JITE v32n3 - Technology Education Curricular Content: A Trade and Industrial Education Perspective

Volume 32, Number 3
Spring 1995

Technology Education Curricular Content: A Trade and Industrial Education Perspective

George E. Rogers
University of Nebraska--Lincoln

The curricular content of both technology education and trade and industrial (T&I) education is in a state of stormy transition. The wave of technology education evolved from industrial arts education to address the needs of a technological society, while T&I programs have been identifying their role in the Tech-Prep and School-To-Work movements. Industrial arts education provided a direct articulation link from junior high school industrial arts courses to senior high school T&I programs, but it is difficult to identify a similar articulation link for technology education. One approach is to define technology education as a relevant pre-vocational program ( Faires, 1993 ). This view parallels the purpost of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 , which supports technology education. The identified purpose of the Perkins Act is

to make the United States more competitive in the world economy by developing more fully the academic and occupational skills of all segments of the population. The purpose will be achieved principally through concentrating resources on improving educational programs leading to academic and occupational skill competencies needed to work in a technologically advanced society. ( American Vocational Association, 1992, p. 8 )

State curriculum guides identify each state's philosophy on the articulation relationship between technology education and T&I education. For example, the Virginia Department of Education (1986) noted that the goal of technology education programs is to prepare students for secondary vocational and technical education programs and to equip the technology education students with transferable technical skills. The Idaho Division of Vocational Education (1987) indicated that technology education programs should assist students in making informed and meaningful vocational choices and prepare students for entry into vocational education programs. The Florida Department of Education (1994) stated that technology education is a basic part of the state's vocational program and that its role includes "exploratory courses, practical arts courses, and job preparatory programs offered at the secondary level" (p. i). The New Hampshire Department of Education (1992) noted that "technology education will assist students regarding further occupational education" (p. 24). As indicated by these state curriculum guides, one purpose of technology education is to prepare students to enter advanced secondary vocational programs, such as T&I education.

The Jackson's Mill Industrial Arts Curriculum Theory ( Synder & Hales, 1981 ) provided specific examples of how technology education should provide an articulated program of study from elementary technology education to introductory technology education courses in middle school to high school specialization courses (i.e., technology education communications to T&I electronics, technology education manufacturing to T&I machining, technology education transportation to T&I automotive mechanics).

In spite of the role of technology education in preparing students for advanced secondary vocational programs, an articulation link between the two programs is lacking. This may be due to the belief of some technology educators that technology education is "an integral and critical part of the general education curriculum," rather than a pre-vocational program ( Anderson, 1992, p. 22 ). The lack of articulation may also be due to the fact that "many persons directly involved in both programs cannot clearly articulate the purpose, mission, and goals of their respective program" ( Roberts & Clark, 1994, p. 43 ).

There is a need to enhance articulation between technology education and T&I programs. Technology education programs should provide students with the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, ability, and confidence to pursue pre-employment technical courses ( Betts, Welsh, & Ryerson, 1992 ). Roberts and Clark (1994) agree, noting that technology education's role "must be defined to include successful vocational programs" and "continually striving for excellence in preparing students as productive employees" (p. 43-44). If technology education is to have a strong relationship in the Tech Prep movement, technology education must develop middle school and junior high school programs that articulate with senior high school vocational programs. Articulation links among technology education offerings, secondary vocational education programs, and post-secondary vocational/technical programs need to be developed. However, articulation links with occupational preparation programs are difficult to establish because of technology education's unlimited curricular scope ( Lewis, J., 1992 ). Before articulation agreements can be developed, agreement on the curricular content of technology education that relates to T&I programs must be established.

The Curricular Content of Technology Education

According to Lewis (1992) , curriculum delineation is one of the most challenging facets of the change from industrial arts education to technology education. Gradwell and Welsh (1991) reiterated these thoughts in noting that the critical question is: "What are the basic concepts that [technology education] students should learn?" (p. 26). In a modified Delphi study conducted by Wicklien (1993) , leaders in the field identified major problems facing technology education. That research noted a lack of identity in the knowledge base of technology education, varying curriculum development models, and a lack of consensus on the technology education curriculum as the top problems for the discipline.

