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 3, Number 1
Fall 1991

              The Development and Validation of a Test of Industrial Technological Literacy 
                                      Michael A. Hayden
                             It is often stated that technology af-
                        fects every person on this planet, is growing
                        exponentially, and is becoming increasingly
                        complicated.  With technology being such a
                        force in our lives, it seems logical that we
                        should be knowledgeable about it.  This know-
                        ledge of technology has been labeled--
                        technological literacy (TL).  Several reports
                        on education have addressed the TL issue and
                        have all called for an increase in the level
                        of TL exhibited by our students.  Maley
                        (1985) noted that, "in 1984 alone, ten major
                        studies of education were reported...each one
                        calling for changes in school to prepare our
                        students to live in a technological society"
                        (p. 16).  Since 1984 an increasing amount of
                        research concerning TL has been conducted.
                             A large number of educators and special-
                        ists in several disciplines are concerned
                        about the level of TL displayed by the Ameri-
                        can public.  They voice an opinion similar to
                        Ley (1987), namely, "the level of technolog-
                        ical literacy to which educators and others
                        are able to bring the general population will
                        determine the future world in which humankind
                        will exist" (p. 7).
                             A set of very pertinent questions has
                        recently been on the minds of many concerned
                        leaders.  These questions include:
                        1.  As a public, how technologically literate
                            are we?
                        2.  How do we become technologically liter-
                            ate, or become more so?
                             To answer these questions we must first
                        answer such questions as:
                        1.  What is technological literacy?
                        2.  Does it really exist, i.e., is it worthy
                            of study by itself or is it part of some-
                            thing else?
                        3.  Assuming TL exits, can we measure it with
                             If TL is a viable concept and can be
                        measured reliably, then studies can be con-
                        ducted to determine the most advantageous ed-
                        ucational environment for the attainment of
                        such a characteristic.  A test of TL with
                        sufficient validity could be used to identify
                        and diagnose those students in need of
                        greater technological knowledge, as well as
                        evaluate the effectiveness of programs teach-
                        ing the construct.
                        PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
                             The purpose of the study was to investi-
                        gate the validity of the construct of TL.
                        The definition of TL will not be expounded
                        upon here since it has been exhaustively cov-
                        ered by this and many other authors (see
                        Hayden, 1989b).  In this study the following
                        definition of technological literacy was
                        used:  technological literacy is having the
                        knowledge and ability to select, properly ap-
                        ply, then monitor and evaluate appropriate
                        technology given the context.
                             Following are general questions the
                        study investigated.
                        1.  Does the empirical model (an instrument
                            measuring TL) exhibit satisfactory
                            psychometric properties?
                        2.  Does the empirical model exhibit multiple
                        3.  How do the possible correlates (independ-
                            ent variables) of general achievement,
                            grade level, gender, parental contact
                            with technology, and prior industrial
                            course exposure affect TL?
                             For the purpose of this study, technol-
                        ogy was defined as:  the process by which hu-
                        mans utilize available resources to extend
                        their potential or alter their environment
                        (Hayden, 1989b).  Based on this definition it
                        was theorized that technology is a learned
                        phenomenon.  Hence, being literate about
                        technology should also be a learned phenome-
                        non.  Technological literacy is not skill in
                        directly applying specific technology, i.e.,
                        technical literacy.  Technological literacy
                        for the purpose of this research was viewed
                        as general knowledge, abilities and behaviors
                        concerning technology.  Furthermore, techno-
                        logical literacy was not viewed as being re-
                        stricted to general skills in applying
                        technology, i.e. technological operacy.
                        Therefore, TL was assumed to be more closely
                        related to achievement than aptitude.
                             Being related to general achievement, a
                        TL instrument should perform psychometrically
                        similar to other measures of general achieve-
                        ment.  If TL is in part related to achieve-
                        ment, a person's standing on the attribute
                        should increase with age due to developmental
                        factors.  Also, a person's score on a TL in-
                        strument should increase with additional
                        learning and exposure related to the attri-
                        bute.  Additional exposure could come from
                        several sources, e.g., parental/student
                        interaction, school curriculum and hobbies.
