The Effect of Guided Self-Reflection on Teachers’ Technology Use
Doctoral Dissertation Summary
Susan Farber, Ed.D.
Technology’s rapid penetration into the field of education often leaves teachers overwhelmed and seeking guidance for optimal use. It has been shown that teachers and students underutilize the technology in classrooms (Bebell, Russell, & O’Dwyer, 2004; Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Peck, 2001; DiBenedetto, 2005) and that technology integration is stymied due to numerous interacting factors. The level of support teachers experience within their classrooms and schools often impacts the degree to which they will innovatively use or avoid computers and related instructional technology (Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon, & Byers, 2002).
An ongoing challenge emerges for teachers to have adequate time to match optimal uses of technology, locate or create digital resources to support content area instructional goals, and complete all of the other tasks of teaching. This challenge is magnified by the changing expectations for how we learn and communicate due to frequent upgrades and enhancements to our technological tools and devices (Dede, 2005) and for teachers to remain technically competent as they nurture students’ personal competency to function successfully using technology in the 21st century workplace and culture (Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, & York, 2007). Several researchers have created, proposed and tested frameworks to enhance teachers’ capacities to integrate technology (Fitzallen, 2004; Glazer, Hannafin, Polly, & Rich, 2009; Hixon & Buckenmeyer, 2009; Koehler & Mishra, 2008; Mouza, 2006; Orrill, 2001) with the promise of more widespread and consistent technology integration in classrooms. Other studies’ outcomes indicate the need to systematize and institutionalize technology integration supports to increase the frequency and consistency of technology use in classrooms (Dexter, Doering, & Riedel, 2006; Dickard & Education Development Center, 2003; Kopcha, 2008; Ludwig & Taymans, 2005).
This study piloted an instructional planning tool to support and enhance teachers’ capacities to integrate technology. Using existing research on reflection-in-action (Schön, 1987), critically reflective teaching (Brookfield, 1995) and the impact of ongoing communication and reflection to encourage transformative teaching practices (Cranton, 2006; King, 2002; Schifter, 2008), this study explored teachers’ use of an instructional planning tool designed to guide teachers’ internalized self-reflection to increase their capacity to integrate technology effectively and to evaluate the outcome of these instructional activities.
Questions guiding the study. To explore how an instructional planning tool impacts teachers’ thinking about and usage of technology in their instructional planning and enactment, the following questions guided this study and the research design:
1. In what way did the utilization of the instructional planning tool (Informed Technology Integration Guide, or ITIG) impact teachers’ instructional planning practices and decisions concerning technology use?
2. In what ways did teachers’ instructional behaviors differ when the ITIG is utilized prior to delivering technology-supported instruction?
3. What additional issues, surrounding technology use, impacted these teachers’ instructional planning practices and instructional behaviors?
The nature of these research questions prescribed a qualitative study design and the piloting of specifically designed and modified instruments. Prior research impacted the design of this study and its instruments.
This study’s assumptions. The design of the ITIG intends to empower teachers as instructional designers, planners and enactors to refocus instructional activities so students develop skills and knowledge that are relevant for the 21st century workforce and society. Additionally, there are variations and complexity in the definition of effectively used instructional technology, in the research literature (Pierson, 2001; Zhao, et al., 2002) and among practitioners. Both traditional instructional technology and emerging or digital formats of technology are considered as instructional resources to be documented as to their impact on student learning. Often traditional instructional resources continue to provide instructional benefits and may be the only resources to enhance and facilitate instructional activities due to economic and infrastructure realities (see Kemker, 2007; Warschauer, Knobel, & Stone, 2004). Teachers’ competence and confidence in using emergent formats of technology and skills integrating technology still impact technology use levels (see Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, & York, 2007). Within this study, good use of educational technology is defined based upon prior research (see Hammond, Crosson, Fragkouli, Ingram, Johnston-Wilder, Kingston, Pope, & Wray, 2009). Incorporating guided, critical self-reflection in the instructional planning process intends to build upon theories of technology use and guide practitioners to formulate personal definitions of effective technology integration.
