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ELPC Summary One – The effect of ICT-supported education on expectations of teachers March 12, 2010

Posted by teachandreflect in Uncategorized.
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The following is an assignment submitted for my Enhanced Learning in Professional Contexts (ELPC) unit. It was the (somewhat rushed) culmination of all the preceeding observations tagged “ELPC”. I welcome any feedback – particularly of the constructive variety 😉

As the potential for ICT-supported learning has rapidly increased over the past two decades, so too have the expectations that pre-service and practising teachers will be increasingly able to employ ICT-supported educational methods to the benefit of their students. The ethos behind pedagogy models such as Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) Technolcogical Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) underpins teacher training in institutions such as the University of Canberra, while the growing body of scholarly literature connecting ICT-supported education to enhanced student learning will bring further pressure on teachers to infuse their teaching methods with ICT. This mini-survey of literature on the expectations of teachers in an ICT-supported world was driven by the experience of the author coming to term with such expectations in the first few weeks of teacher training. It first describes how the ICT-supported education discourse, despite acknowledging the enduring centrality of the teacher in education, says little substantively of the new pressures and expectations brought upon teachers. It then highlights the potential detriment to student learning such pressures might bring, particularly in connection with teacher self-efficacy. Finally, the relatively small body of literature investigating these connections will be considered, before suggesting possible avenues for further research on the topic.

It is highly likely that ICT-supported learning will become and enduring and growing feature of Australian schools and indeed most education systems worldwide. There is a growing body of literature promoting and supporting ICT’s expanding presence in learning environments, and education courses in Australia and elsewhere are increasingly preparing novice teachers to enter their profession with relevant ICT skills.

As Underwood (2009) demonstrates, the literature linking positive correlations between ICT-supported teaching and enhanced student learning outcomes is already pervasive and still growing. There may be doubts about the research methodology employed in such studies, but the nature of these shortcomings, such as confusion over the nature and scope of the learning outcomes being assessed (Protheroe 2005),  are not dissimilar to those found in other areas of educational  research. Meanwhile, ICT-specific challenges to research, such as the dynamic, or ever-rapidly-changing nature of technology itself (Protheroe 2005), are sure to diminish as methods of measurement and hypothesis-formation become more sophisticated. Certainly the the positive correlations found between ICT-supported learning and student achievement far outweigh any of the doubts concerning the research underpinning those findings.

This positive view of ICT supported teaching is certainly reflected in teacher education at the University of Canberra (UC) and in the growing ICT element of courses at other Australian institutions (Albion and Redmond 2008). As of early 2010 at UC, for example, aspiring teachers are introduced at the very  beginning of their secondary education course to Mishra and Koelher’s Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge model (2006). The model promotes pedagogic practices accounting for synergies between deep teacher understanding of pedagogy, content, and ICT (Mishra and Koelher 2007). Both the model itself and its educational aspirations are then reinforced through course instruction generally, and particularly via a unit called Enhanced Learning in Professional Contexts, which, among other things, seeks to equip students with ICT related tools and knowledge relevant to the application of ICT in the classroom.

Despite these research and education trends suggesting that ICT is ‘here to stay’, the scholarly literature that supports its ongoing presence in the classroom says little explicitly of the new expectations and pressures these trends place on teachers. The implied messages found in the language of this discourse, on the other hand, are powerful. On the one hand, the discourse rightfully places teachers at the centre of ICT-supported models. When Protheroe, for example, speaks of positive results in research on ICT-supported education, she uses phrases such as ‘when properly implemented’, ‘when used appropriately’ and ‘effective use of technology fostered…’ all of which stress the significance of the teacher’s application of ICT-tools in the classroom (rather than ICT replacing the teacher). But coupled with these positive messages is a not so subtle expectation, one might say a demand, of teacher compliance. Mishra and Koehler see no other way but for teachers to develop a ‘complex, situated form of knowledge’ (i.e. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) (2006:1017). Teachers ‘have to do more than simply learn to use currently available tools;’ they also will ‘have to learn new techniques and skills as current technologies become obsolete.’ Mishra and Koehler leave little room for those teachers who ‘have [not] embraced these new technologies for a range of reasons—including a fear of change and lack of time and support’ (2006:1023-1024)

It would appear that the tension between this ICT juggernaut and teachers’ ‘fear of change and lack of time and support’ should be a serious focus of research. Studies in educational psychology show a strong corerlation between high self-efficacy on the part of teachers and strong academic achievement by their students (Krause et al:2010). If the self-efficacy of educators who already perform well without ICT is threatened by the stress and pressures of coming to terms with these technologies, does it not follow that there would be a corresponding drop in their students’ learning? The effect of ICT introduction in these cases would in a sense be self-defeating, or at least not in line with its desired outcome of improved student learning. Thus a better understanding of what we might call ‘technostress’ (Crode 1984) among ICT-supported educators may help seek methods of preventing these undesired effects.

There appears to be a paucity of this type of research, however. With most of the scholarly debate centring around ICT’s effects on student learning, those at the centre of facilitating that learning appear to have been passed over. While departmental reports like New Zealand’s What makes for effective teacher development in ICT (Ham et al 2002) addressed the perceived challenges teachers might have in embracing ICT, there is little research on what factors might be feeding those challenges. A recent study by Al-Fudail and Mellar,  Investigating teaching stress when using technology (2007), is conspicuous for its uniqueness and the surprising lack of extant literature on this issue from which it could draw. Unsurprisingly, Al-Fudail and Mellar found that the teachers surveyed do indeed suffer various forms of stress associated with the use of technology in the classroom. But they also also claimed to have produced means of addressing the problems that cause such stress, predominantly by improving the ‘teacher-technology environment fit’. Unfortunately, however interesting these findings might have been, the sample of teachers surveyed was quite small (only nine), and only around 30 hours of teaching activities were observed.

The significance of Al-Fudail and Mellar’s study is that it paves the way for future research in this area and presents a model for a broader, similar study. Scholars may also wish to investigate what direct effects there are, if any, upon high performing teachers’ sense of self-efficacy when the use of ICT in their teaching is imposed upon them by school boards or governments. Mishra and Koehler are right to say that the new technologies are ‘here to stay’. But the more we know about the effects they have on the people they are supposed to assist, surely the better the learning outcomes for our students will be.

List of references

Albion, P., & Redmond, P. (2008) Teaching by example? Integrating ICT in teacher education. In: Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008 (ACEC’08): ACT on IcT, 29 Sept – 2 Oct 2008, Canberra, Australia.

Mohammed Al-Fudail, Harvey Mellar (2008) ‘Investigating teacher stress when using technology.’ Computers & Education 51(3):1103-1110

Krause K.L. Bochner, S, Duchesne, S. (2010) Educational Psychology for Learning and Teaching (3rd Edition) Cengage: Melbourne, Australia

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). ‘Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge.’ Teachers College Record 108(6):1017-1054

Protheroe (2005) ‘Principal – Effective Intervention – Research report 85(2):46-48

Underwood (2009) ‘The impact of digital technology: A review of the evidence of the impact of digital technologies on formal education.’ Available at http://publications.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=41343 Accessed 20 February 2010

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