Critical Problems Facing Technology Education:
Perceptions of Indiana Teachers
Edward J. Lazaros
Ball State University
George E. Rogers
In 1993 Wicklein conducted a study to determine both the present and the future critical issues and problems facing the technology education (TE) profession. Wicklein (1993) stated, "If the classroom teachers, teacher educators and the supervisors/ administrators of technology education hope to direct the profession into a desirable future they must understand the issues and problems that will influence the success or failure of technology education" (pp. 55-56). At that time, following its name change from industrial arts in 1985, TE stood in its formative years. As with the implementation of any revised system, there were problems and concerns with the new TE discipline (Linnell, 1992).
The Wicklein study questioned 25 panelists from 15 states and the District of Columbia to ascertain the issues and problems facing TE. The panel consisted of seven secondary classroom teachers, nine teacher educators, and nine secondary and collegiate supervisors and administrators. Wicklein used a four-round Delphi process to determine and prioritize the critical issues and problems in TE.
The 15 future problems identified by Wicklein in the 1993 study are listed, in order of priority, in Table 1. In accordance with Wicklein's panelists' predictions, many of these problems are those that face TE educators today.
|1||Insufficient quantities of TE teachers and the elimination of teacher education programs in TE|
|2||Loss of TE identity; TE absorbed within other disciplines|
|3||Poor and/or inadequate public relations for TE|
|4||Non-unified curriculum for TE|
|5||Ignorance among general populace regarding technology and discipline of TE|
|6||Inadequate involvement of TE personnel in education reform issues|
|7||Elimination of TE programs|
|8||Reduction of enrollment in TE courses due to high school graduation requirements|
|9||Insufficient funding of TE programs|
|10||Inadequate business and industry support for TE|
|11||Inadequate research base for TE|
|12||Inadequate knowledge base for TE|
|13||Inadequate leadership and leadership training for TE|
|14||Inferior in-service training for TE|
|15||Inappropriate certification procedures for TE|
However, in the Wicklein study, only seven of the panelists were classroom teachers. The present study investigates the severity of these problems in schools today as perceived by current Indiana high school and middle school TE teachers.
This study sought to answer the following two research questions:
- What is the current level of severity of the 15 future problems identified by Wicklein (1993) as perceived by Indiana TE teachers?
- Do Indiana TE teachers' perceptions of the 15 future problems (Wicklein, 1993) differ based on the Indiana teachers' demographic characteristics?
Design of the Study
The current study used a blended research methodology that combined both quantitative and qualitative data analyses. Brewer and Hunter (1989) reported, "The multi-method approach is a strategy for overcoming each method's weaknesses and limitations by deliberately combining different types of methods within the same investigations" (p. 11). The quantitative and qualitative methodologies used in the current study enabled the researchers to investigate various dimensions of the study subjects' responses.
The quantitative data for this study were collected using a descriptive survey. According to McMillan and Schumacher (1997), "Surveys are used frequently in educational research to describe attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and other types of information" (p. 38). Since the current study sought to determine if the perceived severity of the future problems in TE cited in Wicklein's (1993) report is related to demographic variables, this methodology was deemed appropriate. The researchers obtained the qualitative data by allowing the respondents an opportunity to provide free-responses and to list current problems not specifically identified on the survey instrument.
Population and Sample
The researchers acquired a list of 1,043 TE teachers from the Indiana Department of Education. A simple random sample of 747 of these teachers served as the sample for this study. Each teacher in the sample was mailed a cover letter, the survey instrument, and a postage-paid return envelope. A total of 267 surveys were returned, which represented a return rate of 35.7%.
According to Gall and Borg (1996), "The purpose of a survey is to use questionnaires or interviews to collect data from participants in a sample about their characteristics, experiences, and opinions in order to generalize the findings to a population that the sample is intended to represent" (p. 289). In the present study, the first section of the survey instrument collected each participant's demographic data, which included gender, highest degree earned, grade level taught, number of years of teaching experience, school community type, and his or her age.
In the second section of the survey, the TE teachers were provided a list of the 15 future problems identified by Wicklein (1993) and asked to rate each problem's severity using a four-point Likert-type scale. The Likert-type scale was based upon a similar instrument used by VanderJagt, Shen, and Hsieh (2001) in a study that examined elementary and secondary public school principals' perceptions of school problems. The four-point Likert-type scale values were 1 = not a problem, 2 = minor problem, 3 = moderate problem, and 4 = serious problem. To obtain qualitative data, the instrument provided an opportunity for the teachers to submit free-response comments concerning the TE field.
Of the 267 survey respondents, 258 were male (96.6%) and nine were female (3.4%). The majority of the TE teachers who responded to the survey had earned a master's degree (76.8%), were over 40 years of age (77.9%), taught in a high school setting (55.4%), and taught in a rural or town environment (66.3%). Table 2 summarizes the respondents' demographic data.
Research question one sought to determine the TE teachers' overall perceptions of the level of severity of each of the 15 future problems identified by Wicklein (1993). To address this question, means and standard deviations of the teachers' ratings of the severity of each problem listed in the survey were computed. Since the Likert-type scale values ranged from 1 (not a problem) to 4 (a serious problem), problems perceived as most serious are those with mean scores closest to 4 (see Table 3).