                        RESEARCH QUESTIONS
                             To investigate the questions of the
                        study, 29 hypotheses were tested, the major-
                        ity of which related to eight dependent vari-
                        ables (total test and three subtests for male
                        and female).  A synopsis of the research
                        questions follow.
                        1.  Is the instrument unidimensional?
                        2.  To what extent do the independent vari-
                            ables account for unique variance in in-
                            strument score.
                        3.  Can the independent variables be used to
                            predict scores on the instrument?
                        4.  Does the instrument behave
                            psychometrically in a similar fashion to
                            other measures of general achievement?
                        5.  Does the score on the instrument have a
                            linear relationship with grade level?
                        6.  Do males and females score differently?
                        7.  Is there any interaction between gender
                            and grade level on the instrument score?
                             The instrument was developed from a rig-
                        orous test plan which included a detailed ra-
                        tionale and definition of the domain
                        including limitations, delimitations, the
                        target population, uses and constraints of
                        the test.  A blueprint was created that de-
                        tailed the format and scoring procedures.
                        The test plan also included generation of
                        items and revising algorithms and adminis-
                        tration instructions.
                             Clearly, technological literacy is a
                        broad term.  Many authorities maintain that
                        it encompasses operacy, i.e, what we can do
                        with the technology, in addition to typical
                        literacy concepts.  Many (see Fleming, 1989)
                        see technological literacy as a type of
                        empowerment enabling us to do a very broad
                        range of things.  Additionally, general lit-
                        eracy concerning technology would cover all
                        technology, e. g., agricultural, medical mil-
                        itary, etc.  Lastly, literacy about technol-
                        ogy would encompass affective, cognitive and
                        psychomotor domains.
                             The time and monetary limitations placed
                        on this project necessitated a tightly fo-
                        cused test blueprint.  The following delimi-
                        tations and their accompanying rationale were
                        used to focus the instrument.
                        1.  Focus on the industrial strata because it
                            was assumed that if industrial technolog-
                            ical literacy was a valid concept then
                            the more encompassing concept of TL was
                            also valid; this strata was the research-
                            er's area of expertise; prior research
                            had most clearly explained this strata;
                            and it was perceived that an instrument
                            focused on industrial technology would
                            have the most future utility for use in
                            industrial programs.
                        2.  Maintain a primary focus on the cognitive
                            domain because it readily lends itself to
                            item writing, test administration, scor-
                            ing and data analysis techniques which
                            are relatively unambiguous and can be
                            used with a large number of items and
                            subjects in a timely fashion.
                        3.  Delimit the content of the items to gen-
                            eral principles of technology or recent
                            technological innovations/impacts because
                            it was assumed that if an individual un-
                            derstood and was literate about these
                            then they would know or could easily
                            learn about other time periods.
                        The instrument was titled "Industrial Techno-
                        logical Knowledge" (ITK).  Trained item writ-
                        ers developed and refined the items in the
                        instrument.  The writers were all faculty or
                        doctoral students of the Industrial Education
                        and Technology or Research and Evaluation De-
                        partments at Iowa State University.  The mean
                        number of years of industrial/consulting and
                        teaching experience of the writers was nine
                        and four years respectively.  The items
                        underwent several iterations of qualitative
                        and statistical selection and revision.
                        There were several item tryouts in addition
                        to a pilot study.
                             Parental contact with technology was
                        measured dichotomously for father and mother.
                        Students responded to the question, "Does
                        your parent through work, major home respon-
                        sibilities or hobbies work with tools and/or
                             Industrial course exposure was measured
                        by recording the number of semesters of
                        industrial/technical/vocational (I/T/V)
                        courses taken.  This included the current se-
                             General achievement was measured by the
                        students' Iowa Test of Educational Develop-
                        ment (ITED) subscores of Natural Science
                        (NS), Quantitative (Q), Reading Total (RT)
                        and Social Science (SS).
                        DATA ANALYSIS
                             Exhaustive analyses were conducted.
