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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 I. Overview This is the first report of the National Research Council’s (NRC) Standards Review Committee (SRC), whose charge it is to review and make recommendations on the content standards for technology education being developed by the International Technology Education Association (ITEA). The standards describe what students in K– 12 should know and be able to do related to technology. This report gives a brief history of the ITEA standards project, describes the NRC committee review process, summarizes the committee’s review of draft 3 of the standards, and provides detailed observations, conclusions, and recommendations related to draft 4, the most recent version. The committee would like to note the seriousness of purpose and integrity that staff at ITEA and the Technology for All Americans Project (TfAAP) exhibited during the time the NRC has been involved in the standards project. On many occasions, ITEA and TfAAP were asked to consider substantive changes in the organization or content of the standards. Despite the sometimes daunting task of addressing the committee’s concerns, staff at both organizations expressed a continual willingness to take whatever steps were necessary to produce the best possible final document. The committee commends ITEA and TfAAP for their optimism and commitment to the vision of technological literacy. II. History of the Standards The Technology for All Americans Project (TfAAP) was formed by ITEA to provide a formal structure for the study of technology across the country. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the project’s purpose is to promote technological literacy in grades K–12. Public release of the standards document is slated to take place in early April 2000 at ITEA’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Following publication of the content standards, ITEA proposes to develop program, professional development, and assessment standards. Phase I of the project, from October 1994 to September 1996, resulted in the publication Technology for All Americans: A Rationale and Structure for the Study of Technology. This document defined the need for standards for the study of technology and showed how such content may be delivered by technology education programs. Originally, Phase II was to run from October 1996 to March 1999, when the standards were to be publicly released. During the first two years of Phase II, the standards underwent three revisions. Altogether, more than 4,000 people reviewed the document and provided comment through a variety of means, including mail-in review, online review, and input at field hearings around the United States. Among those involved in the Phase II review were the six members of the National Academy of Engineering Technology Education Standards Committee. (The committee roster appears at Appendix A.) The NAE committee, established prior to and independent of the current NRC committee review, provided
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 input to ITEA on the first three drafts of the standards and plans to review the final draft of the standards on behalf of the Academy. In large measure because of the seriousness of the concerns about Draft 3 raised by key review groups and individual reviewers, ITEA and the TfAAP concluded that the standards required additional revision. To that end, ITEA and TfAAP enlisted the expertise of the NRC Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education (CSMEE), which has a track record of developing educational standards in K–12 science and mathematics. ITEA asked for and was awarded supplemental funding from NSF in March 1999 to carry out the additional review. III. The NRC Committee Review Process A. Framework Development Committee Prior to the NRC committee review of the standards, NRC and ITEA agreed it would be useful to take a careful look at the overall organization of Draft 3 of the standards document. To this end and with the agreement of ITEA, on February 3, 1999, NRC convened a Framework Development Committee (FDC). The six-member committee included individuals serving on the NAE standards review group as well as technology education professionals involved in the drafting of the ITEA standards. (The framework committee roster appears at Appendix B.) Based on input received at this meeting, TfAAP refined the framework for the standards and, on February 24, sent this modified organizational scheme to the FDC for comment. All FDC members responded to the proposed framework, and in some cases, proposed modifications to it. TfAAP further refined the framework through additional interactions with the committee. The final version of the framework was presented for discussion at the first meeting of the NRC SRC on May 21–22, 1999. (The framework appears at Appendix C.) B. SRC Review of Framework Document The NRC Standards Review Committee met for the first time on May 21–22 in Washington, D.C. At the meeting, the committee reviewed the proposed standards framework, paying particular attention to the appropriateness of the standards within each of the five overarching categories. In addition to committee and staff, TfAAP and ITEA representatives attended the meeting. C. SRC Review of Draft 4 of the Standards The SRC met for the second time August 24–25, also in Washington, D.C., to review Draft 4 of the standards. To aid its own assessment, the committee solicited comments on the standards from 13 “technical reviewers.” (A list of reviewer names and affiliations appears at Appendix D.) Several reviewers (Toye, Hoepfl, Welty, Sanders, Liao)