Overall, of the 15 problems, the TE teachers rated the impact of high school graduation requirements on the enrollment in TE courses as the most serious problem ( M= 3.12, SD = 0.98). The problem of the general public's lack of understanding of TE received the second highest mean score ( M = 3.02, SD = 0.86). Although the problem of insufficient funding for TE programs received the third highest mean score ( M = 3.00, SD = 1.00), its mean score value of 3.00 indicated that respondents saw it overall as a "moderate," rather a "serious," problem for the TE field.
n = 267
|Highest degree earned:|
|Years of age:|
|Less than 30||23||(8.6%)|
|Years teaching experience:|
|High school 9-12||148||(55.4%)|
|Middle school 6-9||71||(26.6%)|
|Middle/high school 7-12||45||(16.9%)|
* Some responses contained missing data.
Research question two focused on the differences among the TE teachers’ perceptions of the severity of Wicklein’s cited problems based on the teachers’ demographic characteristics. To answer this question, the data were analyzed using one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) to compare item response means among demographic groups. For each ANOVA, the categorical variable was the level of respondents’ demographic characteristic, and the dependent variable was the respondents’ mean score on each survey item. All significant ANOVAs were followed by a Tukey’s post-hoc test to determine which demographic group(s) differed significantly from the others. All ANOVAs and post-hoc tests used the .05 level of significance. For demographic items with only two categories, independent sample t-tests were used to
assess whether the means of the two groups differed statistically from each other. All t-tests used the .05 level of significance. The separate variance t-test and the Welch test were used to control type-one error. When only two groups were being compared, the separate variance t-test was selected when the Levene’s test reported that unequal group variances were present. If more than two groups were being compared, the Welch test was selected as a substitute for the F-test when conditions of heterogeneous variance were detected by Levene’s test. The Welch test is considered robust with regard to violations of unequal variances (Welch, 1938). The type-one error rate was maintained at the .05 level for each statistical test.
Comparisons by Highest Degree Earned
Table 4 contrasts the mean ratings for the 15 cited problems calculated for the group of teachers whose highest degree was a bachelor’s degree compared to the mean ratings calculated for teachers with masters’ degrees. In comparing the two groups, the greatest difference in the means occurred for the survey item that concerned the problem of a non-unified TE curriculum. The independent samples i-test revealed that TE teachers with masters’ degrees perceived the problem of a non-unified TE curriculum as more severe ( M = 2.56) than did the teachers with bachelors’ degrees ( M = 2.04) ( t = 3.45, df = 97, p = .001). Teachers with masters’ degrees also rated the elimination of TE programs as a more severe problem ( M = 3.00) than did the teachers whose highest degree was a bachelor’s degree ( M = 2.69) ( t = 2.12, df = 254, p = .035). The impact on enrollment in TE courses due to new graduation requirements was also ranked as a more severe problem by teachers with masters’ degrees ( M = 3.18) than by those with bachelors’ degrees ( M = 2.88) ( t = 2.07, df = 254, p = .040).
Comparisons by Grade Level Taught
The survey data were also analyzed to determine if the respondents’ perceptions of the severity of the 15 future problems identified by Wicklein (1993) differed depending on the grade levels that the teachers taught. Respondents were grouped into three categories: high school teachers (grades 9-12); middle school
|t-test for Equality of Means|
|4||Non-unified curriculum for TE||3.45||97||0.001||0.52||0.16|
|7||Elimination of TE programs||2.12||254||0.035||0.31||0.15|
|8||Reduction of enrollment in TE
courses due to high school
teachers (grades 6-9); and teachers who taught grades 7-12, spanning both high school and middle school. The results of the findings are tabulated in Table 6. Table 7 shows the significant findings of the one-way ANOVAs.
Teachers in all three types of schools rated the impact of new graduation requirements as first or second in terms of severity. However, the means for the problem pertaining to the lack of unity in the TE curriculum showed statistically significant differences among the three categories of teachers. ( F(2,260) = 5.69, p = .004). Post hoc comparisons (see Table 8) revealed that TE teachers who taught in high schools perceived the non-unified curriculum as a more severe problem ( M= 2.62) than did those who taught in middle schools ( M= 2.20). The high school teachers also rated the problem of a lack of a unified curriculum as more severe than did the teachers who taught grades 7-12 ( M= 2.13).
When grouped by grade level taught, differences also appeared in the teachers perceptions of the problem of inadequate leadership and leadership training for TE ( F(2,249) = 6.15, p = .002). Post hoc comparisons found that TE teachers who taught in high schools perceived the problem of leadership and leadership
training as more severe ( M = 2.65) than either middle school teachers ( M = 2.28) or teachers who taught grades 7-12 ( M = 2.14). Another area in which differences between the three groups arose was in their perceptions of the severity of the problem of inappropriate certification procedures for TE. ( F(2,246) = 5.47, p = .005). Analyses by post hoc comparisons showed that high school TE teachers perceived inappropriate certification procedures as a more severe problem ( M = 2.26) than did teachers who taught in middle school ( M = 1.86) and also more severe than did those teachers who taught in grades 7-12 ( M = 1.81).
