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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10 thoughts on “What is This Test Measuring?

  1. The same is true of the technology assessment test in Virginia. When I looked into adding the certification to my license a couple of years ago, I was as surprised as you are. I feel qualified to teach web or print design and related software courses, but woodworking? Machinery?

    And you're right; what does this test say about the degree to which our teachers of those subjects are necessarily prepared? (Knowing them, I have confidence that those at my school are.) Improper use of machinery like this could even be be a federal issue … at least it is in the actual workplace.

  2. This really hit a nerve with me. ;) I had to come back and add that this is another example of the differentiation double-standard, the states' do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do mentality. We're expected to differentiate instruction, but the states' formal (student — and teacher) assessment is not differentiated in the least. Why aren't they modeling good practices for us?

  3. I will be very interested in your experiences as to what the actual assessment is like – I agree with you on the review materials. It feels like this GACE needs to be updated, big time. I would like to add the endorsement too, I may work on it this summer. But I don't plan to teach shop anytime soon! Good luck.

  4. I have recently encountered the same issue for the Florida Tech Ed test. It covers everything from digital design and medicine, to construction and agriculture. I agree that it does not make sense to lump all of these under one technology label. In addition to English, I teach video production. The county is changing the course code to add it to Tech Ed. This actually makes some sense, and I don't mind taking the test because I am interested in pursuing instructional technology as an addition career path. This wide-reaching definition of Tech Ed seems to be a common problem, though. Perhaps, those of use entering this sub-field of education may find some way to influence this antiquated (or is it mismanaged?) certification.

  5. Currently trying to review for this test and I agree with all the comments. Tech Ed is a wide area. As I was looking into some review material and there was this site that dealt mainly with photography and video production. I was totally lost.

    • I could make a case for photography and digital video production being important for instructional technology, but you're right about the wideness of the area. I can't remember if I ever came back here and said so, but I managed to pass the test, though some of the questions were well out of my area of expertise.

  6. Hi Dana. I am taking the exam too, and I am planning my study now. There is a book and a set of flash cards published by mometrix, to study for this test. Has anyone used this material? Any help would be very good to me.

    Thanks

    • Pablo, I can't say whether those materials are any good or not. I can say that if you look at the materials that GACE publishes, they are pretty much what you can expect on the test. I studied a lot of circuit analysis. That would be a good bet.

  7. Dave, I used the study materials on the website, but I also studied circuit analysis. I would recommend you do the same. I managed to pass with no trouble, but most of the test consisted of questions that are completely irrelevant to technology instructors.

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