Navigating Teacher Beliefs, Connected Learning, and Practice-Based Inquiry for Equitable ICT Integration (Part 3)

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Practice-Based Inquiry (PBI) is a school visit process that provides interested constituencies insight into how teaching and learning happen at a school.  PBI is based on the English tradition of school inspection, by which all UK schools receiving public funds are inspected every four years.  The principles of PBI were also the process by which the State of Rhode Island conducted the “state-wide, school accountability system designed to support the implementation of the Board of Regents’ strategic agenda” from 1997 until 2009 (SALT Blueprint).  The process came to Chicago for the first time in 1998 through the Chicago Schools Alliance at Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI).   ACT Charter School requested PBI visits as a part of their charter renewals during its years of operation . Since that time, the Network for College Success (NCS) at the University of Chicago has become a PBI center, sponsoring visits as a way for its member CPS high schools to better understand learning and teaching at the school.  After a visit, NCS, rather than asserting control over the school, instead offers assistance (Wilson, 1996) towards its improvement plans based on the resulting PBI report.  (If you are familiar with PBI, jump to implications for connected learning and equity.)

The Protocol

Each 5-day PBI visit follows a rigorous protocol that lays out how the visit is conducted. Protocol guidelines determine:

  • The size and composition of the visit team
  • The conduct of team members while in the school
  • Focus questions that guide and limit the scope of the team’s inquiry
  • The nature of the evidence the team collects
  • The structure of the team’s written report
  • The process for how the report is written
  • Tests for each conclusion in the report
  • Tests of the report itself

Team Composition

Each team in purposefully composed for the school requesting the visit and requires a complex balancing of criteria.  The protocol sets requirements regarding the number of administrators, special education teachers, grade-level and subject area teachers.  Further, at least 50% of the team must be practicing teachers.  On top of these requirement, NCS seeks to balance teams in regard to gender and race to match that of the student population of the visited school. Finally, each team is composed of educators currently working in or with CPS schools. After each visit, that team is disbanded.  Thus, each visit is conducted with a completely new, unique team, thereby making it impossible to develop a “professionalized corps of inspectors”.   While assembling a team primarily from working, school-based educators arguably makes for the most daunting logistic of any visit, nearly all team members who experience a PBI visit report that it is one of, if not the most, powerful professional learning experiences they have had.

The Focus Questions

Three nested questions provide the focus for each visit: 1) How well do students at [school name] learn?  2) How well do teachers at [school name] teach for learning?  3) How well does the administration at [school name] support teaching and learning?  The nested structure of the questions with student learning at the center of the inquiry anticipates related conclusions in teaching and support.  While these questions seem generic, that is, in fact, what gives the visit process and resulting report their credibility.  Teams do not go into schools with rubrics and checklists.  In such a context, the use of such tools are far too random and subjective and thus suggest that if teams don’t find what is on the rubric or checklist that the school must not be “good” or “effective”.  Instead, team members observe the school through the frames of these questions and collect the evidence that provides answers, applying their professional judgement to that evidence to determine whether and how well students learn, teachers teach, and administrators support teaching and learning.

5 Days in the School

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Tom Wilson explains PBI.  Click to play.

Team members spend their first day (Monday) shadowing a student through their full schedule to get the students’ perspective and experience being a learner at the school.  Throughout the day team members observe their students’ learning in each class, talk with them as well as other students they encounter.  Everything they observe throughout the day must focus on evidence of student learning and to draw on their professional judgement to determine whether and what their student learned that day.  On the second day (Tuesday) team members fan out to observe every teacher in the building and collect evidence to answer how well teachers teach.  In addition to observations, team members converse with teachers during their preps or lunch periods to get the teachers’ perspectives about what it is like teaching at the school as well as their thoughts about their students and administrative support for teaching.   The team spends the third day (Wednesday) meeting various school constituencies.  By meeting with the principal, the assistant principals, counsellors, parents, students, LSC members, community partners, security, lunch staff, the team determines how well the school supports teaching and learning.  Each meeting lasts at least an hour.  As a result of the Wednesday meetings, team members begin to see connections between and among the evidence they collected during their first two days in the school.  The first half of the fourth day (Thursday) is for conducting “special inquiries”.  By this time, team members have a high level of certainty about what they want to say in the report.  So the time in the school is about collecting the final evidence and determine whether it strongly affirms or challenges the existing evidence and the conclusions they believe are the most important for the school to hear about learning, teaching, and support. All inquires and evidence collection must be completed before noon on Thursday, after which the team is sequestered in the team room for the remainder of the visit to deliberate and write the PBI report.

When the first draft of the report is completed by the end of the day on Friday, the team has spent a significant amount of time in the school.  On average, a PBI team is convened at a school approximately 60 hours.  A team of 12 will spend nearly 125 person hours directly observing the classrooms at a given school with a goal of visiting every teacher’s classroom at least once. Teams average around 60 person hours in one-on-one or small group conversations with a school’s students, faculty, administrators, parents, and staff.  They will also spend several hours observing school meetings if school and team schedules allow it. Teams convene meetings that total around 25 to 30 hours to ask questions of students, teachers, the leadership team, the principal, and senior school administrators.  In addition to the time they spend interacting with the school, a full visit team meets privately in the team room for anywhere from 30-40 hours spanning the five days of the visit. During most of this time, teams are in intense discussions to thoroughly consider the evidence they have collected and to build the conclusions, commendations and recommendations presented in the report.