Numerous authors have attempted to identify the curricular content of technology education programs. A decade ago, Bjorkquist (1985) noted that a choice needed to be made with regard to technology education's curricular content. Bjorkquist maintained that, "to attempt to draw content from two bases, industry and technology, both of which are broader than industrial education can comprehensively address, likely will add to an already confusing situation" (p. 15). Pucel (1992a; 1992b) advanced ten categories of technology education curricular content:

  1. technological method
  2. common tool usage
  3. common equipment usage
  4. basic technological process
  5. materials
  6. terminology
  7. environmental concerns
  8. social values
  9. scientific principles
  10. economic factors

According to Pucel, the first six categories should be the primary focus of technology education programs, while the latter four categories should be taught in other areas of the school curriculum. The first six categories address both the cognitive and psychomotor domains, but a void still exists with regard to what, if any, student attitudes should be components of technology education. Many others in the discipline have also attempted to delineate technology education's content ( Pucel, 1992a; Pucel, 1992b; Savage & Sterry, 1990 ). Apparently, a consensus has still not been reached as to technology education's curricular content ( Wicklien 1993 ).

Flowers (1992) noted that technology education provides individual teachers an opportunity to determine its content and that "teachers do not always understand the rationale for determining curricular" content (p. 29). In a study by Obermier (1994) , data indicated that 72.3% of technology education programs' content was determined by teachers acting alone or upon recommendations of fellow technology education teachers. Only 11.8% of the technology education programs surveyed had consulted outside agencies for professional curriculum development assistance.

Pucel (1992a) noted that, "instructors [must] first identify the ideas, tools, equipment, materials, and processes they wish to teach students" (p. 29). Obermier (1994) concluded that teachers are adapting and creating technology education curricula on their own, without a philosophical basis. He further indicated that technology education has an exhausting spectrum of curricular content. Gradwell and Welch (1991) concur that "the list [of technology education content] cannot be endless" (p. 26).

The scope and sequence of the curricula, generated by student needs, analysis of constraints, and articulation agreements, should dictate what, how, and when course content is taught in technology education ( Gallagher, 1993; Pautler, 1984; Taba, 1962 ). Without delineating technology education's curricular content, technology education is being taught based on each individual teacher's definition of technological literacy. So what competencies should technology education instructors teach?

The Goals of Technology Education

Pucel (1992a) noted that the lack of clear goals for technology education has led educators to focus on the interaction between technology and society. With its focus on humanistic concerns and societal needs, technology education has neglected the knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to the tools, equipment, materials, and processes of industry. According to Nee (1993) , in technology education "there is also a chance of neglecting development of craft skills" (p. 47). A review of eleven different state technology education curriculum guides revealed that 34.6% included skill development as a basic component of technology education. By neglecting the development of occupational skills, technology education has primarily focused on cognitive related curricular content.

In examining the goals of technology education, as developed by Savage and Sterry (1990) , the affective and psychomotor domains of learning are absent. Only cognitive goals related to society and humanistic needs are indicated. These cognitive-only-centered goals are not advocated by Schilleman (1987) , who indicated that technology education programs should place greater emphasis on positive attitudes, work ethics, pride in workmanship, and a desire to continue into T&I programs. This view is shared by Silverman and Pritchard (1993) who recommend "that the technology education curriculum be reviewed to look for ways to make better connections with the world of work" (p. 16).

In order to assess the affective domain competencies that secondary T&I students require, Gregson (1991) surveyed Virginia instructors and identified work values and attitudes that they perceived as being important to their T&I programs. These "affective work competencies" included dependability, conscientiousness, cooperation, ability to follow directions, workmanship, and carefulness ( Gregson, 1991 , p. 35). However, the literature indicates that affective domain competencies are absent from technology education curricula.


The purpose of this study was to determine the appropriateness of technology education curricular content as perceived by secondary T&I instructors. The ultimate goal was to create a knowledge base for an articulated technology education curriculum. A secondary purpose of this study was to identify differences in perceptions among the instructors of various secondary T&I programs with regard to prerequisite technology education knowledge, skills, and attitudes. These data, in addition to input from other technology education and vocational education professionals, could assist in delineating a core technology education curriculum. More specifically, the following research questions were addressed:

  1. What knowledge, skills, and attitudes do secondary T&I instructors perceive as important for technology education students to possess?
  2. Is there a difference between the perceived importance of technology education competencies as rated by secondary T&I instructors?
  3. Is there a difference in the perceptions of secondary T&I instructors from different curriculum areas with regard to the importance of technology education competencies?



