Practices contribute to the framework by articulating the general kinds of thinking and reasoning that students are expected to demonstrate when responding to assessment tasks and items. The framework specifies three generic kinds of practices that apply across the three assessment areas: (1) understanding technological principles; (2) developing solutions and achieving goals; and (3) communicating and collaborating.

Building on the pyramid of major assessment areas introduced in chapter two, the practices are distributed around a circle in which the pyramid sits. As critical components of technological literacy, these crosscutting practices are applied across all three major assessment areas. For example, communicating effectively and collaborating with others are necessary skills for understanding the effects of technology on the natural world, designing an engineering solution to a technological problem, and achieving a goal using information and communication technologies.

The Science Framework for the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress served as the primary source for these practices. Developers of the science framework had examined the sections on Science and Technology and the Designed World from the National Science Education Standards as well as Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy and cognitive research on science learning. Learning research has shown that these three kinds of cognitive processes represent how all individuals build their content knowledge and understanding in a subject area and how they develop strategies for using their knowledge in their thinking, reasoning, and application to new situations. To create the practices for the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework, the crosscutting practices from the Science Framework for the 2009 NAEP were modified so that they applied to processes relevant to technological literacy, primarily by indicating that technology and engineering literacy depends on having and using knowledge about technologies to reason, develop solutions, communicate and collaborate. In addition, the national, international, and state technology and engineering literacy frameworks cited in chapter two were used as reference points.

Although the practices are related and not independent of each other, classifying the assessment targets in chapter two according to the three crosscutting practices will help developers produce a range of rich and challenging assessment tasks and items. A brief description of each of these three practices is offered below.

Understanding Technological Principles focuses on students' knowledge and understanding of technology and their capability to think and reason with that knowledge. This practice ranges from the knowledge of simple declarative facts and concepts to higher-level reasoning about facts, concepts, and principles and their interrelationships. Students should be able to call on their recognition and understanding of technological principles to explain features and functions of technologies and systems, how components fit together, and to make predictions, comparisons, and evaluations. The assessment targets that elicit this practice require students to identify examples, explain, describe, analyze, compare, relate, and represent the technological principles specified in chapter two. This practice also includes understanding the relationships among components of systems and interactive processes.

Developing Solutions and Achieving Goals refers to students' systematic application of technological knowledge, tools, and skills to address problems and achieve goals presented in societal, design, curriculum, and realistic contexts. This practice includes both procedural and strategic capabilities—knowing how to apply simple steps and use technological tools to address authentic tasks, as well as when and where to apply the tools and design and problem-solving strategies. This practice draws on the previous practice—to understand technological principles—and adds the dimension of applying this knowledge to solve problems and achieve goals. This practice involves using fundamental problem solving processes such as planning, monitoring, evaluating, and revising, and how these generic problem solving strategies can be employed in the three assessment areas. It may engage students in analyzing goals, planning, designing, and implementing as well as in iteratively revising and evaluating possible solutions to meet the requirements of a problem or to achieve a goal. For the NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment, a distinguishing feature of this practice is that the students respond to questions and tasks during the process of solving a multistage problem or working through how best to achieve a goal, using their understanding of technological principles to do so.

Communicating and Collaborating centers on students' capabilities to use contemporary technologies to communicate for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways, working individually or in teams. In the three major assessment areas, in order to address societal issues, solve problems, achieve goals, and design processes and products, students must develop representations and share ideas, designs, data, explanations, models, arguments, and presentations. Effective teamwork and collaboration with peers and experts who are either present or in another location are important skills that can help students achieve their goals. In the assessment, collaboration tasks will engage individual students with virtual (computer-generated) peers and experts. Communication and collaboration are critical, crosscutting practices in all subject domains. For technology and engineering literacy, these practices are distinguished by students' facility with a range of technologies to communicate and collaborate.

Table 3.1 presents generic examples of how these 3 practices can be used to classify targets in the 3 major assessment areas. These are sample ideas for items and tasks and will not be used in the actual assessment. It should again be noted that the boundaries between the practices are not entirely distinct, but referring to these three practices can be helpful in the development of tasks and items and the interpretation of student performance for a range of cognitive demands.

Table 3.1 Classification of types of assessment targets in the three major assessment areas according to the practices for technology and engineering literacy


Technology and Society

Design and Systems

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Understanding Technological Principles

Analyze advantages and disadvantages of an existing technology

Explain costs and benefits

Compare effects of two technologies on individuals

Propose solutions and alternatives

Predict consequences of a technology

Select among alternatives

Describe features of a system or process

Identify examples of a system or process

Explain the properties of different materials that determine which is suitable to use for a given application or product

Analyze a need

Classify the elements of a system

Describe features and functions of ICT tools

Explain how parts of a whole interact

Analyze and compare relevant features

Critique a process or outcome

Evaluate examples of effective resolution of opposing points of view

Justify tool choice for a given purpose

Developing Solutions and Achieving Goals

Select appropriate technology to solve a societal problem

Develop a plan to investigate an issue

Gather and Organize data and information

Analyze and Compare advantages and disadvantages of a proposed solution

Investigate environmental and economic impacts of a proposed solution

Evaluate trade-offs and impacts of a proposed solution

Design and Build a product using appropriate processes and materials

Develop forecasting techniques

Construct and Test a model or prototype

Produce an alternative design or product

Evaluate trade-offs

Determine how to meet a need by choosing resources required to meet or satisfy that need

Plan for durability

Troubleshoot malfunctions

Select and Use appropriate tools to achieve a goal

Search media and digital resources

Evaluate credibility and solutions

Propose and Implement strategies

Predict outcomes of a proposed approach

Plan research and presentations

Organize data and information

Transform from one representational form to another

Conduct experiments using digital tools and simulations

Communicating and Collaborating

Present innovative, sustainable solutions

Represent alternative analyses and solutions

Display positive and negative consequences using data and media

Compose a multimedia presentation

Produce an accurate timeline of a technological development

Delegate team assignments

Exchange data and information with virtual peers and experts

Display design ideas using models and blueprints

Use a variety of media and formats to communicate data, information, and ideas

Exhibit design of a prototype

Represent data in graphs, tables, and models

Organize, Monitor, and Evaluate the effectiveness of design teams

Request input from virtual experts and peers

Provide and Integrate feedback

Plan delegation of tasks among team members

Provide and Integrate feedback from virtual peers and experts to make changes in a presentation

Critique presentations

Express historical issues in a multimedia presentation

Argue from an opposing point of view

Explain to a specified audience how something works

Address multiple audiences

Synthesize data and points of view