After each day’s evidence collection, team members return to the team room and review their notes from the day.  Every team member shares the evidence they collected to answer the focus question for that day.  They share what they believe is the most important information first.  They finish by asking a question about the school they think they need to attend to during the next day based on what the present day’s evidence seems to suggest is important to learn.  Finally, the team spends some time considering what they heard in the debriefing of the day, what patterns they heard, and common themes.  These questions and common themes are captured in team notes and drive the inquiry forward.

Professional Judgement, Deliberated Consensus, & Dynamic Evidence

Several elements about the PBI protocol make it a compelling process, not to mention unusual, in this age of data-driven decision-making.  What is unique is the emphasis placed on the roles of professional judgement, deliberated consensus and the dynamic nature of evidence.  A PBI visit is different from the kinds of “data dives” so many schools do these days.  The differences are primarily a result of the process the team follows and the evidence it collects, both of which take a significant amount of time relative to spending a couple of hours in a faculty meeting looking primarily at charts, graphs, and numbers and trying to divine from them any specifics about learning and teaching.

elements_of_PBI-8bitDuring the 3.5 days the team is in the school collecting evidence, each team member draws on their professional judgement to determine which pieces of evidence are the most important for the team to hear in light of the previously collected evidence and team discussions about it. They consider if and how that evidence answers the questions raised from what was shared the day before.  Each day, the questions team members ask and the themes they identify in the shared evidence pushes the team farther and provides direction for the next day’s observations.  While the team is open to all evidence they encounter, what they have collected also suggest the kinds of evidence they look for as they move forward.

By about the third day of the visit, the team starts to identify themes they believe are the most important for the school to hear.  These themes become candidates for conclusions in the report.  Thus, what the team believes is the most important findings for the school to hear evolves over time:  The evidence they collect each day and the questions that fuel further inquiry are informed by their professional judgements — both individual and corporate — which in turn are informed by each day’s deliberations. The evidence becomes dynamic as the team deliberates about the meaning of the evidence they find.   What the team believes is the most important conclusions to write about learning, teaching, and support on Monday are usually not the same by Thursday.

The PBI Report

Each PBI visit results in a report that is written by and tested for full team consensus.  The report is the collective voice of the team.  Each report includes the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Profile of the School
  • Portrait of the School at the Time of the Visit
  • Findings on Student Learning
  • Findings on Teaching for Learning
  • Findings on School Support for Learning and Teaching
  • Final Advice
  • Catalpa Endorsement
  • Report Appendix

Of these sections, each visit team writes the Profile, Portrait, Findings, and Final Advice.  The Profile is drafted by the team chair before the visit begins.  It included the history of the school and its community, drawn from the chair’s own research, public documents, and formal interviews with the school principal.  It is shared with the principal for any factual corrections.  The team also has an opportunity to make any revisions they feel are necessary.  The Portrait, while one of the first parts of the report is one of the last parts written after most of the conclusion writing is complete.  It serves as an overview, or a snapshot of the state of the school at the time of the visit. Conclusions the team writes based on the three focus questions constitute each of the Findings sections.  Teams write 3 to 7 conclusions each for Student Learning, Teaching for Learning and School Support for Learning and Teaching. Each conclusion is coded from a list of evidence sources and must include a minimum of two different sources.  In addition to the conclusions for the latter two Findings, teams may include Commendations for areas where teachers and the school excel.  They also write brief Recommendations based on the conclusions in the visit report.  Final Advice is just that: The last chance for the team to speak to the school community, rally them to the work ahead, and give the school a sense of what the team believes, only in the broadest sense, what the school’s next steps should be.

After the team adjourns on Friday night, the chair works with both a PBI master chair and copy editor to make sure the report is soundly written grammatically, stylistically, and effectively communicates the team’s intent.  Then, within two weeks of the end of the visit, the chair and as many team members as possible, return to the school and read a working draft of the report to the entire faculty and staff.

Endorsement occurs after a Catalpa representative has a post-visit conversations with the team chair and the school principal to confirm procedures to ensure the legitimacy of the report were followed. [Link to Catalpa Procedures page]  With the attachment of the written Endorsement to the report, the final draft is finalized, copyrighted, and becomes the property of the school.  Copies are sent to the school and NCS with a third retained by Catalpa.

What PBI Suggests About Learning Technologies Use in CPS High Schools

The details of what can be shared here are limited by confidentiality agreements each team member signs in order to serve on a PBI team.  Therefore, the nature of the evidence shared here is generalized.

CPS-Logo_Blue_288x153Nothing in the PBI visit protocol explicitly requires teams to consider a school’s use of information and communication technologies (ICT).  Nor should it since conclusions about ICT are easily validated within the bounds of the three focus questions.  Indeed, in the past few years some teams have decided to include technology use as evidence examples of broader conclusions about learning and teaching.  On one level, this is encouraging, especially since nearly all schools at the time of their visit demonstrated typical ICT use. That is teaching characterized by an overwhelming use of traditional, teacher-centered, textbook-based instructional methods even though “contemporary educational programs recommend the integration of ICT’s in teaching and learning” (Barak, 2014).  Only one team of those on which I have been a part has written entire conclusions specifically about technology use in the school that one would recognize as informed by ISTE standards [link].  Even in this instance, the conclusions specifically about ICT use made it into the report only because a single team member with deep knowledge and current beliefs about the role ICT need now play — made a very strong case and successfully swayed the team.  Among his arguments was that conclusions about ICT use had to be a priority since the school being visited had a curricular focus on technology.  Thus the faculty and staff needed to hear what the team thought about its use of technology for learning, teaching and support.  Given that the PBI protocol requires true consensus, eery team member had to agree both that the conclusion was important enough to write and that they had the evidence to write it. Nevertheless, this teacher was selected specifically to reflect the programming of a technology-focused school.  To have such  highly knowledgeable, ISTE-steeped teacher on visit teams for schools that do not have a technology focus is not the norm.