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 attended the meeting in person, and three (Cheek, Montgomery, Stein) participated by telephone. Also attending as consultants were three of the four individuals previously removed from the committee (Custer, Loepp, Warner). (These three did not participate in the closed session, during which the committee’s recommendations were formulated.) All four of the former committee members supplied written comments on selected chapters of Draft 4. In total, the committee received written comments on Draft 4 of the standards from 17 individuals. (Copies of all 17 comments are supplied at Appendix E.) The committee’s recommendations on Draft 4 of the standards are part of this report and were transmitted to ITEA and TfAAP when the NRC report review process was completed. D. SRC Review of Draft 5 of the Standards The expected final meeting of the SRC is scheduled for November 15, 1999, in Washington, D.C. At this meeting, the committee will compare the changes recommended in its report with the actual content of Draft 5. The committee will then compose a letter report that describes the standards review process and presents the committee’s assessment of the degree to which TfAAP responded to the committee’s recommendations. IV. Results of SRC Review of the Framework and Draft 3 The SRC’s May meeting focused on the proposed framework for the standards and the appropriateness of the standards themselves. Staff at TfAAP also reviewed for the committee the range of concerns raised by a variety of reviewers about Draft 3. With respect to the proposed framework, the committee approved of the five chapter categories as being suitable major organizers for the standards. With respect to the standards, the committee reviewed each one and made suggestions for clarifying the language in a number of them. According to information presented by TfAAP, the major concerns about Draft 3 fell into five broad areas and reflect input from a variety of sources, including the NAE Technology Standards Review Committee, TfAAP’s own outside advisory panel, and many individuals. The five areas of concern relate to the standard’s organizers and framework, writing style, articulation across the K–12 spectrum, expressed differences between technology and technology education, and format. (A summary of the committee’s May 21–22 discussion appears at Appendix F.) In the committee’s view, TfAAP’s response to the suggestions made by the committee at the May meeting, as well as its response to the comments provided by other review groups and individuals—as reflected in Draft 4—was highly positive. The improvements
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 introduced in Draft 4 are substantial and greatly improve the odds that the standards will be a useful tool for encouraging technological literacy in grades K–12. The notable improvements include the adoption of a new organizational framework, the considerable refinement of the language of the individual standards, greater attention to articulation among the grade bands, and marked improvement in the document’s readability throughout. TfAAP and ITEA are to be commended for the seriousness with which they undertook the task of revising Draft 3 of the standards. The committee notes that TfAAP chose not to follow the committee’s advice regarding the need to substantially reduce the number of benchmarks. This issue is revisited in the committee’s recommendations for revising Draft 4. (See V, below.) V. Results of the SRC Review of Draft 4 of the Standards Despite the great strides made between Draft 3 and Draft 4, the SRC believes there are a number of aspects of the standards that would benefit from additional improvement. The extent to which TfAAP and ITEA have made these improvements in Draft 5 will strongly influence the nature of the committee’s final assessment of the standards. Based on its review of Draft 4, the committee makes 13 recommendations in 6 broad areas. No prioritization is implied by the ordering of the recommendations. The committee hopes (and expects) that TfAAP will address all of its recommendations with equal vigor, or provide a reasonable explanation why it chooses not to do so. A majority of the committee’s recommendations draw on and are in large measure consistent with the comments received from the 13 technical reviewers. Recommendations 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8 reflect the committee’s own judgments and concerns and are a product of committee discussion, in open and closed session, at each of its two meetings. The comments from the technical reviewers and an electronic file containing the transcript of the discussion from the public portions of the August meeting were given to TfAAP at the August meeting and in early September 1999, respectively. Finally, the committee notes that in the afternoon of August 25, it made a series of chapter-specific suggestions. The committee strongly encourages TfAAP to review those suggestions with an eye toward making changes consistent with the thrust of the broader recommendations spelled out below. A. Benchmarks The committee believes that benchmarks play a vital role in educational standards such as those being developed by TfAAP. Benchmarks provide necessary elaboration of the standards, which by design are somewhat general. In this sense, they serve to describe and “unpack” the standards. This unpacking is essential if the intended audiences for the standards, particularly curriculum and textbook developers, are to effectively “translate” the standards into meaningful materials for teachers and students.