Comparisons by Years of Teaching Experience
A respondent’s number of years of teaching experience also appeared to affect his or her perceptions of the severity of several of the 15 cited problems. Table 9 shows the teachers’ ratings when grouped by the teachers’ years of teaching experience. The significant findings of the one-way ANOVAs are summarized in Table 10.
When grouped by number of years of teaching experience, the respondents showed differences in their perceptions of the severity of the problem concerning the lack of unity in the TE curriculum. ( F(6,258) = 3.50, p = .002). Post hoc comparisons (see Table 11) verified that TE teachers who had taught in the range of 16-20 years perceived this problem as more severe ( M = 2.88) than did those who had taught 0-4 years ( M = 1.90). Those who had taught 31-35 years also rated the problem of a non-unified curriculum statistically significantly higher in terms of severity ( M = 2.72), than teachers who had taught 0-4 years ( M = 1.90).
The severity of the problem of an inadequate research base for TE also differed in the teachers’ perceptions when compared by years of teaching experience ( F(6,258) = 2.63, p = .017). When grouped by number of years of teaching experience, post hoc comparisons found that TE teachers who had taught in the range of 31-35 years perceived the lack of an adequate research base as a more severe problem ( M = 2.51) than did those who had taught 11- 15 years ( M = 1.81).
|0-4 Years||5-10 Years|
|11-15 Years||16-20 Years|
|21-25 Years||26-30 Years||31-35 Years|
Comparisons by Instructor’s Age
Respondents were also grouped according to their ages to determine if the age of the instructor affected his or her perception of the severity of the 15 cited problems. Table 12 shows a summary of the respondents’ ratings when analyzed by the instructors’ age groups. The significant findings of the one-way ANOVAs are summarized in Table 13. The data showed that the instructor’s age had a bearing on his or her perception of the severity of the problem concerning the reduction of enrollment in TE courses due to high school graduation requirements ( F(4,248) = 2.86, p = .024). No pair wise differences were found in the post hoc analysis.
However, post hoc comparisons, summarized in Table 14, confirmed that an instructor’s age had a bearing on his or her perception of the severity of the problem of a lack of an adequate research base for TE ( F(4,253) = 3.78, p = .005). TE teachers who were 61 years old or older perceived the inadequate research base for TE as a more severe problem ( M = 3.06) than did either the group of teachers aged 31-40 years ( M = 1.93) or the group aged 41-50 years ( M = 2.12).
The instructor’s age also related to his or her perception of the severity of the problem of inadequate leadership and leadership training for TE. ( F(4,243) = 2.92, p = .022). Again, the older TE teachers (aged 61 or older) perceived the lack of leadership and leadership training as a more severe problem for TE ( M = 3.00) than did TE teachers in the 41-50 year age bracket. ( M = 2.22).
Comparisons by Community Type
The type of community—urban, suburban, town, or rural—in which a teacher taught was also examined to see if community setting related to a TE teacher’s perceptions of the severity of Wicklein’s future problems. Urban schools were defined as those located in a city or densely populated area. Suburban schools were considered as those located in residential districts on the outskirts of cities. A school located in an urban area with a fixed boundary smaller than a city was defined as a town school. A rural school was defined as a school located in a sparsely settled or agricultural area. The rankings for the severity of the problems as calculated when teachers were grouped by their school community types is noted in Table 15. The significant findings of the one-way ANOVAs are summarized in Table 16.
Table 12 continued
The analysis of the data revealed differences occurred in the teachers’ perceptions of the severity of the problem of poor and/or inadequate public relations for TE depending on the type of community in which their school was located. ( F(3,262) = 5.41, p = .001). TE teachers who taught in schools located in towns perceived poor and/or inadequate public relations for TE as a more severe problem ( M = 3.13) than did those who taught in rural schools ( M = 2.56). Post hoc comparisons summarized in Table 17 confirmed the statistical significance of these differences.
The teachers’ perception of the severity of the problem of a non-unified TE curriculum also differed depending on the type of school community in which the teacher taught. ( F(3,262) = 3.05, p = .029). Post hoc comparisons revealed that TE teachers who taught in urban schools felt the lack of a unified curriculum was a more severe problem ( M = 2.90) than did those who taught in rural schools ( M = 2.32).
The problem of inappropriate certification procedures for TE also showed differences in rankings when respondents were grouped by community type. ( F(3,248) = 2.80, p = .041). Post hoc comparisons showed that TE teachers who taught in urban schools perceived inappropriate certification procedures as a more severe problem ( M = 2.33) than those who taught in suburban schools ( M = 1.74).
While all four groups rated insufficient funding for TE programs as a minor to moderate problem, the severity ratings for this problem also showed differences related to community type ( F(3,259) = 5.53, p = .001). Post hoc comparisons found that TE teachers who taught in rural schools ranked the problem of