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School bulletin board for responsible use of social media

This raises an issue about intentional composition of PBI teams.   Excepting the example above, conclusions in previous reports that even mentioned technology treated it in their reports as so many teachers do in the classroom — as a mere add-on.  Yet this may not be because previous teams didn’t deem ICT use important per se, but because to date, teams have not had the current and requisite knowledge or beliefs about pan-curricular, ICT-based teaching and learning sufficient enough to make such conclusions a regular part of visit reports even if such conclusions were warranted.  Song et al. in their study of the effects of prior knowledge, self-regulation and motivation on learning performance reference the work of Baldwin et al, noting “the close relationship between prior knowledge and interest from the viewpoint of adult education….  They state that ‘as people get older and increasingly specialized, interest and knowledge may come to correspond closely” (2016).  Team members with more prior knowledge and interest in the uses of ICT for teaching and learning across the curriculum would “set larger and more consistent goal structures” and “behave in a more goal-oriented way” (2016).  The implications of intentionally selecting educators with such specialist interests to serve as PBI team members would have significant implications for team inquiries into ICT-based teaching and learning.  Not the least of which is raising ICT use to the level of stand-alone conclusions in their own right, thereby putting technology skills and knowledge on a par with students’ abilities to read, write, and think critically.  Such an elevation is necessary for any school that intends to be a 21st Century institution or one that positively impacts educational equity.  Then, to round out the nested focus questions then, the same must also be said about technology conclusions about teachers’ use of ICT to facilitate learning and administrators’ expectations, messaging, and professional learning supports.

PBI, Connected Learning, and Equity

NCS_approachWhy does NCS exert so much energy to sponsor, support, and in some instances, cajole their member schools into hosting PBI visits?  Because PBI is a unique and powerful reflective opportunity to support continuous school improvement. As such, the best teams will uncover issues of equity in their learning about the visit school and raise it to the level of a conclusion in a report.  It is worth emphasizing that all NCS schools are CPS schools. As such, NCS member schools serve mostly urban students of color, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. NCS is an equity organization that works from the understanding that education is a social justice issue, where the future success of our society’s most vulnerable citizens is directly linked to quality education.  Thus, to host a PBI visit has potential benefits for school equity when the school uses the resulting report as a basis for setting priorities and improvement goals that positively impact educational outcomes for the public school students of Chicago.

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Elements of Connected Learning

As I wrote in parts one and two of this blog post, when schools make learning connected learning, they positively impact equity.   The correlations between socio-economic class, race, and teacher beliefs, and the kinds of opportunities students have to experience connected learning through ICT-based instruction have implications for how NCS selects educators for PBI visits.  In order to impact matters of equity linked to connected learning and ICT-based learning, PBI teams should be more intentionally comprised to include computing teachers (as opposed to computer teachers) [anchor tag to point in previous post] .  As noted in the example above, when teams have members who can employ their technological and pedagogical professional judgements to evidence collection and team deliberated consensus, they will include more specific conclusions about technology use in PBI reports.

PBI has been been a mechanism for schools to have discussions about matters of equity all along.  Whether it is about which students in a school take full advantage of available learning opportunities and programs or do not, how the curriculum does or does not prepare students for their post-secondary future, how faculty and staff beliefs expand or curtails students’ access to quality learning, or how support structures make access to programs available to all members of the learning community or privilege certain parts  over others.  ICT-based instruction plays a significant role in students’ development of the growth mindsets necessary for the lifelong learning, just-in-time learning, creative abilities, and collaborative abilities required to thrive in a 21st Century post-secondary world.  PBI visits and reports, therefore, need to be able to raise such issues for a school as a part of their post-visit discussions and improvement plans regarding student, teacher, and school uses of technology.

Team Composition for the 21st Century

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More than just content knowledge and how to teach it: The intricate interplay of teachers’ knowledge domains in the digital age.

Understanding ICT-based learning and instruction as an equity issue means it must be an explicit part of school transformation efforts.  Inasmuch as PBI visits are a part of such transformation efforts, then it is also vital to keep elements of connected learning with ICT-based, student-centered learning and teaching on the front burner of future PBI visits.  Intentional team composition is a means towards this end.  It calls for finding educators who understand the critical role learning with technology now plays.  “A range of other scholars have argued that knowledge about technology cannot be treated as context-free, and that good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to the pedagogy and content”  (What is TPACK?, 2012).   Where “good [inquiry] requires specific knowledge about the teaching of those disciplines….  [S]ubject specialization helps [team members] make judgements about the quality of teaching” (Wilson, 1996).  Since most schools do not effectively use ICT for teaching and learning when it is widely acknowledged how vital it is to do so, PBI practice would be strengthened and visit schools better served if the criteria for purposeful PBI team construction included educators with deep TPACK knowledge and positive belief sets about ICT use who can understand contemporary classrooms through a sort of “TPACK lens” .  As ICT-knowledgeable team members collect and interpret evidence about ICT-based learning and instruction and cast their professional judgements about the evidence, they would bring their technological knowledge as well as their pedagogical and content knowledge to the team deliberations and report conclusions.

Similar understandings and belief sets in PBI chairs would also strengthen visit practice.  Knowledge about ICT and connected learning would allow chairs to raise appropriate questions for the team, guide collection of useful evidence, and effectively facilitate team discussions such that visit reports include findings and conclusions about how well students learn with, teachers teach with, and administrators support uses of digital, networked technologies.

