Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

Current Editor: Chris Merrill,
Previous Editors: Mark Sanders 1989-1997; James LaPorte: 1997-2010

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Volume 2, Number 2
Spring 1991

              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 work.
                             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.
                                    TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
                             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
                        were to:
                        1.  provide information on worker character-
                            istics in industrial participative man-
                            agement to be used in planning,
                            organizing, and developing technology ed-
                            ucation programs;
                        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
                            for participation.
                             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 analysis.
                             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
                        management concept.
                             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
                        question four.
                             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
                        five years.
                             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
                        communication skills.
                             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.
                        TABLE 1
                         1. Brainstorming                 14. Group Process
                         2. Problem Solving Skills        15. ls Goal Setting
                         3. Identifying and Selecting     16. Implementing Change
                            Problem Causes
                         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
                             Presenting Data
                         9. Perception and Listening      22. Leadership Ability
                        10. Verbal Communication          23. Desire/Commitment
                        11. Identifying and Analyzing     24. Consensus Decision
                            Problems                          Making
                        12. Gathering Information         25. Negotiation (Strive fo
                        13. Displaying/Organizing and
                            Analyzing Information
                             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
                        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
                        professional journals.
                             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-
                        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-
                        man resources.
                        James Smallwood is Assistant Professor, De-
                        partment of Industrial Education and Technol-
                        ogy, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY.
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                           TIVE ON IMPLEMENTATION.  Reston, VA:  Au-
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                        Ball, G. H.  (1982).  CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLV-
                           ING IN QUALITY CIRCLES.  Redwood City, CA:
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                        Dillon, L. S.  (1984, November).  Japanese
                           productivity:  What can America learn?
                           THE TECHNOLOGY TEACHER, 44, 24-25.
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                        Little, J. B.  (1986).  The implications of
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                           education curriculum development in
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                        Lloyd, R. F., & Rehg, V. R.  (1983).  QUALITY
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                        McKendrick, J.  (1983, April).  Participation
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              Journal of Technology Education   Volume 2, Number 2       Spring 1991