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 The committee has three specific concerns with the benchmarks in Draft 4. First, in comparison with the modest (and appropriate) number of standards (21), the current number of benchmarks (over 600) is excessive. The committee believes the strength of the standards is significantly diluted by having so many benchmarks. Some of the benchmarks seem not to provide any useful elaboration of the standards, others are repetitive, still others are elaborations more related to teaching than to the concepts to be understood. Recommendation #1: Significantly reduce the number of benchmarks through elimination or combination. In working to achieve this reduction, consider the notion of “ramping” the benchmarks from lower to upper grades. Ramping implies that the amount and complexity of knowledge specified in the benchmarks increases in a developmentally appropriate way from the lower to higher grades. With ramping, learning goals specified in benchmarks for the lower grades apply also to the higher grades but do not need to be restated. Also, consider the following questions for determining the need for a benchmark: Is it fundamental to achieving the standard’s learning goals? Is it nonrepetitive of other benchmarks? Does it convey the correct amount of conceptual information? Is it articulated with the benchmarks in the grades below and above? Is it intended to develop general technological literacy (as opposed to technical proficiency)? Second, although less true in Draft 4 than in Draft 3, some of the benchmarks remain developmentally inappropriate. In nearly all such cases, the problem is that the benchmarks aim too high, in terms of students’ expected cognitive abilities. Examples of inappropriately targeted benchmarks include “Everyone uses technology” (Standard 4, Grades K–2), “Assess previously ignored solutions, perhaps with modifications, as possible choices” (Standard 11, Grades 9–12), and “Evaluate trends and monitor potential consequences of technological development” (Standard 13, Grades 6–8). This mismatch between the outcomes specified by the benchmarks and student ability may lead to inappropriately targeted curricula and instructional materials. Recommendation #2: Make sure the benchmarks (and the corresponding standard) are appropriate to cognitive abilities of the intended grade-level age group. Third, the standards document provides no clear rationale for the benchmarks, particularly as they relate to current thinking about how people learn. The committee is concerned that without such an explanation, readers of the document will not perceive the importance and central purpose of the benchmarks, or will choose to focus on certain benchmarks while ignoring others. In the committee’s view, the effectiveness of the standards depends on all the benchmarks associated with each standard being treated as essential to the goal of achieving technological literacy.
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 Recommendation #3: Add to the standards document a statement that provides a clear rationale for the benchmarks. The statement should emphasize the need to treat the benchmarks as required elements of the standards, should note and explain that the benchmarks are “ramped,” and should draw on the findings of the report How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (NRC, 1999) or similar publications. Such a statement might most appropriately be placed in Chapter 2. B. Tone While what the document contains and purports to advocate—standards intended to encourage technological literacy in grades K–12—is at the very heart of TfAAP’s work, the tone with which this message is delivered is far from incidental in importance. Achieving the proper tone will be vital to the credibility of the standards document and how it is received by the intended audiences. In the committee’s view, the current tone of the document will discourage some readers from taking the substance of the standards seriously. The committee has four specific concerns related to tone in Draft 4. First, particularly in Chapter 1, the document conveys a sense of special pleading for the profession of technology education or exaggerates the importance of the study of technology in the educational landscape. An example of the former problem is Draft 4’s assertion that “in the middle and high schools…licensed technology education teachers should be entirely responsible for technology education.” (p. 6). An example of the latter is the description (also on p. 6) of technology education as “The Great Integrator.” Recommendation #4: Delete or reword all passages in the document that have a self-serving or defensive tone. Consider infusing some of the language about collaboration between technology education and other disciplines (see Chapter 8, Call to Action) into the rest of the document. Second, in several places (e.g., Chapter 6’s discussion of tools), the standards betray an editorial bias toward males. This bias may reflect the industrial-arts roots of the technology education profession. Nevertheless, for the standards to be successful, the interests and perspectives of girls as well as boys must be represented in the document. Recommendation #5: Eliminate from the standards, benchmarks, and accompanying text in each chapter language that could be interpreted to limit or discourage the involvement of girls in the study of technology. Third, in a number of places, Draft 4 presents a negative bias toward certain technologies. This bias is most evident in examples used to illustrate how technological literacy might affect public decision-making. Examples related to nuclear power, electro-magnetic fields, genetic engineering, and DDT are notable in this regard. The committee is not suggesting that the standards should present only the beneficial aspects of technology.
