Eighth-grade girls outperformed boys on the first national test of technological literacy, reports Education Week. The Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) exam, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was designed to measure problem-solving skills rather than knowledge.
Overall, 43 percent of students tested as proficient or advanced.
The largest gaps were the familiar ones: Black, Latino, low-income and urban students did significantly worse.
Students were given “a series of virtual scenarios aimed at testing their problem-solving abilities and their ability to use information about technology and engineering to develop solutions,” writes Jackie Zubrzycki.
There was no evidence that the gap in scores was due to girls’ reading ability, said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
As they take the test, students work through multistep scenarios that range from creating a historically accurate museum exhibit about a drought to developing safe bike lanes in a city. Students are provided with background knowledge about the topics before they are asked to answer questions about them: One of the scenarios included a background video about iguanas before students were asked to design an ideal iguana habitat.
. . . on a task related to designing a bike lane, 76 percent of students successfully identified components of a safe bike lane, the first step; 64 percent were able to identify potential adjustments to a sample set of bike lanes to make them safer by, for instance, expanding the lanes; 45 percent were able to successfully redesign the route using an interactive tool. But a smaller portion, 11 percent, could explain the rationale behind the route that they chose.
NAEP plans similar scenario-based tasks on other exams, starting with social studies or history.
Nearly two-thirds of test-takers said they’d learned about solving problems and fixing things at home rather than at school.
When I grew up, girls weren’t supposed to fix things and my father believed that Jews couldn’t fix things, so I didn’t learn much about how things work. Other than magic! I do have good problem-solving skills — if background knowledge is not required.
Take a look at the TEL task video and see if you think this is a useful way to measure technical and engineering skills.