What is This Test Measuring?

070305I have been studying for the Technology Education GACE (Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Teachers) test I will take next month. This test is the last step in obtaining certification to teach technology. However, I have some concerns about the test based on the study questions provided at the GACE website. Technology covers a wide range of courses and fields. Were I to teach robotics or electronics, it would be important for me to know how transistors work, which is one of the free response questions. However, I wonder, given the fact that my goals are to teach my colleagues and students about computers and similar devices, how important is it that I know the safety procedures for operating a lathe? Or that the process used to increase the density of concrete by removing air voids is called rodding? I suppose I might, at some point, need to understand economics of supply and demand and perhaps even the advantages of oxyacetalene cutting torches over plasma cutting torches. Fair enough. But the advantage of flat-sawed lumber over quarter-sawed lumber?

More troubling to me even than the inclusion of questions related to what I would term “industrial arts” are the exclusion of questions about what I might actually do. For instance, where are the questions about the instructional design process (emphasized so heavily in my master’s course work)? Where are the questions about evaluation of websites? Where are the questions about the process for evaluating tools such as software for purchase? Where are the questions about multimedia authoring? Digital audio? Instructional media? Even basic computer literacy?

I believe that this test is designed to test teachers from a variety of instructional backgrounds, whether that background is industrial arts, computers, construction, manufacturing technology, and several other disciplines, but that’s precisely the problem. This test, from all appearances, is spread out across too many different disciplines. When I took the Teacher Candidate Test to be certified as an English teacher, all the questions were related to my discipline. They were about literature, writing, vocabulary, and grammar.

This test appears to be about several things that I don’t believe are related to my discipline. If I successfully pass it, I will be certified to teach wood shop. Do I feel qualified to teach wood shop? Not in the slightest. There is too much I don’t know about the equipment and procedures to be successful in that position. This test would also determine whether or not I could teach computer science. Do I feel qualified to teach computer science? Certainly, and this test won’t change that.

I understand that all of these areas can be thought of as “technology,” but I think it’s understood that when we use the term “technology education,” we’re talking about teaching others how to use computers, interactive white boards, software, communication devices, and similar tools. We’re talking about which tools to use to accomplish certain tasks. We’re talking about 21st century skills. I’m not concerned about passing the test, but I am concerned that passing it doesn’t really communicate anything to anyone about how ready I am to teach the material covered on the test. I would propose that the test be rewritten to focus on the different disciplines that currently fall under technology education so that both the test-takers and the administrators who hire technology educators can be sure that candidates have the skills required for their particular discipline. But I invite you to take a look at the testing preparation materials and tell me what you think.

Creative Commons License photo credit: COCOEN daily photos

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