PBI As Mechanism For Changing Teacher Beliefs

PBI visits are powerful because they are conducted by professional peers.  PBI teams are not, as mentioned above, a professionalized corps of outsiders coming in to pass judgement on a school community’s effectiveness and to deliver a “gotcha!”.  PBI teams are working educators, fellow teachers and administrators from Chicago Public Schools.  They are allies working in support of common efforts to improve teaching and learning for the children of Chicago.  As such, the conclusions teams choose to write and the words they choose to write them means reports have a sometimes uncomfortably unavoidable credibility to the faculty and staff of host schools.  By including conclusions about how well the learning community is or is not using technology can set the stage for changing teacher beliefs about their own abilities and those of their students.  It is yet another opportunity for “perceived social influence from referent others [to have] a significant positive influence on individual beliefs about the usefulness of technology”  (Gu et al, 2011).  PBI team members — that is CPS colleagues — and their collective voice in the body of a report are the “referent others” who exert “social influence positively and significantly affects IT utilization” (2011).

Conclusion

One of the mottos that guides PBI teams is “Know what you see.  Don’t see what you know.”  It reminds team members that when examining evidence and deliberating in the team room, they cannot be led by what they do at their school or by whether or not a particular program or framework “should” be deployed as it is at the visit school.  It reinforces that they must bring their professional judgement to bear only on what they see and hear during the week of the visit and what that tells the team about teaching and learning at the visit school.  Yet it is fascinating how new learning changes what one notices.  How in light of that learning that one discerns things that were never noticed before.  Two years ago, I did not know about ISTE with its Essential Conditions  and technology standards for educators, students, parents, and coaches .  Or about the Connected Learning Research Network with connected learning as a social constructivist path toward redefining school for the 21st Century and a digitally networked era.  Or about the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and the links between technology, lifelong learning, and citizenship.  These are just a few of the organizations, concepts, or frameworks that in this digital, networked era so clearly connect the social justice and equity agendas of schools to the use of technology generally and technology-infused learning throughout the curriculum specifically.  Those connections have particular implications in schools that seek to serve poor children of color.

For years as an educator, a PBI team member, and as a PBI visit chair, I regarded technology use during PBI visits no differently than the educators I was leading on a team.  I still cannot lead PBI visits with a particular agenda.  Yet at a time when digital technology and media comprise an entirely new literacy that will determine the kinds of work students will be able to do as adults, it is vital that schools understand how well they are educating their students in its use.  With the considerable flexibility the PBI protocol allows, the times warrant more conscious and conscientious inclusion of knowledgeable and experienced computing educators on PBI teams and the ICT-learning-related conclusions for visit schools that will result.

HM Senior Chief Inspector Bill Maxwell talks about OFSTED school inspection.

See the first two parts of this series:

Navigating Teacher Beliefs, Connected Learning, and Practice-Based Inquiry for Equitable ICT Integration (Part 1)

Navigating Teacher Beliefs, Connected Learning, and Practice-Based Inquiry for Equitable ICT Integration (Part 2)


Sources:

Barak, M. (2014). Closing the Gap Between Attitudes and Perceptions About ICT-Enhanced Learning Among Pre-service STEM Teachers. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 23(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-013-9446-8

Catalpa Ltd. (2018, April 2). Retrieved from catalpa.org

Gu, X., Zhu, Y., & Guo, X. (2011). Meeting the “Digital Natives”: Understanding the Acceptance of Technology in Classrooms. Educational Technology, 16(1), 392–402.

SALT Blueprint.pdf. (n.d.).

Song, H. S., Kalet, A. L., & Plass, J. L. (2016). Interplay of prior knowledge, self-regulation and motivation in complex multimedia learning environments: Knowledge, self-regulation, & motivation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning32(1), 31–50. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12117

Koehler, M. (2012, September 24). What is TPACK? Retrieved April 4, 2018, from www.tpack.org

Wilson, T. (1996). Reaching For A Better Standard. New York: Teachers College Press.

Wilson, Thomas. (2016). The Design and Conduct of  Rigorous And Useful  Practice-Based Inquiry® Visits to Schools: A Comprehensive Handbook for The Network for College Success  (at the University of Chicago) Handbook 2. The Chair Handbook. Catalpa, Ltd.

Wilson, Thomas. (2017, April 10). Template for Preparing Initial Version of Report.

 

Navigating Teacher Beliefs, Connected Learning, and Practice-Based Inquiry for Equitable ICT Integration (Part 1)

In an editorial in Education Weekly, “The Technology Puzzle: Why Is Greater Access Not Translating Into Better Classroom Use?”, Larry Cuban lays out a number of reasons why, from his point of view, education has not adopted technology into their practices to the same extend the business world has.  He outlines the usual tropes that lay the issue solely at the feet of teachers, including pre-service education that does not emphasize technology, a dearth of specific training, not enough time to learn about and practice with technology, the number of “older teachers” in the profession, and technophobia.  Yet he doesn’t leave it there.  Refreshingly, he identifies five other obstacles, none of which blame teachers.  After going into detail about the impacts of contradictory advice from experts, intractable working conditions, demands from others, the unreliability of technology, and policymakers’ disrespect for teachers’ opinions, Cuban concludes,

“Why should very busy teachers who are genuinely committed to doing a good job with their students listen to experts’ changing advice on technologies when they have to face daily, unyielding working conditions, internal and external demands on their time and stamina; unreliable machines and software; and disrespect for their opinions?… What corporate cheerleaders, policymakers, and vendors who have far more access to the media ignore are teachers’ voices, the enduring workplace conditions within which teachers teach, inherent flaws in the technologies, and ever-changing advice of their own experts.  Such reasons are ignored because they go to the heart of what happens in schools, are very expensive to remedy, and reflect poorly on corporate know-how in producing machines….  For experts, the answer are straightforward and all point to teachers.  Bashing teachers for not doing more with technology misses the deeper, more consequential reasons for what teachers do every day.”

