Assessing Technological Literacy in the United States

Project Status
February 14, 2011
National Science Foundation
Final Report
Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy
Authoring InstitutionNational Academy of Engineering & National Research Council
Publication DateJanuary 01, 2006
Tech Lit Projects
This study considers approaches for assessing technological literacy in teachers, students, and out-of-school adults.
  • The study report, Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy, defines and discusses technological literacy, provides a primer on common assessment issues and terms, analyzes a number of existing technology-related assessments, proposes a number of sample case studies of technological literacy assessment, discusses the opportunities for computer-based assessment, and makes a number of recommendations intended to guide research and practice in this arena.

Because of the pervasiveness of technology, an understanding of what technology is, how it works, how it is created, how it shapes society, and how society influences technological development is critical to informed citizenship. Unfortunately, no one really knows the level of technological literacy among people in the United States—or for that matter, in other countries. Although many concerns have been raised that Americans are not as technologically literate as they should be, these statements are based on general impressions with little hard data to back them up. Therefore, the starting point for improving technological literacy must be to determine the current level of technological understanding and capability, which areas require improvement first, and how technological literacy varies among different populations.

Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy, defines technological literacy as having three major components, or dimensions: knowledge, capabilities, and critical thinking and decision making.   To guide assessment development efforts, the study committee created a matrix that combines the three cognitive dimensions with various content areas, such as technology and society, design, and products and systems. Although a number of assessments that contain technology-related items have been created, and some 30 of these are reviewed in the report, the committee concluded that none is completely adequate to measuring the three-dimensions of technological literacy. Because technological literacy includes a major element of “doing,” the report devotes an entire chapter to considering how computer related technologies, such as simulation, might be used to allow test-takers to do more authentic problem solving rather than simply answer multiple-choice questions. 

Based largely on the recommendations in the report, the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Education Progress, has developed a pilot assessment of technological literacy. The test will be administered to a sample of U.S. 8th graders in 2014.

  • Logo Institute
    A broad definition of technology is any modification of the natural world made to fulfill human needs or desires. From computers and genetically modified foods to superhighways and satellites, technology pervades our lives. To be an informed citizen requires understanding the nature of ...
    Authoring institutionNational Academy of Engineering & National Research Council
    Publication DateJanuary 1, 2006