AN EXAMINATION OF THE EFFECTIVENESS AND TEACHER PERCEPTIONS OF SMALL GROUP PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
Despite policy emphasis and large-scale institutional investment in hardware and software, many teachers are not integrating technology into their pedagogical practice at suggested levels (Herold, 2015; Murphy, 2016, Chen, 2008; Gorder, 2008; Li & Choi, 2013; Zheng, et al., 2016). A primary factor impacting technology integration is teacher attitudes and beliefs toward technology integration, which are impacted, in part, by perceived effectiveness of professional development (Zheng, et al., 2016; Pepe, 2016; Li & Choi, 2013). Researchers propose that professional development (PD) in classroom technology integration should be ongoing and occur in smaller scale professional learning teams (Simmons & Martin, 2016) to increase its effectiveness. A two-part mixed-method approach will be applied which compares the effectiveness of traditional, one-time professional development to long-term small-group based professional development in increasing technology integration into pedagogical practice, and which also explores teacher attitudes and beliefs regarding participation in and effectiveness of longer-term small-group training. In part 1 of the study, participants will be divided into one of two treatment groups to receive professional development, and then lesson plans will be analyzed following a repeated measures design to gauge impact of different models of professional development. In part 2, participants who received treatment suggested by the literature will be interviewed to ascertain attitudes and beliefs regarding that method. Results of this study have the potential to influence future design, development, and implementation of professional development in technology integration.
The integration of technology into teaching and learning is a primary goal of education policy at all levels. The United States Department of Education National Education Technology Plan calls for “all involved in American education to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology” (Reimagining the Role of Technology, 2017). The state of Texas proposes standards for technology for learners, educators, school leaders, and infrastructure that emphasize student-centered integration of technology-driven curriculum supported by equitable and robust access to digital technologies (Progress Report on the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2016). At the local level in the North Texas region, educational leaders consistently identify technology integration as critical to preparing students for success in college, career, and community leadership (Bounds, 2017).
Despite these policies and a heavy investment in educational software and technology hardware, including over $3 billion on digital content for U.S. schools in 2015, a large body of research suggests that many teachers are not regularly and/or consistently integrating technology-driven pedagogical practice into their classrooms (Herold, 2015; Murphy, 2016, Chen, 2008; Gorder, 2008; Li & Choi, 2013; Zheng, et al., 2016). Several factors that impact the extent to which teachers integrate technology into their classrooms are identified by these and related studies. However, a factor that is discussed to some extent in nearly all reviewed studies is the impact of teacher attitudes and beliefs toward technology integration.
Teacher attitudes and beliefs toward technology integration in the classroom have a direct impact on the success and extent to which that integration occurs (Zheng, et al., 2016; Pepe, 2016). These attitudes and beliefs can be influenced by teachers’ perceived effectiveness of professional development in technology integration (Li & Choi, 2013). Unfortunately, traditional models of teacher professional development have proven ineffective in supporting technology integration and technology-driven pedagogy (Murphy, 2016). Instead, researchers propose, professional development (PD) in classroom technology integration should be ongoing and occur in smaller scale professional learning teams (Simmons & Martin, 2016). This paper seeks to explore that recommendation through a mixed-methods 2-part study which compares the effectiveness of one-time and long-term professional development in increasing technology integration into pedagogical practice, while also exploring teacher attitudes and beliefs regarding participation in and effectiveness of longer-term training.
Review of the Literature
Research into the impact of teacher attitudes and beliefs on technology integration is extensive, and beyond the scope of this literature review. Baker (2016) defines the purpose of a literature review as to (1) provide a theoretical framework for the topic under study; (2) provide a synthesized overview of current evidence for practice to gain new perspectives and support assumptions and opinions presented in the paper; and (3) demonstrate the gap in the literature, pointing to the significance of the problem and need for the study. Therefore, this section will instead present three key studies referenced in this paper which serve this purpose.
Pepe (2016) examines the relationship between teacher perceptions and attitudes of classroom technology integration and professional development. Using a case study approach and a concerns-based adoption model, Pepe (2016) found significant relationship between teacher perception and attitudes and the likely extent to which technology integration will occur. Areas of teacher concern identified that had the potential to impact integration include: insufficient training, conflicts between interests and teaching responsibilities, developing working relationships with peers to maximize integration, insufficient access to hardware, and insufficient network connectivity to support integration.
Li and Choi (2013) look at the impact of social capital in leveraging pedagogical change in schools. In the study, social capital in an organization, i.e. school, is defined as collegial trust, access to expertise, and willingness to take risks (Li & Choi, 2013). Results indicated a significant link between teachers’ receptivity toward technology and their perceived effectiveness of professional development, and that receptivity and perceived effectiveness are shaped by the social capital of the school.
Simmons and Martin (2016) research perceived implementation barriers to technology integration. Through qualitative inquiry, the researchers identify six primary areas which impact integration: (1) planning, including pre-planning, long-term planning, and strategic planning; (2) professional development, including curriculum related PD and professional learning teams; (3) funding, including strategies; (4) self-efficacy; (5) attitude and behaviors, including political climate, teacher buy-in, and understanding of benefits; and (6) leadership, including principal support and district leadership. Regarding barriers related to professional development, inquiry results suggest that large-group professional development is ineffective in teaching technology proficiency and pedagogical practice; instead, teachers should participate in small campus-based professional learning teams to learn and practice technology-driven teaching.
