group would like to see taught in a
technology education curriculum. There were
very few differences between those character-
istics believed to be most important and what
should be taught. The top 25 worker charac-
teristics were the same as those in Table 1
with the exception of project planning and
oral presentation, replacing
patience/perseverance, and desire/commitment.
CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT FOR PARTICIPATIVE MAN-
Curriculum development for participative
management in technology education programs
is almost non-existent. There are three pri-
mary reasons for this neglect.
1. The concept of participative management
in America is still in its infancy stage.
Although the concept itself has been
practiced since the early 1970s it has
just recently been manifested as a viable
technique for improving many aspects of
the work setting.
2. Many technology education teachers are
unaware of the concept and those aware of
it aren't sure what should be taught.
3. Little has been done to identify neces-
sary worker characteristics (cognitive
and affective skills) to aid in planning,
organizing, and developing curriculum.
The relationship of the first two prob-
lems is evident. Technology education teach-
ers appear to be unaware of the concept
partly because it is so new and partly be-
cause it is unaddressed in the textbooks and
A review of selected manufacturing and
general technology textbooks available for
industrial arts/technology education teachers
revealed a serious neglect of the
participative management concept. Nearly all
of the reviewed textbooks, published within
the last ten years, were concerned with au-
thority administered from the top down.
There was little mention of the changing phi-
losophy toward employee involvement.
Many of the textbooks discussed problem-
solving techniques, the brainstorming proc-
ess, quality assurance, and statistical
process control, all of which are considered
relevant to the concept of participation.
TECHNOLOGY: TODAY AND TOMORROW discussed
quality circles and statistical process con-
trol. LIVING WITH TECHNOLOGY dealt with
quality circles and problem solving tech-
niques. EXPLORING MANUFACTURING, and MODERN
INDUSTRY both discussed line and staff man-
agement. Neither MANUFACTURING PROCESSES or
PROCESSES OF MANUFACTURING made reference to
involving employees in decision making.
TECHNOLOGY: TODAY AND TOMORROW, and LIVING
WITH TECHNOLOGY, were the only textbooks re-
viewed which made specific reference to the
concept of employee involvement.
A review of the professional journals
for technology education such as THE TECHNOL-
OGY TEACHER, INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION, and SCHOOL
SHOP also revealed little on the topic of
A few articles discussed the success of
the Japanese in becoming an industrial power
due to their technique of employee involve-
ment and participation. Dillon (1984) wrote
about Japanese methods for increased produc-
tivity and what American industry might
learn. Sullivan (1988) discussed a quality
control module for technology education with
reference to quality circles and the concept
of participative management.
Articles regarding the factories of the
future (Walden, 1988), and meeting the em-
ployment needs in the eighties and beyond
(Peckham, 1988) did make reference to the
idea of involving employees in decision mak-
ing. For the most part, however, the review
of these particular journals over the past
ten years revealed very little regarding the
changing managerial philosophy.
The third point regarding worker charac-
teristics for participation was addressed in
this study. It has been discussed by a few
other researchers, including the work of Lit-
tle (1986), ILMC (1985), Sedam (1983), Lloyd
and Rehg (1983), and Reeves (1983).
CURRICULAR MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES
Many businesses, industries, and con-
sulting firms have developed training pro-
grams and materials to teach the proper
skills for participation. Materials and
techniques identified by several authors for
use in industrial training include:
histograms, graphs, control charts, flow
charts, Pareto analysis, brainstorming,
cause-and-effect diagrams, check sheets, de-
cision matrices, presentation techniques,
prioritizing techniques, and cost-benefit
analysis (Ball, 1982; Lloyd & Rehg, 1983; Re-
eves, 1983,/a>; Sullivan, 1988; Torrence, 1982;
and Weischadle & Weischadle, 1987). The
basic quality circle problem-solving process
includes: problem identification, define the
problem, investigate the problem, problem
analysis, choosing a solution, presentation
to management, and implementation.
Most of the training materials and tech-
niques for participative management have been
developed by consulting firms or by the com-
pany that wishes to incorporate the concept.
Business now runs what may be the largest ed-
ucational system in the country. Weischadle
and Weischadle (1987) point out that training
and development costs in business now ap-
proach the total annual expenditure of all of
America's four-year and graduate colleges and
Very little has been done in vocational
education or industrial arts/technology edu-
cation programs in regard to participative
management curriculum development. One of
the conclusions drawn from the ILMC (1985)
study was that very little is currently being
done to prepare students for participatory
programs. However, participatory approaches
are relatively new to business and industry
in this country and it is not surprising that
schools have not yet developed curricula in
this area (p.38).
Although very little has been done re-
garding participative management curriculum
development, many of the important character-
istics are being taught at various places in
the technology education curriculum. Charac-
teristics such as problem solving, communi-
cation skills, team building, group process,
and many others are incorporated in technol-
ogy education classes. These skills are ex-
tremely important to the concept of
participative management and it might be a
good idea to label them as such when they are
included in various curricula.
Based on the findings of this study, the
concept of participative management is ex-
pected to grow in industrial organizations
over the next few years. The worker charac-
teristics identified can be used in planning,
organizing, and developing technology educa-
tion programs to prepare students to be con-
tributing members in work-group situations.
As technological changes occur, the pro-
fession has made a gallant effort to incorpo-
rate these changes into public school and
university programs. As if new technologies
such as robotics, CAD/CAM, lasers, and
superconductivity are not enough, the profes-
sion is faced with yet another challenge, the
changing philosophy toward management of hu-
James Smallwood is Assistant Professor, De-
partment of Industrial Education and Technol-
ogy, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY.
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Journal of Technology Education Volume 2, Number 2 Spring 1991