Looking Beyond Exemplary Programs: A Response to Hill, Wicklein, and Daugherty
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
A cursory review of articles published in four of the major journals in the field of technology education (i.e., Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, Journal of Technology Education, Journal of Technology Studies, and The Technology Teacher) over the past five years revealed only nine empirical research articles that addressed educators' perceptions of technology education (Chinien, Oaks, & Boutin, 1995; Daugherty & Wicklein, 1993; Draghi, 1993; Dyrenfurth, Custer, Loepp, Barnes, Iley, & Boyt, 1993; Hill, Wicklein, & Daugherty, 1996; Oaks, 1991; Rogers & Mahler, 1994; Wicklein, 1993; Wright, 1991). Among those nine articles, five included a nation-wide discussion of the status of technology education in the United States (Daugherty & Wicklein, 1993; Hill et al., 1996; Oaks, 1991; Wicklein, 1993; Wright, 1991). Four out of these five research articles, except for the recent large-scale work of Hill et al. (1996), reported that technology education has an image problem-technology as an evolutionary discipline is neither appreciated nor understood by outsiders. Hill and his colleagues reached a totally different conclusion; they found that perceptions of school administrators (including counselors and principals) toward technology education were very similar to those of technology education teachers; and for some issues, school administrators even demonstrated more positive attitudes than technology education teachers. Although the Hill et al. study is important to the field, additional research is needed to assess the current status of the field. This paper expresses concern about the Hill et al. study and recommends a direction for future research that may be conducted to facilitate the presentation of a more accurate image of technology education to the field and the general public.
Literature reviewed by Hill and his colleagues (1996) included two major themes: (1) What was the status of technology education as perceived by educators both inside and outside the profession during the late 80s and the early 90s? and, (2) What progress has been made in the field since the early 90s to support the profession? They contend that, during the early stages of transformation of technology education from industrial arts, technology education was "not understood or fully appreciated by those outside the profession, especially among administrators and other key school personnel"(p. 8). Changes in technology education programs have, in recent years, begun to influence public perception prompting Hill and his colleagues (1996) to conclude that what professionals in the field have commonly perceived as problematic might no longer be true.
In their study, Hill et al. used the Characteristics of Technology Education Survey (CTES) instrument to survey participants' perceptions of technology education. Participants in the study were purposively selected from two pre-identified groups: "(a) exemplary technology education teachers and (b) the principals and counselors of the schools where the exemplary teachers teach technology education"(p. 9). The reported findings indicate "considerable agreement"(p. 18) in the perceptions of technology education among technology education teachers, principals, and school counselors.
Indeed, the findings of this study appear promising and suggest that the field may be making progress in its efforts to present a progressive and positive image to two important educational constituencies. However, as Hill and his colleagues themselves noted later in their discussion, their encouraging findings might have something to do with the "exemplary nature"of their subjects (p. 18). The problem is that since they did not establish this research boundary when they were reviewing literature as the basis for developing their research questions, it is inappropriate to attempt to generalize their findings based on exemplary cases to apply to more general and common perceptions (which was the focus of their literature review). Professionals in the field must exercise caution in interpreting the findings of this study.
There are many issues that empirical research can and should address to support the field of technology education. By using exemplary cases, researchers can show practitioners within the field what can be done to improve practice, to more effectively promote programs, and to build self-esteem. Future research focused similar to this study could identify and summarize features of exemplary programs and thus provide valuable information for future directions. These studies could be designed to address the question, What makes an exemplary program exemplary? More specifically, the field needs information to answer questions like:
- Who plays the role of program initiator in exemplary programs (i.e., technology education teachers, educational policy makers, community members, or the private sector)? What has been the role of each of these initiators?
- What are the personal traits of the initiator? What are the salient characteristics of the technology education program itself? How do these interact and influence the development of exemplary programs?
- Who is enrolled in these successful programs? To what extent do students' profiles impact on these successful programs? To what extent, and in what ways, do graduates of these programs continue to influence these programs?
- What are the innovative efforts and techniques that have contributed to the success of exemplary technology education programs?
Such a list of questions could be extended and would elicit an abundance of useful information on how to develop and promote successful technology education programs. This type of research using exemplary cases as subjects could be used to develop a generalized model or a set of synthesized principles that could guide technology education professionals into the future.
A study with random sampling and a nation-wide scope would be required to obtain information reflecting a more accurate view of the current image of technology education. Sadly, scarce research resources make such large-scale research difficult. Although state department involvement in the implementation of technology education varies widely from state to state, state supervisors would appear to be one of the most feasible groups to be consulted regarding the current status of technology education in each state. One possible weakness of this approach could be that state supervisors could tend to be more aware of what is happening in their exemplary programs rather than having a more comprehensive (and accurate) overview of their states' practices. Research-oriented universities with technology teacher education programs could start by conducting local state assessment projects to offer other professionals in the field a picture of how technology education is doing in that state. Findings from that same research could also provide vital up-to-date data for universities to use in adjusting (or even substantially restructuring) their preservice technology teacher education programs.
Again, this study represents a good start in assessing the image of technology education. It is encouraging to know that policymakers in exemplary schools appreciate the field of technology education. This is important and useful information. However, researchers of technology education must seek to provide a more accurate picture of the field in general. The results will almost certainly be less positive than those based on exemplary programs; but, without the entire picture, how can professionals in the field of technology education know what else needs to be done to further advance and interpret technology education to decision makers and other key constituencies?
Chinien, C. A., Oaks, M. M., & Boutin, F. (1995). A national census on technology education in Canada. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 32(2), 76-92.
Daugherty, M. K., & Wicklein, R. C. (1993). Mathematics, science, and technology teachers' perceptions of technology education. Journal of Technology Education, 4(2), 30-45.
Dyrenfurth, M. J., Custer, F. L., Loepp, F. L., Barnes, J. L., Iley, J. L., & Boyt, D. (1993). A model for assessing the extent of transition to technology education. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 31(1), 57-83.
Hill, R. B., Wicklein, R. C., & Daugherty, M. K. (1996). Technology education in transition: Perceptions of technology education teachers administrators, and guidance counselors. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 33(3), 6-22.
Wright, M. D. (1991). Retaining teachers in technology education: Probable causes, possible solutions. Journal of Technology Education, 3(1), 55-69.
Reference Citation: Chung, Shih-Ping (1996). Looking beyond exemplary programs: A response to Hill, Wicklein, and Daugherty. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34(1), 83-87.