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 On the contrary, the committee views the standards’ exploration of the impact of technology to be entirely appropriate. However, the committee feels strongly that the standards should not treat technology as inherently bad or good (i.e., personify it). Recommendation #6: Avoid personifying technology. Instead, emphasize the role that human decisions play in determining the effects of technology and that all technologies have positive and negative, as well as intended and unintended, consequences. Fourth, in order for the standards to have an impact on what happens in the classroom, many groups will need to be convinced of the relevance of the standards to their own interests. It is likely that some groups may not initially perceive a direct stake in the standards. The wording of Draft 4, particularly Chapter 8, gives the impression (through the use of words like “must” and “should”) that it is the responsibility of these groups to adopt or promote the standards. The committee believes, however, that it is ITEA that has primary responsibility for convincing stakeholder groups that it is in their self-interest to advocate for the standards. Recommendation #7: Revise the document, particularly Chapter 8 (Call to Action), to emphasize that primary responsibility for encouraging the adoption of the standards rests with ITEA. Provide a clear description of short- and long-term plans intended to achieve that goal. C. Consistency In order for the standards document to be understood and used effectively, there must be consistency among standards and benchmarks. The committee notes that Chapter 2 of the document appropriately points out that the standards are not a curriculum (p. 11). A central difference between content standards and curriculum is that the former tells what children should know (an outcome), while the latter refers to the structure, balance, and presentation of the content in the classroom. The phrasing in some standards and benchmarks in Draft 4 (e.g., “Students realize that…”) still suggests the more behaviorally oriented nature of curriculum. This lack of consistency about the main purpose of content standards is confusing and may inhibit successful adoption of the standards. Recommendation #8: The wording of the document should consistently enforce the distinction between the “knowing” aspect of content standards and behavioral objectives, with every effort made to eliminate the latter in the standards and benchmarks. D. Connections The issue of connections plays out in three distinct ways in the standards document.
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 First, there are some sections of the standards document whose conceptual content logically should be closely linked to other parts of the document but is not. This is particularly an issue with Chapter 3 and 7, and Chapter 5 and 6. This failure to emphasize connections may reinforce the incorrect impression that the artificial divisions among related aspects of the study of technology, created by TfAAP to organize the document’s content, reflect the nature of technology in the real world Recommendation #9: The “principles” of technology identified in Chapter 3 should be reflected clearly in the specific technologies described in Chapter 7, and the relationship between design (including engineering design) as a “knowing” standard in Chapter 5 and its portrayal as a “doing” standard in Chapter 6 should be strengthened. Second, while the claim of technology as “the great integrator” is overblown, there is validity to the idea that technology can effectively be taught by drawing connections between it and other academic subject areas. However, with the exception of Standard 3 (“Relationships Among Technologies and Other Fields”), this idea is not adequately developed in the document. Even within Standard 3, many of the elaborations provided by the benchmarks represent behavioral objectives rather than descriptions of what students should know about the “connections” idea. Recommendation #10: Throughout the standards document and especially in Standard 3, the notion of connections between technology and other fields of study, including but not limited to science, math, music, social studies, and history, should be elaborated and improved. TfAAP should consider greater use of specific examples to illustrate these connections. Third, the document is sprinkled with numerous vignettes, which according to Chapter 2 (Overview) are intended to “[g]ive ideas or examples of how standards can be implemented in the laboratory or classroom.” However, the committee finds that many vignettes relate only indirectly to the standards, and some appear not to be connected at all to the content they purport to illustrate. Further, it is not clear whether the vignettes are fictional, factual, or some mixture of fiction and fact. This uncertainty may not only affect the way the standards are read, but also how they are applied in the classroom. The latter issue, in particular, concerns the committee. By their nature, and especially for teachers with little or no knowledge of the particular content area, vignettes can be read too literally or narrowly. Recommendation #11: The vignettes should be carefully reviewed for appropriateness. That is, only those that are likely to increase the understanding or use of the document should be retained.
