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

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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

ELPC Teaching Roles – ICT and Teacher Stress March 12, 2010

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In previous posts I’ve noted that in some of the literature on ICT-supported education there are implicit and sometimes explicit expectations that teachers will and must learn to bring ICT into their classrooms – or undergo the training required to do so – regardless of their individual teaching styles or the strategies they currently use when teaching.

These expectations are not at all unexpected, when one considers the abundance of scholarly literature linking ICT-supported learning to improved academic achievement, regardless of the methodological and theoretical shortcomings of the research underpinning some studies.

But a question still remains – what of the teachers who already teach in a highly effective way in non-ICT supported classrooms and whose students already achieve the type of results ICT-supported education strives to replicate. Research indicates that high teacher self-efficacy is linked to greater student confidence in their teachers and therefore their perceived probability of learning something significant in the classroom. So what if that sense of efficacy in an old-fashioned but high-performing teacher is undermined? Would not the academic achievement of his or her students fall? Given that, we – as pre-service teachers – are confronting our own self-efficacy fears when it comes to ICT-supported teaching, i.e. we’re stressed out about it(!!), I thought it imperative to engage some research on how teachers are coping with the stress or learning and applying these new technologies in the workplace.

Since the publication of Craig Brod’s Technostress: The Human cost of the computer revolution (1984), researchers have had a vocabulary with which to examine negative ICT-related effects on employees in all sorts of organisational domains. I was surprised, then, to find a relative dearth in credible research investigating the link between teacher stress and the introduction of ICT into the classroom, particularly when compared to the burgeoning studies citing the positive effects of the ICT endeavour. One Mohammed Al-Fudail and Harvey Mellar of the University of London took up the batton in 2007, in their article Investigating teacher stress when using technology. Unsurprisingly, Al-Fudail and Mellar found that the teachers surveyed do indeed suffer “technostress” i.e. ‘stress associated with the use of technology in the classroom. But the researchers also claimed to have found a means of addressing the problems that cause such stress, predominantly by improving the ‘teacher-technology environment fit’. The study might therefore be considered an ICT-friendly response to my question concerning teacher stress. Unfortunately, however interesting the findings might have been, the sample of teachers surveyed was quite small – only nine – and only around 32 hours of teaching activities were observed.

ELPC Teaching Roles – ICT and learning improvement March 8, 2010

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Jan Underwood (2009) cited Nancy Protheroe’s 2005 survey of research on Technology and Student Achievement as one of a number of recent works to have noted methodological difficulties in such studies. Surveying the past 25 years of research on the question “Is there evidence that using technology leads to higher levels of student learning?”, Protheroe ultimately answers in the affirmative, but not before outlining methodological flaws in the research and adding some caveats to her conclusions.

Research Flaws

Protheroe reports that research on this question has been plagued by the following methodological challenges:

  • School confusion as to the learning outcomes they wish to achieve (i.e. is their aim to increase test scores, or to prepare their students for jobs or produce critical thinkers and so on)
  • The fact that most surveys have really been assessments of instruction supported by ICT, rather than of the effectiveness of new technologies in isolation. ((a good thing I should think, but nonetheless an important distinction to note with respect to teacher roles and expectations))
  • Problems in the scope of achievement tests themselves, namely that most ‘do not reliably measure the wide range of outcomes sought’.
  • ‘The dynamic nature of technology itself’. With new technologies rapidly superseding old ones and rendering them obsolete, it is difficult to make meaningful evaluation of the technologies surveyed.

The benefits of ICT-supported learning

Several studies over the past two decades have nonetheless found positive correlations between ICT supported instruction and student results, according to Protheroe. Positive effects in the studies cited by Protheroe ranged from ‘moderate’ to ‘significant’ across most domains, including but not limited to: basic skill consolidation, student behaviour and attitudes towards learning, teacher-student interaction and social learning.

The centrality of the teacher

It is important to note throughout these findings the use of language such as ‘when properly implemented’, ‘when used appropriately’ and ‘effective use of technology fostered…’ This aspect of the discourse should not be understated – it draws attention to the centrality of the teacher as effective interpreter and implementor of ICT in successful ICT-supported classrooms.

Protheroe is at pains to point this out herself via: Waddoups (2004), who noted the key role played by (ICT-trained) ‘teachers, not technology’, in ‘unlocking student potential’; Johnston and Cooley (2001), who call for consideration of how technology might support emerging models of teaching and learning; and Byrom, who reportedly has once asserted that “over time, technology use changes the way teachers teach”.

