Does Research-Based Professional Development Make a Difference? A Longitudinal Investigation of Teacher Learning in Technology Integration
by Chrystalla Mouza - 2009
Background/Context: Although there is a growing body of literature on the characteristics of effective professional development, there is little direct evidence on the extent to which these characteristics influence teacher learning and practice. In particular, few studies exist to date that demonstrate the impact of technology-focused professional development on teacher learning and practice. Even fewer studies have examined teacher learning for more than a year to understand the sustainability and growth of professional development gains.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the long-term impact of research-based professional development on teacher learning and practice with respect to technology. Analysis is based on data collected from 7 urban teachers 2 years after their participation in a yearlong, technology-focused professional development program. Follow-up data are compared with data collected by the author during the teachers’ participation in professional development to (1) investigate the sustainability and growth of teachers’ learning, (2) identify the conditions that facilitated or hindered teachers’ capacity to further develop their thinking, knowledge, and practice with regard to technology, and (3) map the trajectory of teachers’ learning over a 3-year period.
Research Design: The study employed a qualitative multiple case study design. Data were collected from multiple sources that included teacher interviews, surveys, classroom observations, and collection of artifacts. Two outcomes were defined as critical measures of long-term learning: sustainability and growth.
Findings/Results: Results indicated that participation in research-based professional development fostered sustained changes in teachers’ educational technology knowledge, ability to design and implement technology-supported experiences for students, and beliefs toward teaching and learning with technology. In two cases, these changes became the basis for continual learning and led to ongoing professional growth. Further, findings revealed three factors that influenced teacher learning over time: (1) student characteristics, (2) access to resources, and (3) social support and opportunities for collaboration with peers.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Findings of the study suggest that participation in professional development that is grounded in the currently accepted best practices can impact teacher learning and practice. They also offer insights into the process by which teachers modify their knowledge, practices, and beliefs and the conditions that influence learning over time. Further, they provide new lenses for analyzing teacher learning that suggest looking more closely into the interactive relationship between practices and beliefs, as well as the ways in which classroom experience influences continual learning and change.
Nearly every educational reform initiative that seeks to improve student learning is accompanied by teacher professional development programs. Although these programs vary widely in their form and content, they all seek to generate changes in the knowledge and classroom practices of teachers, in their attitudes and beliefs, and eventually in the learning outcomes of students (Guskey, 2002; Knapp, 2003). Yet, it is now widely acknowledged that many professional development opportunities available to teachers are relatively ineffective (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001). Many in-service programs are still short-term experiences that are fragmented and intellectually superficial and that do not take into account what we know about how teachers learn (Borko, 2004). As a result, they fail to promote sustained teacher learning and an orientation toward experimentation and continual change (Richardson, 1998).
In an effort to improve the quality of professional development, researchers have recently focused on articulating key principles that are more likely to foster teacher change (Garet et al., 2001; Guskey, 2003; Hawley & Valli, 1999). In fact, there is substantial agreement among researchers and practitioners on the characteristics of high-quality professional development that can positively influence teacher knowledge and classroom practice. Despite that, little empirical work exists to date that documents the actual benefits of the asserted characteristics (Wilson & Berne, 1999).
As a response to this challenge, a set of rigorous studies has been conducted that investigates the connection between specific characteristics of professional development, and changes in teacher knowledge and instructional practice (e.g., Desimone, Porter, Garet, Yoon, & Birman, 2002; Fishman, Marx, Best, & Tal, 2003; Franke, Carpenter, Levi, & Fennema, 2001; Garet et al., 2001; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001). In a nationwide investigation of in-service mathematics and science programs supported by the Eisenhower Program, for example, Garet et al. identified six key principles of effective professional development that were most frequently associated with changes in teacher learning: (1) focus on content and pedagogical knowledge, (2) reform-type activities, (3) relevance of activities to teacher needs, (4) opportunities for active learning, (5) extensive duration, and (6) collective participation.
Although the work of Garet and his colleagues (2001) is important, it focuses exclusively on the domains of mathematics and science. In fact, the majority of studies that examine the outcomes of research-based professional development focus on the areas of elementary mathematics, science, and literacy (Borko, 2004). As a result, there is a need to investigate the efficacy of professional development programs that are built around quality principles in areas that have received little attention to date (Borko). One such area is teacher learning with regard to technology. Few studies exist to date that demonstrate the impact of technology-focused professional development on teacher learning and practice (e.g., Mouza, 2006; Keller, Bonk, & Hew, 2005). Even fewer studies have examined teacher learning and practice for more than a year to understand the sustainability and growth of professional development gains (e.g., Kanaya, Light, & McMillan-Culp, 2005).