In order to address the research questions, a 28-item questionnaire was developed. Each item on the questionnaire was rated by T&I instructors on a five-point Likert-type scale (1 = useless to 5 = very important ). The 28 items were derived from Pucel's (1992a; 1992b) ten categories of technology education and Gregson's (1991) listing of important work values and attitudes as identified and rated by secondary T&I instructors. Additional questionnaire items were added to assess both traditional curricular content and current technology education content. Traditional items included skills relating to measurement and drafting. Questionnaire items related to contemporary technology education were derived from the Modular Technology Education Program ( Hearlihy & Company, 1993 ). These items included desktop publishing, knowledge of future technologies, knowledge of hydraulics/pneumatics, and knowledge of computer applications.

A pilot study of the questionnaire was conducted with 33 secondary T&I instructors from central Pennsylvania during the spring of 1993. Feedback from the pilot study suggested that competencies from the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains should be interspersed throughout the questionnaire and not listed in three distinct sections. This change was accomplished prior to the instrument being reviewed for readability and face validity by four vocational education professionals. These reviewers included a technology education teacher, a technology education teacher educator, a T&I instructor, and a T&I teacher educator.


The sampling frame for this study consisted of the national membership listing of the Trade and Industrial (T&I) Education Division of the American Vocational Association. According to Link (1994) , 5,565 individuals were members of the T&I Division. A sample of 258 was selected for a 90% confidence level ( Cohen, 1977 ; Nunnery & Kimbrough, 1971). Because of the limited focus of this research using only secondary teachers, the sample size was increased to 430 to account for the 53.8% of the AVA membership who are not secondary classroom teachers ( Borg & Gall, 1993 ).

Determining technology education's curricular content should include input from a variety of knowledgeable sources, including technology education teachers, technology education supervisors, teacher educators, T&I education teachers and administrators, as well as business and industry representatives. The scope of this study is limited to the views of T&I instructors because of its focus on technology education curricular content as it relates to T&I education programs.


The questionnaire, demographic data sheet, and a cover letter were mailed to the sample of T&I Division members in March 1994. A total of 156 questionnaires and demographic data sheets were returned. Because of American Vocational Association mailing guidelines, which specify that the "list is rented for one-time use only" and "the mailing date must be approved by the AVA" ( AVA, 1994 , p. 1), a follow-up mailing to non-respondents could not be conducted. One hundred twenty three (123) of the returned questionnaires (78.8%) were from secondary teachers and usable for data analysis purposes. Thirty-three of the returned questionnaires were from administrators, retired teachers, or vendors and were not used for the data analysis. The final response rate, after the returned questionnaires from non-T&I instructors were removed, was 28.6%.

Demographic data were obtained regarding the instructors' educational level, years of teaching experience, and years of occupational experience. Thirty-nine percent of the T&I education teachers indicated that they had received a graduate degree, while 35.8% noted that their educational preparation was below the baccalaureate level. The mean years of teaching experience was 18.7, with 42.3% having 20 or more years in the classroom. The mean years of occupational experience was 16.9, with 46.3% having 20 or more years of occupational experience. The sample represented T&I instructors from 42 different states.

Data Analysis

A combination of descriptive and inferential statistics were calculated using the SPSS-X statistical analysis program. The data were analyzed using mean ratings for each statement. Even though the Likert-type questionnaire provided ordinal data, it was felt that the large random sampling allowed for this type analysis ( Siegel, 1988 ). Polit and Hungler (1991) and Ferguson and Takane (1989) recommend the use of the Friedman two-way test for ANOVA by ranks to test ordinal data obtained from a single sample. Although nonparametric tests of significance are not specially designed to analyze variance, Polit and Hungler (1991) and Siegel noted that following established procedures analysis of variance (ANOVA) can test ordinal data.


Perceived Importance of T&I Competencies

Table 1 depicts the overall mean scores for the sample of 123 T&I instructors' ratings of technology education competencies. The results indicated that the work attitudes identified by Gregson (1992) were supported by this sample of T&I instructors. All but one of the 28 competencies listed on the questionnaire were perceived as valuable for technology education students entering T&I programs. The six highest rated statements were all affective domain attributes. The highest rated cognitive domain statement was a student's ability to measure, followed by the identification of common hand tools. The next highest competency was a technology education completer's ability to use common hand tools. Although still rated above 3.00, the lowest rated technology education competencies were those selected from the Modular Technology Education Program ( Hearlihy, 1993 ). Only one competency, desktop publishing (2.84), was rated below the 3.00 median of the Likert-type scale.

