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What does the NAEP technology and engineering literacy (TEL) assessment measure?

NAEP frameworks provide the theoretical basis for assessments and describe the types of questions that should be included and how they should be designed and scored. The 2018 Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework, developed under the guidance of the National Assessment Governing Board, broadly defines technological and engineering literacy as the capacity to use, understand, and evaluate technology as well as to understand technological principles and strategies needed to develop solutions and achieve goals.

In the framework, technology is defined as "any modification of the natural world done to fulfill human needs or desires," and engineering is "a systematic and often iterative approach to designing objects, processes, and systems to meet human needs and wants."

The TEL assessment is designed to measure three interconnected areas of technology and engineering literacy:

  • Technology and Society involves the effects that technology has on society and on the natural world and the ethical questions that arise from those effects.

  • Design and Systems covers the nature of technology, the engineering design process by which technologies are developed, and basic principles of dealing with everyday technologies, including maintenance and troubleshooting.

  • Information and Communication Technology includes computers and software learning tools, networking systems and protocols, hand-held digital devices, and other technologies for accessing, creating, and communicating information and for facilitating creative expression.

In all three areas of technology and engineering literacy, students are expected to be able to apply particular ways of thinking and reasoning when approaching a problem. These types of thinking and reasoning are referred to as "practices." The framework specifies three kinds of practices that students are expected to demonstrate when responding to test questions:

  • Understanding Technological Principles focuses on how well students are able to make use of their knowledge about technology.

  • Developing Solutions and Achieving Goals refers to students’ systematic use of technological knowledge, tools, and skills to solve problems and achieve goals presented in realistic contexts.

  • Communicating and Collaborating concerns how well students are able to use contemporary technologies to communicate for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways, working individually or in teams, with peers and experts.

Here are a few examples of topics that some of the questions in the TEL assessment explored:

  • The extent to which students analyze the pros and cons of a proposal to develop a new source of energy
  • Whether students can use the Internet to find and summarize information to solve a problem
  • Whether students understand how and why new technologies are developed to suit human needs and wants

TEL marks a departure from many other NAEP assessment designs because it was completely computer-based and includes interactive scenario-based tasks—an innovative component of NAEP. Explore the interactive version of the TEL framework to see examples of some scenario-based tasks. In addition to scenario-based tasks, TEL also relied on short-answer and multiple-choice questions to measure students' knowledge and skills. Because technology and engineering literacy is not always attained in or confined to the classroom, the TEL assessment was accompanied by a questionnaire component that aimed to get a better understanding of students’ opportunities to learn about technology and engineering both inside and outside the classroom.

For an overview of the TEL framework, see the 2018 Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework.

Last updated 22 April 2019 (FW)