Further questions: The silent, ICT-using teacher?

Although it is heartening that Protheroe and the researchers she cites leave the teacher at the centre of the ICT-supported learning discourse, I felt there may have been a hidden message in the language used and assertions made. That is, that new technologies, when improperly implemented, or inappropriately or ineffectually used, may in fact not foster or produce all of the cited benefits of ICT-supported learning. In the search for quantitative results supporting these benefits, there is little attention paid, in this article at least, to the effects on teachers themselves – did teachers embrace the introduction of ICT to their classroom or resist it? How were teacher stress levels or self-efficacy beliefs affected by the changes imposed on their interpretation of the curriculum, their lesson-planning, or their classroom instruction method. Also, did the classrooms surveyed in these studies belong to willing volunteers ready to embrace ICT in their teaching? Without whole-of-school approaches, results could be skewed and those who chose not to participate conceivably relegated to the marginalised ranks of the ‘old-fashioned’ teacher.    

 

A cycling team’s self-efficacy cycle March 5, 2010

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What I love about my teacher training right now is that everything we learn about learning has real-world applications and connections. This morning I read about the model for success that BMC Racing (Aussie cycling champion Cadel Evan’s team) employ in their approach to competition and commercial success:

“We believe that if you increasingly turn a vision into plans, actions and processes then you will be number one in the world” (Andy Rihs, BMC Racing Team owner)

Alessandro Ballan and Cadel Evans ride alongside one another at the BMC training camp in California

It got me thinking about my recent Ed Foundations assignment on self-efficacy, drawing on Albert Bandura’s social-cognitive theory. Research links improved student performance with teacher self-efficacy, which is the teacher’s belief in their ability to perform successfully the functions and tasks of their teaching role. It’s a ferimone thing I think. rather than smelling your fear, your students smell your efficacy 😉 and therefore feel confident that they might actually learn something in your classroom. Research by Tschannen-Moran & Barr (2004) indicates that a high collective sense of teacher efficacy in a school multiplies this effect, generating a whole-of-school ‘can do’ culture and leading to better academic results regardless of ‘student family and community factors’.

Anyway our assignment had us reflecting on our own self-efficacy beliefs and what drives them. Bandura argues that there are three key elements to strong efficacy beliefs:

  • enactive self-mastery (actually completing a series of tasks successfully, usually on more than one occasion)
  • verbal persuasion (for example, receiving encouragement or positive feedback from a mentor or respected peer)
  • vicarious experience (seeing someone else perform the task and getting that feeling of “if they can do it, so can I”) 

We were asked to reflect on a particularly powerful mastery experience in our own lives and then unpack that applying Bandura. In a systematic way, I learned a lot about what has driven my past successes and correspondingly the sources of my efficacy beliefs in certain domains. I wrote that my past mastery experiences have come on the back of a cycle of targeted planning, extensive preparation, and regular, repeated successes in performing a task (these can be small or large successes). As with anything in life, success may not be guaranteed in this cycle due to unexpected external factors. But hard work in the planning and preparation phases limits potentially damaging variables, is part of the belief-building process itself and sets you up for repeated success. I like Andy Rihs’ idea that one should strive not only for successful actions, but also processes. Successful processes can maintain one’s self-efficacy beliefs at a steady, high state, and see you through the lows that inevitably follow the heady successes of individual actions. Inspiring but also very practical stuff – pity I didn’t get the chance to pack it into my assignment!

This ties into my current enquiries into ICT-supported teaching and teacher expectations. Why? Because there is the very real possibility that technologically challenged but otherwise highly effective teachers might have their self-efficacy beliefs damaged by the kind of expectations of 21st Century teachers articulated by Mishra&Koehler. 

 Here’s Albert Bandura himself discussing aspects of social-cognitive theory:

 

 

ELPC Teacher Roles – TPACK revisited March 5, 2010

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Was playing around on Bubbl.us today and thought I would mindmap my ideas on Mishra and Koelher’s TPACK article. Cool huh?

TPACK revisited

Carrot or Stick? March 4, 2010

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Great image from sutherlandsoapbox blog on manipulation. Ties in with what we’re doing in PPLE right now looking at Alfie Kohn

ELPC Teacher Roles – The TPACK model March 1, 2010

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Already in our first few tutes in ELPC, I’ve found the recurring theme in our discussions to be that of non-ICT savvy novice teachers feeling pressure to meet seemingly unrealistic expectations to teach in an ICT-supported fashion. I have to admit that this has been my initial fight-or-flight response to ELPC, even though rationally I see the need for trainee teachers to engage with this emerging aspect of their profession (more on this later).First things first – are we right to believe that an engagement with ICT-supported teaching is expected of us? If so, how and from whom are these expectations being generated? 