Table 1
Descriptive Results for All Domains

Item Statement Domain Mean SD

Being dependable/punctual Affective 4.97 .18
Ability to follow directions Affective 4.93 .25
Showing pride in workmanship Affective 4.92 .28
Being conscientious/honest Affective 4.91 .32
Cooperating with others Affective 4.91 .29
Exhibiting a safety attitude Affective 4.89 .36
Ability to measure Cognitive 4.79 .41
Identification of common hand tools Cognitive 4.23 .81
Utilize common hand tools Psychomotor 4.20 .88
Showing concern for the environment Affective 4.14 .84
Knowledge of technical terms Cognitive 4.10 .96
Operate common equipment Psychomotor 4.08 .96
Knowledge of basic processes Cognitive 4.03 .87
Identification of common equipment Cognitive 4.01 .99
Knowledge of basic materials Cognitive 4.00 .80
Ability to perform basic processes Psychomotor 3.97 .94
Apply scientific principles Psychomotor 3.96 .92
Knowledge of computer applications Cognitive 3.95 .88
Interpretation of drafting drawings Cognitive 3.88 1.05
Knowledge of scientific principles Cognitive 3.84 .95
Knowledge of future technologies Cognitive 3.80 .80
Utilize basic materials Psychomotor 3.76 .92
Knowledge of economic factors Cognitive 3.63 .84
Construct drafting drawings Psychomotor .60 1.02
Knowledge of hydraulics/pneumatics Cognitive 3.49 .98
Knowledge of high-tech applications Cognitive 3.33 1.06
Knowledge of the invention process Cognitive 3.07 .91
Ability to perform desktop publishing Psychomotor 2.84 1.02

Comparison of Traditional and Contemporary Competencies

To address the second research question, nine comparisons were selected for the Freidman two-way ANOVA. Three traditional competencies-- knowledge of basic processes, identification of common hand tools, and knowledge of basic materials --were compared to three current technology education competencies-- knowledge of the invention process, knowledge of future technologies, and knowledge of high-tech applications . Significance level was established at p = .05 and tested at p < .0056 ( Siegel, 1988 ). Seven of the nine comparisons tested significant at that level.

Knowledge of basic processes tested significant when compared to knowledge of the invention process and tested against knowledge of high-tech applications ( see Table 2 ). Identification of common hand tools proved to be significant when compared to knowledge of the invention process, knowledge of future technologies, and knowledge of high-tech applications . Knowledge of basic materials tested significant against both knowledge of the invention process and knowledge of high-tech applications .

It is interesting to examine the ratings by each competency's educational domain classification (see Table 1 ). The ratings for traditional competencies (i. e., the ability to measure, identify tools and equipment, utilize tools and equipment, and knowledge of technical terms) in the cognitive and psychomotor domains were rated higher than the more contemporary technology education content, such as hydraulics, pneumatics, high-tech applications, or desktop publishing.

Table 2
Summary of Freidman Two-Way ANOVA

Source df Chi-Square Significance

Knowledge of basic processes
Knowledge of the invention process 1 46.96 .0000*
Knowledge of future technologies 1 4.72 .0298
Knowledge of high-tech applications 1 20.49 .0000*
Identification of common hand tools
Knowledge of the invention process 1 60.13 .0000*
Knowledge of future technologies 1 15.87 .0001*
Knowledge of high-tech applications 1 31.51 .0000*
Knowledge of basic materials
Knowledge of the invention process 1 43.33 .0000*
Knowledge of future technologies 1 3.28 .0702
Knowledge of high-tech applications 1 21.32 .0000*

* p < .0056

Differences Across Curriculum Areas

In order to identify statistically significant differences for research question three, a Kruskal-Wallis one-way ANOVA was applied to selected competency statements ( Ferguson & Takane, 1989 ). As suggested by Seigel (1988) , only meaningful comparisons that appear to be significant were analyzed, thus lowering the possibility of a Type I error.

Table 3 depicts the mean competency ratings by the T&I instructors' curriculum area. A seventh group of instructors ( n = 18) was classified as other and do not appear in Table 3 . The statistical treatment tested at the p = .05 level indicated a significant difference between the instructors with regard to curricular area on only three competencies. Instructors from the T&I areas of building construction and machine shop indicated a significantly higher preference in a student's knowledge of basic processes (mean = 21.10, df = 5, p = .0036), when compared to instructors from drafting or electrical trades. Drafting instructors rated a student's ability to interpret drafting drawings (mean = 27.20, df = 5, p = .0003) and their ability to utilize drafting to construct drawings (mean = 26.97, df = 5, p = .0003) significantly more important than other T&I instructors. Other than these three competencies, the T&I instructors displayed considerable agreement on the importance of technology education competencies for T&I students.