As contemporary as this sounds, Cuban was writing an editorial that appeared in 1999.

Cuban’s perspective is a refreshing break from the tendency to lay blame for all kinds of  societal ills at the feet of teachers.  Not only does this oversimplification of “laying blame” keep us from adequately identifying what makes for good teaching and learning, but it elides the highly complicated interplay between elements of the school ecosystem and teachers’ roles within it.  Indeed, the fact that a description of teaching conditions from nearly 20 years ago is nearly identical to those many teachers work in today would suggest that we are spinning our wheels.  Yet when it comes to the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) into instruction, teachers are the ultimate facilitators or obstacles when it comes to whether and how students get to experience ICT in their learning.  As such, we need to explore and better understand how teachers’ attitudes and beliefs impact their use of ICT for teaching and learning.  In doing so, education teachers and professional learning providers will  be in better positions to support teachers in making the changes needed for ICT to be both process and product of teaching and learning across the curriculum.

The Literature

beliefs_characteristics-nestorLittle, if anything, happens in the classroom without the teacher setting the stage for action.  What teachers believe about their students abilities impacts what they teach and how they teach it.  Yet what teachers believe about their own abilities also influences what and how they teach.  Drawing on James Calderhead’s work into the role beliefs play in teacher practice and the differentiation between beliefs and knowledge, Ertmer explores the relationships between them.  Ertmer defines beliefs in this context as “educational beliefs about teaching and learning (referred to here as pedagogical beliefs) and the beliefs they have about how technology enables them to translate those beliefs into classroom practice” (2005)  In extending Calderhead’s work, Ertmer noted that even after one gains some knowledge, they still either accept it as true or false.  That is, they either believe the information or they do not (2005).

Park and Ertmer examined how problem-based learning impacts teachers’ beliefs about the use of technology for teaching and learning.  They identified the differences between so-called first order and second order barriers to change where first order barriers relates to externals — limited access to computers, software, planning time, or administrative support.  Second order barriers deal with the internals — teachers’ beliefs about instructional technology, preferred methods. and willingness to shift practices (2014).  They cite research by Zhihui Fang finding that many factors shape teachers’ beliefs, including discipline subculture, pre-service classroom experiences, and opportunities to reflect on their pre-service experiences.  In addition to these, Park and Ertmer find teachers’ beliefs about their pedagogy, their own self-efficacy, and the value of technology for education all influence their ICT use (2014).

intiutive_screen_quote-ertmer

In a two-year study that examined K-12 teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of ICT for teaching and learning, Badia et al.  They found that while the school structure and the technological profile of the school positively correlated to perceived benefits of ICT use,  teacher’s beliefs were the most important factor.  “The strongest correlations are found in variables related to the technological profile of the teacher, such as the level of computer literacy…, training received and assessment of its usefulness…, frequency of access to the Internet [sic] at school…and frequency of access to the Internet [sic] outside school”  (2015).  Other factors that had a significant positive relationship were gender, subject area, and educational technology policy of the school (2015).

Song, Kalet, and Plass conducted a study examining the effects of prior knowledge, self-regulation and motivation on learning performance in complex, multimedia environments among medical students in rotation.  They found that students’ prior knowledge in a specific domain “directly influenced their knowledge recall, comprehension and clinical reasoning after learning from a multimedia module”  (2015).  In addition, prior knowledge is also associated with self-regulation, motivation, self-efficacy, and goal orientation (2015).

Examining teachers’ agency, Biesta et al. consider how teachers actively shape the work they do and the conditions in which they do it.  The authors note specifically how this is in marked contrast to “several decades of policies that worked to de-professionalise teachers by taking agency away from them and replacing it with prescriptive curricula and oppressive regimes of testing and inspection”  (2015).  They position teacher agency within the broader space of agency theory where “rather than seeing agency residing in individuals, agency is understood as an emergent phenomenon of actor-situation transaction”  (2015).  Recognizing such positioning will have implications for the role beliefs play in teacher agency and the extent to which elements of practice do and do not manifest in the classroom.

Mumtaz explored influences on teachers’ ICT use — both the elements that facilitated its effective use and inhibited it.  She identified three behaviors that inform teachers instruction according to their beliefs about technology use: avoidance, integration, and technical specialization.  Mumtaz also describes the impacts of these belief-behavior types on the pupils of said teachers (2006).

Multiple Heavy Lifts

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The complexities of the interactions between teachers’ pedagogical belief systems and knowledge systems makes TPACK even more relevant.  Image: TPACK.org

While it provides fascinating insights and very useful information, in many ways the research lays out an extremely daunting path for teacher educators and professional learning providers.  For the most part, first order obstacles to change are far less an issue today.  Even though the “access gap” is all but closed, with near total high speed connectivity of the schools and the ubiquity of mobile devices, we still have not seen commensurate levels of ICT integration.  This would suggest that second order obstacles are the actual roadblocks that need to be addressed consistently and often.  Part of this challenge is that teachers view first-order obstacles as surmountable because changes they require are seen as incremental, doable without needing to change any existing structures or long-held beliefs.  Teachers also perceive them as reversible.  Second-order obstacles, however, requires teachers to challenge their deep-seated beliefs.  They require teachers to see and do things differently.  Significantly, second-order change is seen as being impossible to reverse once they have begun (Ertmer, 2005).  As such, we can expect these changes to be hard won and long in the offing since belief change is some of the slowest change of all.  Yet it is the most necessary in order to truly integrate ICT into teaching and learning practices for the digital age.

