Bate, Frank (2010) A longitudinal study of beginning teachers' pedagogical identity and their use of ICT. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.
The educational policy environment in Australia explicitly supports the integration of information and communications technologies (ICT) through targeted initiatives covering infrastructure, equipment, electronic learning materials and professional development. However, for all the energy expended to encourage teachers to use ICT, it is reported that few teachers take full advantage of the significant opportunities that ICT present. A number of reasons have been cited to explain this, the most compelling of which are bound up with teachers’ knowledge and skills in harnessing ICT and their beliefs about ICT and teaching itself.
This research presents a three year longitudinal study of a cohort of 35 beginning teachers located in Western Australia. The focus on beginning teachers is purposeful. It is suggested that this segment of the teaching profession can provide useful insights into the affordances and risks that teachers face in harnessing ICT. Beginning teachers may also provide a window into how ICT will be taken up in the future. The aim of the research, therefore, is to describe and explain beginning teachers’ beliefs, knowledge, dispositions and skills in using ICT within the context of their school environment(s).
The research literature characterises beginning teachers as having positive self-perceptions of their ability to use ICT, and embracing contemporary, student-centred theories of learning. Given these preconditions, it might seem likely that beginning teachers would seek to integrate ICT into their teaching in innovative ways. The seven research questions that underpin and guide the research are aimed, at least in part, at confirming or challenging this assertion.
The study adopts a mixed method approach in seeking to understand and interpret the dynamic nature of participants’ beliefs about teaching and their knowledge, dispositions and skills in using ICT within their socio-cultural context. A rich data set, gathered over three years and using qualitative and quantitative techniques, is presented to provide evidence in relation to the study’s research questions. The longitudinal nature of the study provides opportunities to interpret this data set over time, adding to the strength and credibility of the research.
Participants articulated pedagogical beliefs that aimed to engage students in active meaning making. However, the way in which participants used ICT was generally limited to presentation-style teaching, completion of worksheets using a narrow range of productivity software and the use of the World Wide Web for simple inquiries or reinforcement. There was a clear mismatch between the ideals that participants claimed to hold to be important and their capacity to use ICT to help realise these ideals. Four interrelated factors are posited to explain this: lack of clarity over beliefs and how ICT can support these beliefs; variability of perceptions within schools of the affordances and risks of using ICT; embedded structural constraints that stall the creative use of ICT; and, deficiencies in technological-pedagogical-content knowledge.
The study may interest educational policy-makers, school leaders, managers, teachers and other learning professionals that are considering how to conceptualise, plan, implement and/or enhance the use of ICT within their local context. A model is presented to help educators grapple with the implications of using ICT in the classroom and explore its transformative potential.