Summary of Findings and Discussion

The results from this study indicated the following findings for the fields of trade and industrial education and technology education.

  1. Secondary T&I instructors perceived the affective domain competencies as more important benefits of technology education programs than competencies in the cognitive and psychomotor domains.
  2. The ability of technology education program completers to
    1. measure
    2. dentify and use common hand tools
    3. identify and use common equipment were perceived as more important by secondary T&I instructors than knowledge of high-tech applications, such as robotics lasers, or satellites.
  3. There was little difference in the perceptions of the T&I instructors across the different T&I curricular areas with regard to technology education knowledge, skills, or attitudes.
Table 3
Descriptive Results for T&I Subject Areas

Item Statement Mean Rating by Curriculum Area
Auto Bldg Draft Elect Mach Weld

Ability to follow directions 4.94 5.00 5.00 5.00 4.90 4.62
Pride in workmanship 4.97 4.90 4.90 5.00 4.80 4.75
Being conscientious/honest 4.90 4.90 5.00 4.96 4.90 4.88
Cooperating with others 4.97 4.90 4.90 4.96 4.80 4.75
Exhibiting a safety attitude 5.00 4.90 4.50 4.92 5.00 4.88
Ability to measure 4.81 4.85 4.90 4.76 4.80 4.75
Identify common hand tools 4.41 4.40 3.50 4.28 4.00 4.25
Utilize common hand tools 4.35 4.45 3.30 4.44 4.00 4.13
Environmental concern 4.34 4.30 4.30 3.96 3.90 3.63
Technical terminology 4.26 3.95 4.20 4.36 4.10 3.88
Operate common equipment 4.38 4.25 3.60 4.20 4.00 4.25
Basic process knowledge 4.19 4.50 4.00 3.60 4.30 4.00
Identify equipment 4.32 3.80 3.90 4.16 3.70 4.13
Basic material knowledge 3.97 4.40 3.90 3.68 4.00 4.25
Perform basic processes 4.00 4.45 3.70 3.75 4.30 4.00
Apply scientific principles 4.06 3.60 4.30 4.50 3.50 3.62
Computer applications 3.87 3.75 4.40 4.24 4.20 3.62
Interpret drafting drawings 3.42 4.35 4.60 4.12 4.20 4.00
Know scientific principles 3.84 3.53 4.50 3.92 3.70 3.75
Future technology 3.94 4.05 3.90 3.92 3.50 3.62
Utilize basic materials 3.68 4.30 3.50 3.68 3.70 4.00
Economic factors 3.66 3.85 3.90 3.72 3.50 3.25
Construct drafting drawings 3.07 3.95 4.50 3.92 3.70 3.75
Hydraulics/pneumatics 3.97 3.25 3.40 3.52 3.60 3.13
High-tech applications 3.39 3.10 3.60 3.72 3.10 3.25
The invention process 3.03 3.05 3.50 3.20 2.90 2.87
Desktop publishing 2.74 2.75 3.30 3.04 2.30 2.50
n 32 20 10 25 10 8

The findings of this research indicate that T&I instructors from all curricular areas desire completers of technology education programs to possess affective domain attributes, such as dependability, punctuality, honesty, pride in workmanship, ability to cooperate with others, and a safe attitude. T&I education teachers also desire technology education programs to provide students with the ability to measure, identify and use common hand tools, and identify and use common equipment. Statistically, T&I instructors indicated a significant preference for the more traditional competencies, such as identification of common hand tools and knowledge of basic materials and processes over more contemporary competencies, such as knowledge of future technologies, the invention process, and high-tech applications.

Determining the curricular content of technology education needs to take into account information, perspectives, and philosophies from numerous knowledgeable sources. The results of this T&I education articulation study can be used in conjunction with other knowledgeable input from professional agencies, data regarding student needs, and analysis of constraints to delineate the curricular content of technology education. Although this study examined only the perceptions of secondary T&I instructors, its findings should provide one aspect in the larger scheme of technology education curriculum development.

Technology education cannot be isolated from educational reform; it must develop linkages with vocational education programs, as well as math and science. The findings from this research indicate that T&I instructors perceive certain technology education competencies as more important than others to their vocational programs. Technology education curriculum developers should consider the perspectives of T&I instructors, as indicated by the findings of this research, as they develop technology education curricular content.


Rogers is Assistant Professor and Head of the Program of Industrial Education, Teachers College--Department of Vocational and Adult Education, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.


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Reference Citation: Rogers, G. E. (1995). Technology education curricular content: A trade and industrial education perspective . Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 32 (3), 59-74.