                        Only the results will be summarized in this
                        paper.  For most analyses, cases with missing
                        data were deleted case-wise, i.e., only sub-
                        jects for whom complete information on the
                        independent variables was obtained were used
                        in the analyses.  All correlational and t-
                        tests were two-tailed and performed at the
                        .05 level.  Several post hoc analyses were
                        conducted.  Many of these were outside of the
                        realm of the study and were of small sample
                        size.  However, they play a significant role
                        in interpretation of the results and recomm-
                        endations for future inquiry.
                             Primary analysis procedures included
                        factor analysis to determine the dimensional-
                        ity of the instrument and correlational,
                        analysis of variance and regression proce-
                        dures to investigate variance and predict-
                        ability questions.  The instrument's
                        characteristics were compared with other in-
                        struments measuring general achievement to
                        assess its psychometric properties.  Visual
                        inspection of plotted cell means and variable
                        correlations were also used to assess statis-
                        tical procedure assumptions such as linear
                             Descriptive statistics of the sample,
                        the ITK scores, and the individual item char-
                        acteristics were generated by a variety of
                        techniques including one parameter logistic
                        scaling, analysis of variance, and
                        correlational methods.
                        POPULATION AND SAMPLE
                             The population of this study was high
                        school students in the state of Iowa.  The
                        sample was comprised of volunteering school
                        buildings.  Within the schools, intact
                        classes were targeted for participation in
                        the study.  The classes selected were as het-
                        erogeneous as possible.  Most classes se-
                        lected were required courses.  Approximately
                        25% of the subjects were from each of the
                        grade levels 9 - 12.  Within grade levels,
                        males and females were represented approxi-
                        mately equally.  Virtually all students had
                        some I/T/V course exposure.  Industrial Tech-
                        nological Knowledge test scores were col-
                        lected from 826 subjects.
                                  INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS
                             Only those results most significant to
                        interpretation and recommendations will be
                        discussed.  For detailed hypotheses and re-
                        sults of all statistical tests see the ori-
                        ginal study (Hayden, 1989a).
                        PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES
                             INSTRUMENT STATISTICS.  The internal
                        consistency reliability of the total test was
                        .83.  The internal consistency of the ITED
                        subtests range from .86 to .96 (The Univer-
                        sity of Iowa, 1987).  Application of the
                        Spearman-Brown formula indicated that if the
                        ITK instrument were the same length as the
                        ITED composite instrument, the ITK's esti-
                        mated reliability would be .975.
                             The average interitem correlation of the
                        ITK was rather low, being only .10.  Average
                        item/total correlations were also small, be-
                        ing .28.  It is possible that these corre-
                        lations could be increased by revising the
                        items and increasing sample size.  If the av-
                        erage interitem correlation could be in-
                        creased to .15 (the average interitem
                        correlation of subtest #3), the reliability
                        estimate for the 45 item instrument would be
                        .89, uncorrected.
                             There was no floor or ceiling effect on
                        the ITK instrument.  The distribution of
                        scores was nearly normal with an average item
                        mean of .5.  This allowed for maximum vari-
                        ance.  However, due to the potential for
                        guessing, a slightly easier test would have
                        given more information about test takers.
                             The 2.94 standard error of measurement
                        of the ITK instrument is proportionately
                        large compared to the ITED composite.  The
                        standard error of measurement for the 361
                        item ITED composite is approximately 1.2.  It
                        is possible that further item revision could
                        decrease the ITK's standard error of measure-
                        ment.  Table 1 summarizes the instrument's
                        psychometric properties.
                        TABLE 1
                                                           Total test
                        Number of items                        45
                        Cronbach's alpha a                    .83
                        Minimum score                          2
                        Maximum score                          44
                        Mean                                 22.23
                        Median                                 23
                        Mode                                   24
                        Standard deviation                    7.12
                        Standard error of measurement         2.94
                        Average item/total score correlation  .28
                        Skewness of distribution             -0.13
                        Kurtosis of distribution             -0.55
                        Average inter-item correlation        .10
                        Average item mean                     .50
                        a Calculated using uncorrected point-biserial
                             The data collected from the main phase
                        of this study is equivalent to the main field
                        testing phase of a research and development
                        project.  It is the view of this researcher
                        that the ITK instrument exhibits satisfactory
                        psychometric properties to be worthy of re-
                        vision and advancement to the operational
                        field testing stage of development.