A common belief among educators and professional learning providers is that to attain the necessary ICT integration to thoroughly prepare students for the 21st century world of work, high quality and sustained professional is essential.  This is indeed true.  However, the idea also runs the risk of being yet another silver bullet since the kind of professional learning we must consider cannot be just about giving them knowledge about technology and how to use it.  It must include learning that addresses and changes teachers’ belief systems about the pedagogical value of technology and why it is necessary.

Because the interplay between teachers’ belief systems and knowledge systems is highly complex and complicated, professional learning must address both systems.   On one hand, beliefs and knowledge are in opposition with one another as can be seen when it comes to teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and the relative value of ICT for education. The strong emotional and evaluative charges beliefs carry make them “more influential than knowledge in determining how individuals organize and define tasks and problems” and thus makes them more powerful determiners of behavior (Ertmer, 2005).  On the other hand there is significant overlap between beliefs and knowledge where prior knowledge impacts teachers’ self-efficacy which in turn impacts implementation of ICT instruction. What teachers believe they can or cannot do with ICT instruction is not necessarily aligned with what they know about what to do with ICT instruction.  Teachers’ self-regulation, or “self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions for attaining academic goals…help a learner acquire knowledge by goal setting, self-monitoring and self-reflection….  [W]hen learners are confident about a learning task, they tend to use more self-regulated learning strategies in the task…[and] when learners perform better using self-regulated learning strategies, their self-efficacy on the task tends to be increased”  (Song et al., 2015).  In addition, self-efficacy beliefs are a strong predictor for whether or not teachers use technology for teaching and learning.  Teachers’ beliefs about the value of using technology in the classroom “greatly enhanced” teachers’ perceptions of computers’ effectiveness as tools for teaching and learning  (Park & Ertmer, 2015).  Thus, not only do teachers need to have knowledge about ICT and methods for its instructional use, but they also need to believe both that they can use that knowledge effectively and that its use would be productive.

The work of changing minds is difficult enough when the facts are at hand.  But as Calderhead distinguished there are differences between knowledge and beliefs in that  knowledge is based on factual propositions and understanding whereas beliefs grow out of suppositions, ideologies and commitments (Ertmer, 2005).

Distinguishing between Technophobia and Cynicism

Pew Research Center data shows that as of February 2018, 95% of American adults own a cellphone and 77% own smartphones.  Among adults who graduated college, 91% own smartphones.  Looking at other devices, Pew finds that 77% of American adults own a laptop or desktop and 53% own a tablet.  Teachers clearly fall within these demographics.  Yet some teachers self-identify or are identified as “Luddites”, “technophobes”, “digitally reluctant” or any other term we have come up with to describe (and excuse?) teachers who do not incorporate ICT-based methods in their classrooms, or do so only in the most rudimentary, low-skilled ways.  Yet given the data like that from Pew, these teachers cannot be true technophobes.  Many, if not most, have some kind of digital identity that does not include their teacherly self.  They have mobile devices through which they acquire, create, and share information via text messages and social media.  They find their way in the world with GPS-supported navigation.  They video chat.  On their laptops they shop online, do their banking, correspond via email, and schedule their lives with calendar apps.  Everyone “googles”.   Indeed, there are “no technophobes here”  (Cuban, 1999).

pew_cellphone_saturation

So why are these teachers not bringing a similar digital savvy to their instruction through the plethora of edtech options available to them?  For “decades, experts hired by corporate vendors and entrepreneurial academics have exhorted teachers, particularly those in high schools, to use new technologies for classrooms”  (Cuban, 1999). In the 1980’s teachers were told students needed to be fluent in the BASIC programming language. In the 1990’s knowledge of BASIC was replaced by needing to know HTML so students could build web sites.  They also needed to be fluent in specific types of applications so they could conduct research online, communicate with email, write in word processors and compile data and crunch numbers in spreadsheets  (Cuban, 1999).  The messages today are yet another set of expectations that are quite different from teachers heard at the turn of the century, even if they are more generalized around constructs such as the 4 C’s that don’t strap teachers and students to highly specific contexts or tools.  But this is an issue that k-12 educators in particular struggle with as a profession: The never ending revolving door of initiatives and priorities, where said initiatives and priorities only tend to be a focus for a year or two before being replaced by another set of initiatives and priorities.  The constant churn only serves to generate initiative fatigue and cynicism when teachers recognize the pattern and stubbornly refuse to change out of sheer exhaustion.   

Whether it is initiative fatigue-induced cynicism, technophobia, or something more complex at play, the result is what I am calling an “application gap”, which is the difference between how teachers apply ICT use to their personal lives than in their professional lives.  And it represents another fascinating area of study and more research to better understand the teachers who do not implement ICT instruction in their classes and to provide a path for them to do so.

What’s Next and Why It Matters

IISC_EqualityEquityThis is the first post in what is projected to be a three part series.  Future posts in the series will further explore the role of connected learning as an ethos for more fully integrating ICT in teaching and learning across the curricula.  They will also relate some of my experiences as a team chair for Practice-Based Inquiry (PBI) school visits and what I have seen during the past 6 years I have been doing these visits in regard to ICT implementation and how such visits might serve as a means of providing feedback for schools around ICT implementation.  In as much as fully integrating ICT into teaching and learning in our digital, networked age is an essential element of schooling, it means that we then must pay particular attention to the communities in which securing educational resources has historically been a challenge.  That is to say those where our most vulnerable and chronically underserved students live — the cities and neighborhoods that are home to poor children of color.  Thus, the overarching goal of this series is to position teachers’ beliefs about ICT integration, connected learning, and PBI methodology as matters of equity for all learning communities to consider, particularly those that serve those most in need.