If our first few weeks of teacher training at UC has been anything to go by, the expectation is real alright. Our Enhanced Learning in Professional Contexts lecture left us in no doubt that, in that unit at least, we would be confronting our darkest ICT fears. Meanwhile, in another lecture delivered by the chief Grad Dip course convenor, we were introduced immediately to the following pedagogy model – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK):  

   

If this is the model being suggested by the UC Teacher Education leadership in 2010 to frame our overall approach to pedagogy, then it is worthy of further reflection when considering this initial ELPC research task.  The TPACK model is perhaps best articulated in http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf   It is described as an overarching conceptual model bringing together five years of disparate research into the impact of the digital age on pedagogy models. The model is a departure from the earlier, limiting focus on individual aspects of pedagogy, such as viewing teachers’ knowledge of content, in isolation, as the key to effective teaching. By conceptually synergising not only teacher’s knowledge of content, but of pedagogy and technology as well,  Mishra and Koelher hope to provide an overarching theoretical framework for further research into ICT supported teaching and to draw attention generally to the  ‘the complex roles of, and interplay among’ these three main ‘ components of learning environments’ (2006:1017).Impact on teacher roles 

In order to apply their model in the classroom, Mishra and Koehler see teachers having to develop a ‘complex, situated form of knowledge’ (i.e. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) (2006:1017). 

This has significant implications for trainee teachers – as Mishra and Koehler note about currently employed teachers, not all have embraced the new technologies available even though the technology is ‘here to stay (Italics and Bolding are mine):  

“Though not all teachers have embraced these new technologies for a range of reasons—including a fear of change and lack of time and support—the fact that these technologies are here to stay cannot be doubted. Moreover, the rapid rate of evolution of these new digital technologies prevents them from becoming ‘‘transparent’’ any time soon. Teachers will 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. This is a very different context from earlier conceptualizations of teacher knowledge, in which technologies were standardized and relatively stable. The use of technology for pedagogy of specific subject matter could be expected to remain relatively static over time. Thus, teachers could focus on the variables related to content and pedagogy and be assured that technological contexts would not change too dramatically over their career as a teacher. This new context has foregrounded technology in ways that could not have been imagined a few years ago. Thus, knowledge of technology becomes an important aspect of overall teacher knowledge.” (2006:1023-1024) 

 

 

The article goes on to make some very sound arguments about the need to avoid considering teachers’ Technological Knowledge in isolation (As was historically the case with Content Knowledge until studies such as those of Schulman demonstrated the power of combining Content Knowledge with Pedagogical Knowledge). This is very much the case with teacher training. Teachers should not be given training in new technologies for ‘learning’s sake’. Rather, for the most effective classroom application, Teachers should learn new technologies in away that combines this new knowledge with their learning in the areas of pedagogy and content.  

Further Questions 

At first glance, Mishra & Koelher’s conceptual model seems a logical way forward for helping new and existing teachers with what is at first a very confronting and overwhelming task. But the expectations placed upon teachers are considerable. Gone are the days of teachers learning just a few effective pedagogical tools and employing them with ever increasing confidence and mastery in the classroom over the course of a career. Before I can uncritically accept this position, I will have to investigate: 

  • scholarly arguments and evidence (if it exists) against the use of ICT in classrooms (this will be more convincing if there are studies demonstrating a negative correlation between ICT-supported teaching and academic results).
  •  some of the studies demonstrating quantitatively the benefits of ICT-supported teaching.

Looking further afield, I’ll also need to examine: 

  • any studies on how these new expectations are filtering through curricula, educational institutions and government policies, and
  • if there have been any studies examining how teachers are coping with such new expectations (presuming that they do indeed exist).

ELPC Teacher Roles – The 21st Century Learner February 18, 2010

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For my first assignment summary in ELPC I’ve decided to explore the topic ‘Teacher roles in an ICT supported world’. My research question will be: “How is the advent of ICT changing the roles and expectations of today’s teachers?”

I’ve included this slideshow, shown to our LOTE class a few days ago, to remind me that one thing is for sure – the 21st Century teacher better prepared for the 21st Century learner!