                             ITEM STATISTICS.  Among items and be-
                        tween gender there was much fluctuation of
                        item means.  Females do better on some items,
                        while males do better on others.  These fluc-
                        tuations are much more pronounced for items
                        which are more difficult.  Females tended to
                        perform better on items requiring reading
                        comprehension.  There was no consistent pat-
                        tern of item means between males and females
                        except that males scored higher on most
                             DIMENSIONALITY.  Three factors or sub-
                        tests were extracted from the ITK instrument.
                        Factor #1 primarily contained items pertain-
                        ing to the human adaptive systems.  The two
                        highest loading items on this factor and
                        their loadings were:
                        #18   Why can computers lead to greater pro-
                              ductivity in industry?  REDUCTION OF
                              HUMAN ERROR, REDUCTION OF COST, GREATER
                              SPEED, AND INCREASED ACCURACY.  Loading
                              of .81.
                        #29   The average worker has to be retrained
                              because NEW METHODS OF DOING THINGS
                              HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED.  Loading of .80.
                             Factor #2 primarily contained items per-
                        taining to the application of other disci-
                        plines (most notably math and science) to the
                        solution of technological problems.  The two
                        highest loading items on this factor and
                        their loadings were:
                        #15   One of the most promising uses of
                              microbes is for CLEANING THE ENVIRON-
                              MENT.  Loading of .69.
                        #31   Cooking in a microwave oven is done by
                              EXCITING THE ATOMS IN THE FOOD.  Load-
                              ing of .64.
                             Factor #3 primarily contained items
                        dealing with the interpretation of written
                        and graphical material having a technological
                        theme.  The two highest loading items on this
                        factor and their loadings were:
                        #37   Technology can best be defined as PEO-
                              PLE USING TOOLS, RESOURCES, AND PROC-
                              ESSES TO SOLVE PROBLEMS OR EXTEND THEIR
                              CAPABILITIES.  .76.
                        #45   Consider this situation.  The design,
                              manufacturing, marketing, and manage-
                              ment of product XX was performed by
                              hundreds of individuals.  After using
                              product XX, many consumers were in-
                              jured.  In a latter court case, injured
                              person John Doe testified that he
                              thought product XX was unsafe even be-
                              fore he used it.  Several employees
                              that helped make and sell the product
                              also testified that they had always
                              thought XX was dangerous.  The Judge
                              asked the injured person why he went
                              ahead and used the product.  He also
                              asked the employees why they went ahead
                              and made and sold the product even
                              though they thought it was unsafe.  The
                              situation presented above could be ac-
                              counted for because INDIVIDUALS, WHEN
                              GIVEN DIRECTIONS BY PEOPLE IN AUTHOR-
                              ITY, OFTEN DO THINGS WITHOUT THINKING
                              ABOUT THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES.  Loading
                              of .66.
                        PREDICTING SCORES
                             It was found that the score on the ITK
                        instrument could be predicted.  Table 2 shows
                        the regression equations for males and fe-
                        males.  Table 3 further summarizes the pre-
                        diction findings.
                        TABLE 2
                        FOR PREDICTION OF ITK TOTAL SCORE
                        ***(Available as a graphic only)***
                        TABLE 3
                                                    Total    #1     #2     #3
                        Grade                        M,F     F             F
                        Gender                       x a     x      x      x
                        Father                       M              M      M
                        Father/mother combined       M                     M
                        Indust./tech./vocat. course  F              F
                        Q                            F              F
                        SS                                          F
                        NS                           M,F     M,F    M      M,F
                        RT                           M       M
                        Q, SS, NS and RT combined    M,F     M,F    M,F    M,F
                        a Gender does not make a significant contrib-
                        ution to ITK prediction when used in conjunc-
                        tion with the other independent variables.