Read Part 2 of  Navigating Teacher Beliefs, Connected Learning and Practice-Based Inquiry Fore Equitable ICT Integration


REFERANCES:

Biesta, G., Priestley, M., & Robinson, S. (2015). The role of beliefs in teacher agency.        Teachers and Teaching, 21(6), 624–640. https://doi.org/10.1080/13540602.2015.1044325
Cuban, L. (1999). The Technology Puzzle. Education Week, 18(43), 68. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02504683 
Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The final frontier in our quest for technology integration? Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 25-       39.
Mumtaz, S. (2000). Factors affecting teachers’ use of information and communications   technology: a review of the literature. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher   Education, 9(3), 319–342. https://doi.org/10.1080/14759390000200096
Park, S. H., & Ertmer, P. A. (2007). Impact of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) on Teachers’     Beliefs Regarding Technology Use. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(2),   247–267. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2007.10782507
Pew Research Center Mobile Fact Sheet. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/ (March 19, 2018).
Song, H. S., Kalet, A. L., & Plass, J. L. (2016). Interplay of prior knowledge, self-regulation   and motivation in complex multimedia learning environments: Knowledge, self-   regulation, & motivation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(1), 31–50.    https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12117.

Week 11-Teaching 21st Century Students

One of the key safety instructions we all hear every time we board an airplane is that in the event of cabin depressurization we must put our own oxygen mask on first before helping others.  This is vital since not matter how much we care about the family or friends sitting with us, we cannot help them if we ourselves are unconscious due to asphyxia.  When it comes to our societal need to transform our schools, we are very much in a similar situation as a depressurizing airplane.  As much as we say we want to focus on the needs of students, we will not see the transformations they need in our education system until teachers and administrators are moved to understand the need for change and prioritize the professional learning necessary to get us there.  So this week I focused on the ISTE Standards for Teachers 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher, and The 21st Century Workplace which provide clear targets for teachers to consider when teaching the habits of mind, cognitive skills and collaborative abilities students will need in the world we’re preparing them to enter.

Verbs Are Calling For Transformation

Image source: ISTE Standards for Teachers

Consider the verbs of the 5 top level ISTE Standards for Teachers: facilitate, inspire, design, develop, model, promote, engage.  In addition to these top level verbs, it is striking that “model” appears nine times across all 5 standards and 20 sub-clusters.  When considered in combination with the other verbs inspire and facilitate, I’m struck by the heavy lift the ISTE standards are pointing towards.  They suggest that what we need is nothing short of a sea change in school cultures with regard to 21C technology and methodologies.  When so many schools outright ban cell phones and so many teachers don’t incorporate technology in meaningful ways, how are they to facilitate, model and inspire?

It’s All About Culture and Professional Learning

In research for a previous literature review I found that a critical component for implementing the necessary change ISTE calls for comes only with consistent, focused professional learning for teachers.  Not only that, but school culture also has a significant impact on the success or failure of information and communication technology (ICT) implementation, much of which is determined by the level of support projected by the principal.

School culture can positively impact ICT practices.  Positive peer pressure can motivate reluctant teachers to try new approaches with technology.  Studies have also found that teachers who see positive student outcomes as a direct result of ICT practices are more likely to continue and expand their ICT toolkit.

In a study of three schools where teachers adapted ICT in meaningful ways, all three schools had six characteristics in common:  1) They were well equipped for ICT.  2) Their focus was on changing the process of learning using ICT.  3) Skills were acquired as part of the process of using those skills purposefully.  4) The school provided support.  5) Teachers had opportunities to discuss, reflect and  troubleshoot with peers and facilitators over time.  6) The nature of student learning changed along with teachers’ beliefs and knowledge sets  (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).

Therefore, the school community must recognize that the most effective professional development is that which facilitates teachers understanding about how specific instructional practices themselves support student learning of particular content.  That is, schools must allow teachers to see that technology-supported, student-centered practices impact student acquisition of knowledge  (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).

Finally, even when teachers are willing to wrestle with their beliefs, identify what they truly value, use these realizations to motivate changes to their practice via meaningful PD, the role of the principal administrator cannot be underestimated…. The principal plays an outsized role in creating and maintaining at least four of Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich’s six conditions and is generally responsible for shepherding the wider culture of the school community.  Determining what professional learning is necessary among which teachers; establishing the systems for implementing the professional learning plan; creating calendars for structured and unstructured learning; countering programmed time with protected, unprogrammed time for reflection and metacognition about instruction – all these necessities flow from the principal’s office.  When the principal does these things in a way that sets high expectations and supports for ICT instruction, shifts can be made more readily if still not easily.  However, when the principal’s own beliefs, values, and motivations do not prioritize ICT methods, digitally infused learning environments are far less likely to take hold, even with willing and capable teachers.

Douglas van Dyke, “Transitions to Digitally Mediated Classrooms”

 

The Educator’s Need to Feel Expert

This dovetails with the what I’ve written about in previous blog posts about the anxiety teachers feel when they are thrust into areas where they do not feel expert.  Given the significant shift and stretch for which the ISTE standards are calling, we don’t seem likely to meet them without acknowledging both the fundamental changes in school culture that are necessary as well as high quality and consistent PD for teachers.  Additionally, educators must reconcile their reluctance to implement ICT methods in school with their own ICT use in the various aspects of their lives outside of school.

