Factors Influencing Participation in Technology Education Graduate Studies

Article excerpt

Higher education has initiated a variety of educational reforms in an attempt to improve the effectiveness of teacher education over the last two decades. A major focus of the reform movement has been professionalization of schools that prepare educators. Metcalf-Turner and Fischetti (1996) indicated that traditional university approaches to teacher education were inadequate primarily because of disengagement between theory and practice. The need for context-rich educational experiences in teacher preparation is important in all teacher education, but is imperative in the field of technology education. Technology education demands a co-mingling of theory and principles with practice. Morris, Armstrong, and Price (1997) stated that the present teacher education system fails to equip preservice teachers for the realities of the classrooms they will enter. The challenge for technology teacher educators is to embrace reform initiatives that bridge pedagogy by encouraging the profession's best teachers to enter the teacher education faculty ranks, thus keeping technology teacher education theory current with classroom practice.

A key component of this educational reform is technology teacher education faculty versed in both practice and theory. To assist in facilitating these changes, Brown (2002) noted that 64% of the technology teacher education programs surveyed indicated that they would increase their faculty by one or more positions over the next five years. However, Brown also indicated that the field would be short an average of 25 qualified faculty candidates per year and that these positions could go unfilled. Without qualified technology teacher education faculty, it will be very difficult for these education reform efforts to succeed.

Graduate-level technology teacher education has not kept pace with the need for qualified faculty. The number of individuals pursuing graduate studies in technology education, focusing on teacher education, is at its lowest level in five decades (Bell, 2001; Buffer, 1979; Erekson & McAlister, 1988). According to Brown (2002), the technology teacher education profession is in short supply of qualified faculty. Hill (2003) further noted that a shrinking pool of faculty is compromising leadership for the profession. Based on these trends, Volk ( 1997) predicted that "the demise of technology teacher preparation programs will occur around the year 2005" (p. 69).

Statement of the Problem

Since 1975, there has been a steady decrease in the number of technology teacher education graduates (VoIk, 1997). This decrease has been compounded by a significant increase in the number of technology education teachers needed across the nation (Weston, 1997). A survey of technology education leaders rated insufficient quantities of technology education teachers and the elimination of technology teacher education programs at the university level as two of the most critical issues facing the profession (Wicklein, 1993).

VoIk (1997) noted that one factor in the decline of university technology teacher education programs has been the lack of graduate-level prepared faculty to serve as technology teacher education professors. Buffer (1979) found that between 1955 and 1977 over 2,500 individuals received a doctoral degree with emphasis in industrial education, the predecessor of technology education. A survey of the Industrial Teacher Education Directory (Dennis, 1995, 1996; Bell, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000) noted there were only 127 technology education doctoral degrees awarded between 1994 and 1999. Buffer (1979) further noted that there were 2,507 master's degrees awarded during the 1976-1977 academic year. This number pales in comparison to the 6,700 master's degrees awarded in 1938 (Buffer, 1979). Furthermore, an examination of the Industrial Teacher Education Directory indicated that only 209 master's degrees in technology education were earned in 1999.

Currently, there is a lack of information as to the causes in the decline in technology educators pursuing an advanced degree. …