                        However, gender affects the statistical re-
                        sult of almost every hypothesis tested.
                        Notes: M - indicates significant predictor for
                               F - indicates significant predictor for
                        CONSTRUCT VALIDITY EVIDENCE
                             GRADE LEVEL EFFECTS.  This author theo-
                        rized that grade level, being closely related
                        to cognitive development, should correlate
                        positively with the construct.  Grade level
                        accounted for unique variance in ITK total
                        score for males but not females.  However,
                        for either gender there is no evidence that
                        score on the ITK instrument has a positive
                        relationship with grade level for high school
                             A post hoc analysis was conducted to in-
                        vestigate grade level effects.  By interview
                        and observation, the amount of elapsed time
                        since taking a course that fit the definition
                        of Technology Education (TE) was ascertained.
                        The following was discovered.  It is required
                        of virtually every student (male and female)
                        in Iowa to take 1 or 2 semesters of technol-
                        ogy type education in grades 7 or 8. These
                        courses most closely fit the definition of
                        TE.  They are general in nature, do not focus
                        on skill development and stress the impacts
                        of technology.  It was found that the more
                        recent the student had taken a TE course the
                        higher their score.  This was after factoring
                        out the effect of the other variables.
                             GENDER EFFECTS.  Only for subscore #2
                        did gender account for unique variance in
                        score.  It was hypothesized that males would
                        receive higher ITK total scores because of
                        stereotypical male roles in society.  While
                        mean scores for males and females were not
                        significantly different on the ITK total
                        test, gender did play a significant role in
                        testing hypotheses.  Males and females per-
                        formed very differently on most items.  The
                        total variance accounted for in ITK total
                        score by the other independent variables was
                        roughly two-thirds for females of what it was
                        for males.  For males the independent vari-
                        ables explain 52% of the variance in ITK
                        total score; for females the figure is 35%.
                             For both sexes, but especially for fe-
                        males, there is much unexplained variance at-
                        tributable to sources other than the
                        variables investigated.  The source of the
                        unexplained variance could be attributable to
                        various factors.  However, from talking to
                        students and observing instruction, it seems
                        tenable that the student's level of literacy
                        about industrial technology is related to
                        specific course content learned and what the
                        student reads, watches on television, etc.
                        Other possible sources of variance include
                        hobbies, part-time jobs, and
                        interest/aptitude areas.
                             PARENTAL EFFECTS.  It was hypothesized
                        that parental contact with tools or machines
                        should correlate positively with the con-
                        struct.  For males, father contact with tools
                        or machines as perceived by the subject cor-
                        relates positively with ITK total score.  The
                        unique variance accounted for in ITK score by
                        this variable was attributable to subtest #1.
                        The two highest loading items in subtest #1
                        concern working in industry.  For females,
                        father contact with tools or machines played
                        no part in ITK score.  Mother contact with
                        tools or machines played no part in ITK score
                        for males or females.
                             COURSE EXPOSURE EFFECTS.  Central to
                        this writer's theory of TL and especially the
                        industrial strata is that exposure to I/T/V
                        courses should increase a person's level of
                        the attribute.  For males this was not found
                        to be the case.  However, for females such a
                        positive relationship was exhibited.  Two
                        findings clarify this gender difference.
                        First, the mean number of I/T/V courses taken
                        by males was over three times that of fe-
                        males.  Second, after one or two semesters of
                        more general I/T/V courses (which are closest
                        in content to the intended curriculum of TE)
                        the additional courses taken are often more
                        of a craft or vocational nature (which often
                        deviate significantly from the intended con-
                        tent of TE).  An examination of the plot be-
                        tween the semesters of I/T/V courses taken by
                        males and their ITK score reveals a
                        curvilinear relationship.  When the ITK score
                        is recoded into the categories of 0, 1, 2,
                        and 3 or more semesters, the correlation is
                        significantly positive.  Based on course ex-
                        posure effects, it is concluded that there is
                        substantial support for the existence of in-
                        dustrial TL.
