“capability” dimension, doing includes a range of activities and abilities, including hands-on tool skills and, most significantly, design skills. The ITEA Standards for Technological Literacy suggests that K–12 students should understand the attributes of design and be able to demonstrate design skills. Using an iterative design process (see Figure 3-1) to identify and solve problems provides insights into how technology is created that cannot be gained any other way.1 The problem-solving nature of design, with its cognitive processes of analysis, comparison, interpretation, evaluation, and synthesis, also encourages higher order thinking.

Assessing technology-related capability is difficult, however. For one thing, little is known about the psychomotor processes involved. In addition, the cost of developing and administering assessments that involve students in design activities tends to be prohibitive, at least for large-scale assessments, because of the time and personnel required. However, the committee believes there are some promising approaches to measuring design and problem-solving skills that avoid some of these time and resource constraints. (These approaches are discussed in detail in Chapter 7.)

Many attempts have been made to develop standardized instruments for capturing design behavior in educational settings. Custer, Valesey, and Burke (2001) created the Student Individualized Performance Inventory (SIPI), which tests four dimensions: clarification of the problem and design; development of a plan; creation of a model/prototype; and evaluation of the design solution. A student’s performance in each dimension is rated as expert, proficient, competent, beginner, or novice. SIPI has been used several times for research purposes (Rodney Custer, Illinois State University, personal communication, May 5, 2005).

Problem solving in a technological context is the focus of the American College Testing (ACT) WorkKeys applied technology assessment, which is intended to help employers compare an individual’s workplace skills with the skills required for certain technology-intensive jobs. The 32 multiple-choice test items present real-world problems ranging in difficulty from simple to highly complex. Sample items on the ACT website (http://www.act.org/workkeys/assess/tech/) require test takers to


A similar argument has been made about the role of inquiry in science. Content standards for K–12 science education (AAAS, 1993; NRC, 1999), for example, stress the importance of students doing “inquiry-based” science projects, in large part because such activities are thought to convey the techniques and thinking processes of real scientists.

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