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 E. Coherence The standards document takes readers from a set of fundamental principles of technology and a treatment of the relationship between technology and society to a discussion of the centrality of design, the need for students to have certain technological skills, and finally to a representative sampling of specific technologies and what should be known about them. While other organizational schemes could be imagined, this one provides an effective framework for showing the relevance and importance of the study of technology. How well this case is made depends on the coherence of Chapter 1 with the essays that introduce each subsequent chapter, standard, and grade-level band. Ideally, this narrative should tell a continuous “story,” moving from the very general to the more specific. Someone reading only these passages (and not the standards or benchmarks) should get a very rich sense of what the document is about. The committee believes that the story told by these narrative passages is not as coherent as it should be. Recommendation #12: The narratives within and across chapters of the document should be carefully reviewed with an eye toward crafting a coherent story of technology as an important and interesting academic content area. F. Purpose From their inception, the ITEA standards have been presented as content for the study of technology. This aim relates very directly to the goals and interests of the technology education profession. The committee is sympathetic to the profession’s need to establish, through the standards, a firmer foothold in the U.S. educational landscape. However, it has become clear through the various interactions of the committee with ITEA, TfAAP, and individual technology educators that the central purpose of the standards is to enhance technological literacy. The committee strongly endorses this broader purpose. Recommendation #13: The title of the standards document and supporting text (especially in Chapter 2) should be changed to reflect a focus on technological literacy rather than merely technology education. VI. Concluding Remarks The need for increased technological literacy in the United States is significant, if largely unappreciated. Much current discussion of the topic focuses on the use of computers and the Internet in the classroom. While this is an undeniably important aspect of technological literacy, the broader view outlined by ITEA in the standards document is more compelling and, in the committee’s view, more correct. Without a firmer understanding of the human-made world around them, K–12 students will grow up poorly equipped, as many adults are today, to ask intelligent questions about the direction and shape of our increasingly technological society. Carefully developed educational standards are seen by many as a critical tool in promoting systemic educational improvement. ITEA’s standards for technological
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Report on Draft 4 of the Standards: October 28, 1999 literacy have the potential to serve this function in an academic content area— technology—that up until now has been poorly defined and frequently misunderstood. If the standards elevate the relevance of technological literacy to the aims of K–12 education, they will have made an important contribution. Ultimately, of course, the goal is to see technology content embedded in curricula, instructional materials, and teacher education programs. As ITEA is well aware, change on this scale will take years— probably decades. To their credit, ITEA and TfAAP have made many, sometimes dramatic, changes in the standards document during the period of NRC involvement. On numerous occasions, these changes met with initial resistance within the technology education community. Even during these difficult times, ITEA and TfAAP managed to maintain momentum toward the goal of delivering the best possible final product to the public. For this determination, as well as their honesty and sense of humor in the face of often discouraging circumstances, leadership and staff at ITEA and TfAAP are to be applauded. The NRC Standards Review Committee urges ITEA and TfAAP to seriously consider the recommendations in this report, and it looks forward to reviewing the next draft of the standards. Finally, the committee wishes to thank the technical reviewers, who so thoughtfully contributed to the committee’s own deliberations on the standards. The committee would also like to acknowledge the work of the RRC reviewers, coordinator, and monitor, whose independent judgment contributed substantially to the quality of the committee’s report. (The names of the RRC reviewers, coordinator, and monitor appear in the front matter to this report.)
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