                             ITED SUBSCORE EFFECTS.  The proposed
                        theory of TL states that the construct is a
                        partial subset of general achievement.  It
                        was hypothesized that TL or more narrowly the
                        industrial strata should intercorrelate and
                        behave psychometrically in a similar manner
                        to other subsets of general achievement.  In
                        this research project the other measures of
                        general achievement were ITED subscores.  The
                        ITK instrument was found to intercorrelate in
                        a similar fashion with ITED subtest intercor-
                        relations.  However, the ITK should not cor-
                        relate too highly with other subsets of
                        achievement if it is to be worthy of being
                        partitioned from the encompassing set of at-
                        tributes.  Correcting for attenuation, the
                        shared variance between ITK score and ITED
                        subscores ranges from 36% to 56%.  These per-
                        centages are large enough to infer a meaning-
                        ful relationship between the latent trait
                        being measured by the ITK and that being
                        measured by the ITED.  However, the shared
                        variance is not so large as to negate the ITK
                        instrument as an additional means of measur-
                        ing general achievement.  It is concluded
                        that the ITK measures a part of general
                        achievement, only part of which is also meas-
                        ured by ITED subscores.
                             The results of the research give support
                        for the existence of the construct of indus-
                        trial technological literacy; and by extrapo-
                        lation, technological literacy.  Results also
                        indicate that TL can be measured reliably.
                        It is concluded that TL is a subset of the
                        general achievement domain but is worthy of
                        separate consideration.  Table 4 summarizes
                        the author's interpretation of the construct
                        validity evidence.
                        TABLE 4
                                                 Total  #1   #2   #3
                        Grade                     0,2a   0    0    0
                        Gender                      1b   0    0    0
                        Father                      2    2    0    0
                        Mother                      0    0    0    0
                        Indus./tech./vocat. courses 2    1    2    1
                        Q                           1    0    0    0
                        SS                          1    0    0    0
                        NS                          2    2    0    2
                        RT                          1    0    0    0
                        a Substantial evidence when courses are recoded
                        as to their TE content.
                        b Gender has less of an affect when courses are
                        recoded as to their TE content.
                        Notes: 0 = little or no construct validity sup-
                               1 = partial construct validity support.
                               2 = substantial construct validity sup-
                             Based on responses to items in the in-
                        strument it is this researcher's conclusion
                        that there is widespread misunderstanding of
                        technology on the part of many high school
                        students.  Based on observation, interviews,
                        and the post hoc analyses it is this re-
                        searcher's conclusion that the most appropri-
                        ate content and pedagogy to increase TL would
                        be those of TE.
                             Based on the results and the insights
                        gained from conducting this research the fol-
                        lowing additional research projects are re-
                        1.  Revision and operational field testing of
                            the ITK instrument.  The benefits of this
                            would be improvement of psychometric
                            properties and gathering additional va-
                            lidity evidence.
                        2.  Replication of this research for cross
                            validation purposes.
                        3.  Investigation of strata other than indus-
                            trial, e.g., agricultural, biomedical,
                        4.  Development of alternate forms of the ITK
                            instrument so that alternate forms reli-
                            ability can be calculated.
                        5.  Development of other means of measuring
                            TL and subsequent multi-method multi-
                            trait studies.
                        6.  Research aimed at investigating what type
                            of content and/or methodology contributes
                            to and/or increases TL most efficiently.
                            There is much corroborating research
                            (Baker, 1989; Croft, 1990; Hameed, 1988;
                            Hatch, 1985) which defines and gives evi-
                            dence for the validity and utility of
                            measuring TL.  This author believes this
                            recommendation to be most important.  It
                            seems logical that before we try to in-
                            crease a student's TL we first know the
                            best way or ways to do so.
                        Michael A. Hayden is Assistant Professor, De-
                        partment of Technology and Education,
                        Mississippi State University, Mississippi
                        State, MS.
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              Journal of Technology Education   Volume 3, Number 1       Fall 1991