Brandon Richard 2017-11-02 00:45:25
MEASUREMENT plays an important role in education, whether it is measuring the doorway at your new house to see if the furniture is going to fit through the doorframe, or dispensing the proper amount of oil into your car for an oil change; measurement is a skill students use long after their formal education is over. In technology education courses, proficient linear measurement skills are vital to success both in, and beyond, the classroom. In fields driven by technical drawings, tape measures, and accuracy down to fractions of an inch, the ability to use a variety of measurement tools in practical applications is something students will use for the rest of their lives. Yet, so many students fail to develop adequate linear measurement skills, especially during their high school years. I find that this is a topic of conversation in many of the technology education classes I visit, as well as something I have observed while trying to teach my students more advanced woodworking skills, which require working to a high degree of accuracy and precision. Frequently I find myself revisiting the basics, even in advanced classes, because students’ inability to measure proficiently often prevents them from advancing their skillset as they are still hung up on the basics. A lack of measurement skills, especially in the technology education classroom, can result in decreased student confidence, a lack of quality work production, and increased student frustration. Teachers have searched for the most effective way to teach students these skills for decades. From School Shop in the ’70s and ’80s, to its successor Tech Directions in the ’90s, each decade’s technology education periodicals had articles about teaching students to read a ruler and become proficient in linear measurement. Another thing each article had in common was bringing attention to the growing number of students who cannot proficiently measure in a linear fashion. Year after year, I have tried different methods to teach my students how to better work with linear measurements, and be able to more accurately and easily transfer measurements to a workpiece. Up until now, my instruction has mainly focused on what the individual markings on a ruler or tape measure meant in relation to how long the marking was. Students would learn that the longest graduation is a half inch, the second longest is a quarter inch, down to a sixteenth of an inch. This is how I was taught to measure in my high school technology education classes and, in a way, it has always worked for me. However, this is nothing more than simple memorization, and even though most students would choose the correct answer when asked to identify a given measurement on a multiple-choice test, when tasked with cutting materials to the correct size for a project, or making marks on a piece of material from a set of plans, many students will fail to produce results accurate enough to satisfactorily complete the task at hand. This often leads to wasted materials and students who become discouraged from trying to improve their abilities to build and create. In my experiences, students who do not succeed in producing a satisfactory product on their first or second attempt are far less likely to try again, and often choose to continue on without fixing their mistakes, leading to an end result that falls short of expectations. In order to find an answer to the questions, 1. How confident are students in their ability to apply these linear measurement and layout techniques in a technology education classroom/ lab?, and 2. To what extent do students’ improve their ability to make accurate measurements?, I implemented a new method for teaching/assessing the same linear measurement skills I have taught in the past, but in a way that incorporates and teaches techniques to make accurate and precise marks when transferring dimensions from a set of plans, or instructions, to a workpiece. My hope is that by having implemented a more hands-on and practical instructional and assessment style, students will be more confident in their ability to complete projects in class. I focused on my two woodworking classes, as they often require the greatest degree of precision when preparing materials for a project. To track students’ confidence in their ability to work accurately and precisely, using the skills they had learned, I surveyed the students prior to beginning the measurement unit, as well as after I had implemented the modified instructional and assessment strategies over five class periods. Students were initially surveyed as to how confident they were in their ability to apply linear measurement skills in class. This pre-assessment consisted of students being asked to transfer a set of measurements from a drawing onto a piece of ¼" square graph paper. This gave me an idea of students’ current abilities in making accurate and precise measurements. Using a more hands-on type assessment such as this also allowed me to make better observations about how students think and work in a more controlled environment than when we are actively working in the lab space with real materials/equipment. We then spent roughly one period learning about different techniques for accurately and neatly laying out measurements. While many of these techniques are similar to the hand drafting that sometimes precedes CAD classes, they are much more informal and students are encouraged to see what works best for them. I introduce a base set of concepts and techniques, such as ensuring lines are parallel to an edge when appropriate, or maintaining square (90°), as well as drawing precise and neat lines, then each student can adapt the techniques introduced to best suit them. A post-assessment was given in the following class period, so that students had adequate time to complete everything. It differed slightly from the pre-assessment since students were not given graph paper to work on, but instead used a single piece of white printer paper to better represent transferring dimensions to a piece of material, since materiaals such as wood do not come with gridlines on them. Then students were given a survey asking them about their confidence in their ability to use their linear measurement skills in the classroom. The survey data caught me a little off guard as I had not expected students to respond so confidently on the pre-assessment survey based on work I had seen done prior in the semester. Even more concerning was the minimal change which was seen in both the pre- and post-assessment survey data. The responses for both seemed to have little change across the entire class with many students providing almost identical answers for both surveys. One possible explanation for this could be student’s reluctance to answer survey questionnaires especially when asked to evaluate their own abilities. Often, I have found that many, if not all students, fail to take the time to provide meaningful, thought-out answers for self-assessment survey questions such as these. This makes determining if the data collected from a survey is actually valuable or if participants chose answers at random to finish as quickly as possible. However, the drawing data told a different story with many students initially failing to produce a drawing which adequately met the requirements. The seemingly incorrect pre-assessment data may have been students being overly confident in their abilities. It has been my observation that many students will claim they know how to measure and make marks accurately, but when it comes time to apply these skills they fall short, or go to great lengths to avoid tasks involving measurement all together. I had hoped that providing students with graph paper for their pre-assessment drawing exercise would have aided them in completing the assignment, and helped when discussing parallel and square during the following classes. However their drawings had more errors than I had originally anticipated. Following the discussions in class the students’ post-assessment surveys showed little change, but their drawings were a huge improvement over the pre-assessment sample. Many students produced drawings that would be acceptable to use in class while producing parts or material for a project. Implementing this unit in my class again would likely result in the post-assessment scores increasing slightly as I would have been able to refine the process and improve my instructional methods. While this information may have little reach outside of my classroom, it might serve to give other technology education teachers a glimpse into a colleague’s classroom to better develop their methods, or to examine what others are doing to further student learning and success in their classrooms. When I use this activity in the future it will likely be much earlier in the semester and hopefully the results will be more dramatic given students will have had less exposure to the concepts. Brandon Richard is technology education teacher from Connecticut working on completing his Masters in STEM education at Central Connecticut State University. Currently he teaches at Canton (CT) High School.
Published by Prakken Publications, Inc. View All Articles.