In this 2-part mixed method quasi-experimental study, the following questions will be explored:
- Is ongoing small group professional development more likely than traditional models of PD to result in technology integration?
- What are the attitudes and perceptions of teachers who participate in an extended small group driven PD model regarding that approach?
Participants (n= 72) in the study will be elementary school teachers of students in grades 5-6 at select campuses in a large urban public school district in North Texas. Campuses selected for participation will be all members of a group of elementary schools that feed into a single high school in the district. Teacher participation will be mandatory; teachers will participate in the study as a part of their professional development plan for the academic year. Participants will range in experience from 0-28 years of full-time professional experience, with an average of 11.2 years of experience; a large majority are female, all possess a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, and 90% hold state teaching certification in their respective subject area. Per data from the Texas Education Agency, participant composite sample will be approximately representative of the larger population of 5th and 6th grade teachers in the state of Texas (Ramsey, 2015).
For part one of the study, two instructional designs will be developed to provide professional development in classroom integration of instructional technology. The first instructional design, ‘A’, will be developed to be implemented in a one-day, 6-hour whole-group training session. The second instructional design, ‘B’, will be developed for implementation in 6 weekly 1-hour small-group training sessions, to be delivered over 6 consecutive weeks. Identical course content, learning aids and resources will be utilized in each design.
For part two of the study, an interview questionnaire will be developed to gauge the attitudes and perceptions of teachers who participated in the 6 weekly 1-hour small group-based training. Questions will include the following topics: current perception of professional development, knowledge gained as result of training, perceived impact on teaching practice, and perceived effectiveness of treatment, i.e. 6 weekly 1-hour small group-based training sessions. However, as modeled by Simmons and Martin (2016), interviews will be semi-structured to allow the interviewer to ask follow-up questions that provide deeper and more concise data collection.
In part one of the study, participants will be blocked by campus and randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups. As recommended by Martin and Ertzberger, (2013), assigning teachers to treatments by campus and not as individuals avoids variation in treatment within the same campus. Treatment group ‘A’ will receive instructional design ‘A’: professional development will be implemented in a one-day, 6-hour whole-group training session. Treatment group ‘B’ will receive instructional design ‘B’: professional development will be delivered in 6 weekly 1-hour small-group training sessions.
To address the first research question, a repeated measures design will be used to examine changes in teachers’ lesson plans following intervention (instructional design ‘A’ or ‘B’) relating to evidence of classroom technology integration. As proposed by Winter (2016) for examination of teacher lesson plans, a repeated measures design can show whether there were changes in teachers’ lesson plans at various time points after received training. Lesson plans will be evaluated according to a rubric featuring constructs adapted from the TTIS (Teacher Technology Integration Survey), an instrument identified as a reliable and multi-dimensional measure of teacher technology integration (Vannatta & Banister, 2009). These constructs include: (1) teacher technology use; (2) facilitation of student technology use; (3) risk-taking behaviors and comfort with technology; (4) evidence of awareness of perceived benefits of using technology in the classroom; (5) evidence of modified beliefs and behaviors about classroom technology use; and (6) teacher support for technology use and access to technology (Vanetta & Bannister, 2009). The rubric will be used to evaluate teachers’ lesson plans at three points: before training, immediately after training, and one month after training.
In part two of the study, participants in treatment group ‘B’, blocked into receiving instructional design ‘B’, will participate in interviews. All interview content will be recorded and transcribed for further analysis. Following the completion of all interviews, qualitative text will be organized by codes to discover common themes and sub-themes.
Based upon literature review and understanding of best practices for instruction, ongoing professional development via small campus-based professional learning teams will likely prove more effective at impacting pedagogical practice regarding technology integration. However, as referenced below, some teachers/participants may balk at the idea of adding additional responsibility via a weekly meeting to their already packed schedule.
Significance of the Study
Study results could potentially influence design, development, and implementation of professional development for teachers in technology integration. If, as expected, ongoing small group professional development is found to be more effective than single-session large group training, school administrators may re-examine and revise how they conduct professional training in technology integration, and potentially other areas of high need and value. In turn, a revised model of professional development that results in greater integration of technology into the classroom increases the likelihood of producing technology-literate students. Furthermore, integration of technology-driven pedagogy into the classroom will likely result in more student-driven and project-based learning, which will meet International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for students that promote future ready learning. These standards include: (1) students are empowered to leverage technology to achieve their learning goals; (2) students act as responsible digital citizens; (3) students use digital tools to construct knowledge and create meaningful learning experiences; (4) students use technology to design innovative solutions to problems; (5) students develop and test solutions to problems through technology; (6) students communicate clearly and creatively using a variety of digital media platforms; and (7) students use technology to collaborate locally and globally (ISTE Standards for Students, 2016).
Additionally, a deeper understanding of teacher attitudes and beliefs regarding alternative methods of professional development could influence a variety factors relating to the profession itself. Recognition of factors that impact teachers’ perceptions of professional development is necessary for understanding their willingness or reluctance to engage with the training and integrate its teachings into their pedagogical practice. For example, if, as expected, some teachers are reluctant or even hostile to the prospect of adding on-going professional development to their cadre of responsibilities, then administrators should examine cultural and structural factors that can be modified to address teacher concerns. These modifications could be related to a variety of factors, including teacher workload, compensation, scheduling, and/or policies for employment.
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