Blow This Stuff UP!

When we consider the 21st century world — that is the one we are living in today — and the workplace students will enter, especially as described by Daniel Pink, the need for a cultural and instructional transformation of our schools could not be more apparent.  The leap from an “Information Age” to a “Conceptual Age” cannot happen without students learning through active learning and metacognitive methods.   ICT and the 4C’s are uniquely suited for the attainment of the skills categories that will be most valued as described by Levy and Murnane: “expert thinking — solving new problems for which there are no routine answers” and “complex communication — persuading, explaining, and in other ways conveying a particular interpretation of information”.  To make such shifts, however, educators must blow up the linearity of the industrial model that defines our school structures and curriculum and the information model on which accountability is based in favor of more distributed, differentiated, student-centric proficiency-based approaches that digital and mobile technologies can now facilitate.

Concluding This Post & TIE 524

What ISTE is essentially calling for is SAMRizing and TPACKing our entire education system.  We must prioritize changes in school culture through consistent professional learning for teachers around ICT methodologies.  Administrators must lead the way, advocating and requiring ICT methods and solidifying the cultural shifts that come as a result.

Over the last eleven weeks, this course has provided a remarkable set of resources for incorporating ICT strategies for both  classroom instruction and professional learning.  In doing so it has facilitated multiple opportunities for reflection about my own practice, where we are as a profession, and how far we all have to go.  It has been an excellent next step on this master’s journey!

Week 10-Frameworks for Evaluating Technology

When SAMR first crossed my path last term, it seemed an elegant way to evaluate the role of a particular technology for whether it was innovating the learning process or just being sexy.  Among many of the teachers I encounter, technology is, as Liz Kolb noted, a gimmick.  Students with iPads are being tricked into thinking they are learning while the teachers who deploy them feel cutting edge.  (Though, the kids are not being tricked.  If I had a dollar for every time I asked a student about what they were doing with a device and was met with a lethargic explanation through a smirk and some eye rolling.  Yeah, they know!)

My SAMR Experiences

SAMR has been useful in my coaching in two ways.  I look for opportunities to stretch my coachees into at least augmentation or modification.  For instance, I recently set up a discussion board in Google Groups for an ILT I work with to extend faculty conversations around learning walks beyond teachers’ physical time together.  Granted, it’s not a lot compared to what we’ve been using in our NLU course work.  But even for my teachers who want to embrace technology, it’s an ah-ha since they don’t venture too far down the GAFE paths they have available to them.  They are easily overwhelmed and quickly become anxious when asked to use features outside their workflow in programs they use everyday.  In general, they struggle with their own ability to transfer skills from a known program to a new one.

In another school I’m helping the faculty map their curriculum using Google Docs to collaboratively write their maps, collect resources, and view each other’s maps.  This is the first that they have effectively been able to visualize the curriculum as a whole.  However, teachers have struggled to find enough time to meet to work collaboratively on course team maps.  CPS’s turning PD days into furlough days has only exacerbated the issue.  While many see the value of the project, they are tired of fighting to carve out tiny parcels of time to meet and do the work.  So just last week I proposed they stop trying to meet face-to-face as it was less necessary than they thought given the powerful collaboration tools that already exist in Google Docs if only they would use them.

Part of a concept map to show teachers how to use Google Docs more remotely and collaboratively; Image Source: D. van Dyke
An enthusiastic teacher’s Google Groups discussion thread; Image source: D. van Dyke

 

In my instructional work I’ve brought SAMR to planning meetings and coached teachers through using the framework to analyze and evaluate their current technology.  Many are surprised to see that they’re operating mostly at the substitution level with occasional dips into augmentation.   We all get excited when the conversation then turns creative and the teacher starts visualizing ways to redesign a lesson such that those iPads or Chromebooks are being used for modification or redefinition.

Frameworks From Heaven

SAMR was an epiphany when I first encountered it.  But having these other analytical and evaluative tools for ICT integration feels like revelation.

TPACK, 3E, TIM are all new to me and I can see each having its place.  3E and SAMR seem more entry-level frameworks for teachers just starting to wrestle with ICT integration.  They are relatively simple and straightforward.  Given their complexity, however, TPACK and TIM seem to be for more sophisticated evaluation of technology deployment.  The pedagogue in me appreciates how TPACK operates from the interplay among multiple domains and context.  TPACK acknowledges the complexity and locality of teaching and learning and demands that the teacher does as well.

Different visualizations of the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

TIM reminded me less of a rubric than of a continuum of skill development like something along the lines of a practitioner model of professional growth such as the Dreyfus model.  Such models allow practitioners to position themselves on the continuum with the skill sets they currently possess.  This creates an evaluative environment, but with less judgment and critique since the model honors practitioners at their current level of experience.  It also suggests that their place in the model is dynamic.  The longer they practice the more skills or “tools” they acquire.   As they grow in experience they travel along the continuum.  Such implicit messaging can be powerful for teachers working to improve their practice.  There is an implied level of safety which is an important motivator for growth.

Kids are savvy enough to know when an iPad or laptop activity is engaging them cognitively or when it is just a glorified textbook.  We’re not pulling anything over on them by simply putting a device in their hands.  These frameworks are great tools to level up our “teaching with tech” game.  They not only foster teacher reflection about how effectively they teach with technology, but having multiple frameworks allows us to differentiate for the sophistication of the teacher using them.

For Further Reading
The Five-Stage Model of Adult Skill Acquisition - Stuart Dreyfus