Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

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

As an open access journal, the JTE does not charge fees for authors to publish or readers to access.

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Volume 4, Number 1
Fall 1992

               A Comparison of Principles of Technology and High School Physics Student
               Student Achievement Using a Principles of Technology Achievement Test
                         John Dugger and David Johnson
                              Society has traditionally taken the position that
                         education is a primary means of achieving national goals.
                         Unfortunately, we have never collectively agreed upon "what
                         kind" of education is needed--general or vocational.  The
                         present K-12 public educational system in the United States
                         is comprised of general and vocational education tracts.
                              Historically, one of the goals of vocational education
                         has been to provide entry-level job skills.  In contrast,
                         general education, as the title implies, has attempted to
                         equip students for living or for further education.  In
                         preparing students to enter the workforce, vocational
                         education can provide an opportunity to obtain hands-on
                         experiences with many of the theoretical concepts presented
                         within the general education classes.  Many secondary
                         education students, however, never take vocational courses
                         because they do not view them as relevant to college
                         preparation (Meier, 1991).  Conversely, many vocational
                         education students are not taught the theoretical
                         mathematics and science concepts that are needed to cope
                         with a rapidly changing society.
                              Vocational education has been considered a separate
                         discipline within the broad context of education and has
                         been in continuous competition with general education for
                         students and resources.  Vocational education has been
                         concerned with providing people with gainful employment
                         after graduation.  A "Blue Collar" affiliation is
                         considered undesirable by those students wanting to attend
                         college or obtain further education.  The unfortunate
                         outcome is that the average high school graduate is
                         "nonfunctional" in our modern society (Cummins, 1989).
                              If education is designed to help the individual attain
                         self-fulfillment in a technologically complex,
                         work-oriented society, then education must be a synthesis
                         of both general and vocational education.  Anything less
                         jeopardizes the individual's opportunity for
                              A knowledge of how to integrate mathematics and
                         science into technology is a necessity in today's society
                         and those individuals who cannot function at that level
                         will effectively be disenfranchised from participating
                         fully in our national life.  In fact, those citizens not
                         educated in science will be unable to make informed
                         decisions regarding such issues as nuclear energy,
                         radiation, and pollution (The National Commission on
                         Excellence in Education, 1983).
                              Many Iowa high school vocational education programs
                         provide minimal exposure to anything beyond basic
                         principles of mathematics and science.  Consequently,
                         students choosing the vocational rather than general
                         education track run the risk of not obtaining an adequate
                         mathematics and science background. They will be incapable
                         of comprehending the technologically complex society of the
                         1990s and beyond.  This common occurrence might be avoided
                         by establishing a stronger relationship between general and
                         vocational education programs at the high school level.
                              Newly approved federal legislation has been designed
                         to improve existing vocational programs by strengthening
                         the linkage with general education in the areas of
                         mathematics and science.  The Carl D. Perkins Acts of 1984
                         provided considerable emphasis on the importance of
                         mathematics and science principles within vocational
                         education programs, and was seen as a positive step toward
                         better academic relationships between vocational and
                         general education programs.  The newly approved Carl D.
                         Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of
                         1990 became law on September 25, 1990.  In signing this
                         law, President George Bush authorized $1.6 billion in
                         federal funds to improve:
                              ...educational programs leading to academic and
                         occupational skills competencies needed to work in a
                         technologically advanced society (Section 2).
                              The Perkins Act of 1990 holds considerable opportunity
                         for both vocational and general education in building and
                         reinforcing what Erekson and Herschbach (1991) refer to as
                         "strategic partnerships."  These collaborative efforts can
                         be instrumental in providing educational programs which
                         integrate vocational and general education concepts, making
                         them relevant in today's technological society.
                              One promising development designed to infuse general
                         education mathematics and science concepts into the high
                         school vocational education curriculum is entitled
                         Principles of Technology (PT).  This program was developed
                         by the Center for Occupational Research and Development
                         (CORD) in Waco, Texas in the mid 1980s to supplement
                         vocational offerings in secondary programs.
                              The PT program is a two-year, high school course in
                         applied physics, made up of fourteen units, each
                         investigating an important principle.  The content for each
                         module is specified in Figure 1.  Each of the individual
                         fourteen concept modules is studied within the context of
                         electrical, mechanical, fluid and thermal energy systems.