This study’s limitations. This study’s limitations are due to decisions related to the duration of this study, the piloting of several instruments (the ITIG or instructional planning tool, survey instrument, observation and interview protocols), and the type of teachers that participated in this preliminary study. The teachers used the piloted ITIG for a limited time interval of three to four months. Comments shared during interviews and observations over time made it obvious that these teachers chose to use technology for teaching and expected students to use technology for learning. It remains unclear how teachers who are tentative or reluctant to integrate technology and fail to expect students to use technology extensively and consistently would use the ITIG as an instructional planning tool. The piloted instruments used in this study have yet to demonstrate reliable and valid measurement and description of teachers’ technology use levels.
This qualitative study was designed to collect baseline data from two groups of teachers within the same technology-rich school district (6 teachers in all), and then collect data from one of these groups of teachers who were interested in piloting the instructional planning tool (3 teachers). These teachers were identified through contact with this school district’s curricular coach. All six teachers completed a technology use and belief survey instrument (twice: at the start and at the end of the study) in order to categorize these six teachers’ along the continua noted within the research literature concerning technology and innovation adoption (see Dwyer, Ringstaff, & Sandholtz, 1991; Rieber & Welliver, 1989; Rogers, 2003; Sherry, Billig, Tavalin, & Gibson, 2000). Through observations and interviews during a 3 to 4-month interval, baseline data concerning instructional planning goals and decisions, as well as the instructional behaviors these teachers demonstrated were recorded for comparison to these same factors and behaviors demonstrated by the three teachers who piloted the ITIG.
These teachers also electronically submitted completed ITIGs for artifact analysis. The ITIG, observation protocol and the interview protocol were designed to provide data for triangulation and evidence of key themes and trends through constant comparison (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and microanalyses of all of these data sets. NVivo8 was used to analyze the observation data and create coding structures and models to represent changes in various technology uses. Themes and trends were identified through comparison of baseline data with the ITIG-planned activities and richly described anonymous vignettes. Frequency of observed instructional behaviors was contrasted to determine if there were changes in teachers’ and students’ technology use levels in these classrooms due to the use of the ITIG for instructional planning and evaluation.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of the ITIG on teachers’ instructional planning and behaviors surrounding technology use in classrooms. The teachers indicated that using the ITIG and referring to the taxonomies (of instructional technologies) embedded within the ITIG encouraged them to rethink and consider other uses of technology as they planned and enacted instructional activities for their students. The piloting of the ITIG provided evidence that guided self-reflection and the process of documenting instructional planning had some impact on teachers’ instructional behaviors and technology use levels. ITIG-planned activities revealed greater emergent technology use by teachers and by students than during baseline instructional activities. These teachers also identified specific barriers to consistent and more frequent technology use as already documented in prior research (see Bauer & Kenton, 2005; Ertmer, 1999; Hew & Brush, 2007).
Using the ITIG to document their planning decisions encouraged teachers to reflect upon and evaluate the impact of these instructional activities on their students. Analyses of these data sets revealed a vital connection between designing responsive, accurate activities and resources, excellent communication skills, appropriate classroom management techniques and technology-integrated instruction where students used technology in desirable ways.
These teachers’ decisions to integrate technology and employ other well-suited strategies and techniques confirmed the importance of employing multiple elements of sound pedagogy in rendering technology effective. These teachers reported that they view the instructional planning process through their expectations as facilitators of learning and through the students’ lens so the activities are engaging and create success. Teachers shared some expectations that highly creative, flexible and empowering technology would increasingly penetrate classrooms to provide all students the rich experiences that innovations offer, especially once teachers are competent and confident users of these innovative forms of technology. Transforming and embedding students’ technology-supported educational experiences in schools occurs once this skillful and transparent interrelationship of excellent communication skills, appropriate classroom management techniques, the creation of responsive, accurate and up-to-date resources and technology-integrated instruction is attained by teachers. Guiding teachers to attain this skillful transformation and institutionalization of technology-supported educational experiences can be nurtured through ongoing use of a guided self-reflection instructional planning tool as piloted in this study.