                         FIRST YEAR CONCEPTS
                                    Force Transformation
                         SECOND YEAR CONCEPTS
                                    Waves and vibration
                                    Energy conversions
                                    Optical systems
                                    Time constraints
                         FIGURE 1.  Principles of Technology Concepts
                              The physics concepts are taught within a laboratory
                         setting, which allows students to obtain both theory and
                         hands-on application of each principle.  The students
                         enrolled in the PT program are from the vocational
                         education track and not typically enrolled in physics
                         courses.  For the most part, PT courses in Iowa are taught
                         by industrial technology teachers.  In Iowa, industrial
                         technology education is included under the vocational
                         umbrella.  The primary benefit of the PT curriculum is the
                         emphasis on application skills using mathematics and
                         science concepts.
                         PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
                              Since the State of Iowa had invested heavily in the
                         Principles of Technology program through vocational
                         education, it was important to complete a summative
                         evaluation of this program.  The amount of achievement
                         gained by students based on exposure to the first year
                         Principles of Technology program was of interest to the
                         State of Iowa and program developers.  Since the program
                         was designed to cover basic physics concepts, it was also
                         important to compare the gain with any gain that was due to
                         exposure to a basic high school physics class.
                         Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to compare
                         student achievement regarding certain basic physics
                         concepts between students who had completed first year
                         Principles of Technology and students who had completed
                         high school Physics.
                         METHOD OF STUDY
                              The methodology employed in this study included
                         population and sampling procedures, instrument development
                         procedures, data collection, and data analysis.  A pre-test
                         post-test control design was utilized with two treatment
                         groups.  The following figure depicts this design.
                         Principles of Technology       T1  X1   T2
                         Physics                        T1  X2   T2
                         Control                        T1       T2
                         T1 = Pre-
                         T2 = Post-
                         X1 = PT Treatment
                         X2 = Physics Treatment
                         FIGURE 2. Research Design Model
                         POPULATION AND SAMPLE
                              The population for this study was all secondary
                         vocational programs in Iowa where Principles of Technology
                         was offered.  With more than 50 sites of implementation,
                         Iowa was a good location for the study.  The sites were at
                         various stages of implementation. Sixteen sites had offered
                         the program for two years or more.  In order to obtain a
                         better estimate of the effectiveness of the program, only
                         sites that had offered the program for at least two years
                         were utilized.  Therefore, the sample included these 16
                         Iowa sites.
                              Of these sites, 14 programs were being taught by
                         industrial technology education teachers who had
                         participated in one two-week workshop to prepare for
                         teaching the Principles of Technology.  The remaining two
                         sites were taught by certified Iowa high school physics
                         teachers.  During the data collection for the first year
                         programs, one program taught by an industrial technology
                         education teacher failed to complete the study.  Therefore,
                         the sample for this study consisted of 15 Iowa high schools
                         where Principles of Technology and physics were taught as a
                         part of the regular curriculum.
                         INSTRUMENT DEVELOPMENT
                              The procedure involved the generation of a test item
                         bank covering all objectives for the first seven units or
                         the first year of Principles of Technology.  Conversations
                         with many people involved with the course suggested that
                         during the first year only six units could be covered
                         rather than seven. Therefore, the questions on the
                         instrument were limited to only those first six units. The
                         item bank was generated by participants and project staff
                         at Iowa State University during the summer Principles of
                         Technology workshops.  Multiple items for each objective
                         were generated.  These items were then examined by the
                         project staff and modified to improve clarity and assure
                         good testing procedure.  Five secondary physics teachers
                         and one community college physics instructor were hired to
                         revise items as necessary to standardize terminology that
                         may differ in Principles of Technology materials and Iowa
                         high school physics materials.  It was determined that a
                         number of terms differed and where differences existed,
                         both the Principles of Technology term and the term found
                         in typical physics textbooks or materials were used.
                              These items were then formed into 40 question unit
                         tests and administered at the 15 sites.  An analysis of the
                         six unit test yielded degree of difficulty scores for each
                         item and the degree to which each item correlated with the
                         total unit score.  This information was utilized in the
                         selection of items to be included in the overall first year
                         Principles of Technology instrument.  This instrument
                         consisted of 120 questions and covered each of the six
                         DATA COLLECTION
                              The data collection phase involved two steps.  The
                         first step was the administration of the pre-test, a form
                         of the 120 question instrument developed in the previous
                         phase. The second step was the administration of a
                         post-test at the end of the academic year at each of the 15
                              The two treatment groups included students enrolled in
                         a Principles of Technology first year class and students
                         enrolled in a high school physics class at each of the 15
                         sites.  The control group consisted of students who were
                         enrolled in neither the Principles of Technology nor
                         physics, but had a similar male-female ratio and similar
                         achievement on the Iowa Test of Educational Development
                         (I.T.E.D.) as the students enrolled in the Principles of
                         Technology class.
                              The pre-test data were collected during the first two
                         weeks of September.  The post-test data were collected
                         during the first two weeks of May.  The relatively early
                         post-test data collection was necessary since many seniors
                         complete their coursework during this time.
                         DATA ANALYSIS
                              The data analysis procedures included both an item
                         analysis of the pre-test and post-test results along with a
                         one-way analysis of variance of the treatments and control
                         groups.  The results of these analyses are reported in the
                         next section.
                              The focus of this section is on the achievement
                         measures for both the pre-tests and post-tests for all
                         three groups.  Pretest and post-test scores are listed for
                         all groups in Tables 1 and 2.
                         TABLE 1
                         AND CONTROL GROUPS
                                    Pretest     Post-test      T
                                    Mean   N    Mean    N
                                    (SD)        (SD)
                         PT        47.80 257   80.14  139    20.0*
                                   (11.30)     (17.16)
                         Physics   55.07 275   65.77  136     9.3*
                                   (12.07)     (16.33)
                         Control   37.78 135   36.45   83     0.942
                                   (8.62)      (10.94)
                         *P<.01 a="" achievement="" addressing="" administration.="" also="" although="" an="" and="" appears="" appropriate="" are="" as="" assumes="" at="" attrition="" available="" based="" basic="" be="" beginning="" better="" between="" by="" calls="" can="" caution="" certified="" claim="" class="" compared="" completed="" concepts="" conclude="" consider="" considered="" consistent="" content="" course="" covered.="" covering="" decrease="" defined="" designed="" discovered="" displayed="" districts="" does="" drawing="" drawn="" during="" each="" electrical="" employed="" end="" entirely="" excellent="" exercise="" exposure="" factor.="" fall="" first="" fluid="" follow-up="" for="" from="" gain="" gains="" great="" group="" group.="" groups="" have="" high="" higher="" how="" however:="" if="" implications="" in="" increase="" increasing="" indicated="" inferences="" initially="" intended="" iowa="" is="" it="" job="" level="" levels="" listed="" listed.="" majority="" many="" may="" mean="" methodologies="" most="" must="" name="Meier" nearly="" necessary="" never="" non-intuitive.="" normal="" not="" number="" numbers.="" objectives="" objectives.="" of="" offering="" on="" one="" or="" organizing="" other="" outcome="" percentiles.="" perform="" physics="" post-test="" post-test.="" pre-="" pre-test="" principles="" principles.="" prior="" program="" program.="" programs="" pt="" questions="" range="" reasonable="" reduced="" references="" regarding="" release="" remain="" repetition="" replace="" responsible="" results="" school="" schools="" science="" scored="" scores="" semester.="" seniors="" seriously="" several="" should="" significance="" significant="" significantly="" since="" sites="" six="" standardized="" structured="" student="" students="" students.="" subjects="" subsystems="" suggests="" taking="" taught="" teachers="" technology="" test="" tests="" than="" that="" the="" their="" then="" thermal="" these="" this="" three="" to="" two="" unit.="" units="" units.="" up="" used="" useful="" very="" was="" weeks="" were="" when="" who="" wide="" will="" with="" year="">Meier, R. L.  (1991).  Participation in secondary
                             vocational education and its relationship to college
                             enrollment and major. Journal of Industrial Teacher
                             Education, 28(2), 47-60.
                         Cummins, A. J.  (1989).  Let the revolution begin.
                             Industrial Education, 78(9), 4.
                         The National Commission on Excellence in Education.
                             (1983).  A nation at risk: The imperative for
                             educational reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Government
                             Printing Office.
                         Erekson, T. L., & Herschbach, D.  (1991).  Perkins act of
                             1990 has key provisions for technology education.
                             School Shop, 50(8), 16-18.
                         John Dugger is Associate Professor and Chair and David
                         Johnson is Assistant Professor in the Department of
                         Industrial Education and Technology at Iowa State
                         University, Ames, IA.
                       Permission is given to copy any
                         article or graphic provided credit is given and
                         the copies are not intended for sale.
               Journal of Technology Education   Volume 4, Number 1       Fall 1992