The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential long-term impact of professional development, grounded in the currently accepted best practices, on teacher learning and practice with respect to technology. The professional development program employed was designed and implemented by the Institute for Learning Technologies (ILT) at Columbia University and was part of the Eiffel Project, a multi-million-dollar effort to infuse technology in K12 classrooms. Analysis is based on data collected from 7 teachers 2 years after their participation in the Eiffel professional development program (20022003). Follow-up data are then compared with data collected by the author during the teachers participation in the Eiffel program (20002001) in order to (1) investigate the sustainability and growth of teachers learning, (2) identify the conditions that facilitated or hindered teachers capacity to further develop their thinking, knowledge, and practice with regard to technology, and (3) map the trajectory of teachers learning over time.
Findings from this work have implications for professional development designers, researchers, and policy makers, especially those directly involved in the design and implementation of professional development programs on the use of technology. Specifically, results of the study help us examine the relationship between features of professional development identified in the literature, and longitudinal changes in teacher learning and practice with respect to technology. They also help us gain insights into the process by which such changes occur. As a result, the study adds to the fields understanding of the efficacy of research-based, technology-focused professional development.
DEFINING TEACHER LEARNING OF TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
The most immediate target of professional development is teacher learning. According to Knapp (2003), learning can refer to demonstrable changes in teachers knowledge, skills, beliefs and commitments. Learning can also refer to changes in practice itself in other words, what happens when teachers enact their new knowledge or skills in their daily work with students or each other (p.114). Capturing teacher learning, however, requires theoretical models against which teachers acquired knowledge can be measured (Wilson & Berne, 1999).
Building on the work of Shulman (1987) and his tripartite knowledge scheme, researchers in the field of educational technology have recently distilled frameworks that identify the types of knowledge required for effective teaching with technology (e.g., Margerum-Leys & Marx, 2003; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Zhao, 2003). Specifically, three types of educational technology knowledge are discussed in the literature: (1) content knowledge (CK), (2) pedagogical knowledge (PK), and (3) pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). CK1 involves skills required to operate computer hardware and software as well as the ability to identify and use technological tools in the context of teaching and learning (Margerum-Leys & Marx). PK refers to knowledge of general pedagogical strategies and the ability to apply those strategies using technology (e.g., using technological tools to address curricular learning goals, using generic technology-based ideas such as WebQuests2 and so on; Margerum-Leys & Marx; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). PCK is used to describe knowledge acquired through the use of technology that does not necessarily transfer to other subject areas (e.g., repurposing commercial software for learning; Margerum-Leys & Marx). PCK is the basis of good teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the pedagogical strategies that use technology in constructive ways to teach content (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This study discusses all three dimensions of teachers educational technology knowledge.
Beyond knowledge development, learning involves changes in teaching practice. Knowing how to operate the equipment and design lessons that integrate technology, however, does not always translate into changes in teacher practice. A large body of literature has demonstrated that teachers beliefs and preconceptions influence how they come to understand and interpret new practices and activities (e.g., Borko & Putnam, 1995). Nationwide studies in particular found that teachers beliefs about the capabilities of their students, the nature of learning, the availability of digital resources, and the role of technology in the school curriculum can influence both how and when teachers integrate technology into their classroom (Becker, Ravitz, & Wong, 1999). When considering teacher learning as a function of professional development, therefore, it is important to consider changes in both knowledge and beliefs because these components of teacher cognition show a strong correlation to changes in classroom practice (Richardson, 1996).
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
Professional development on the use of technology is an area that has received increased attention in recent years. Nevertheless, the focus has been primarily on helping teachers learn how to use specific software packages rather than enabling them to reconsider their way of thinking about technology. Programs that focus exclusively on using specific software lead to the accumulation of inert facts, as opposed to knowledge integration or application of technology into classroom practice (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p.1033).
The National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T), developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2000), also emphasize the importance of helping teachers develop a sound understanding of technology operations and concepts that can be later applied to the design and implementation of curriculum plans. Further, these standards reflect the need to help teachers demonstrate continual growth in their knowledge and skills to stay abreast of current and emerging technologies. To accomplish these ambitious goals, teachers need to see professional development on technology as a career-long commitment (Mishra & Koehler, 2003).
This study is based on the premise that professional development on technology should be a career-long commitment. Because of the rapid rate of technology change, effective professional development needs to help teachers develop skills that enable them to continually explore new and unfamiliar tools. It also needs to help teachers continually reflect on their practice and apply methods and strategies that use technology to maximize student learning. As a result, the study looks at the ways in which teachers continued to build their proficiency and understanding of technology integration 2 years after their participation in professional development.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON CURRENT STUDY
The professional development program employed in this study was designed by staff at ILT during the 20002001 academic year. The program was part of the Eiffel Project (19962001), a multi-million-dollar project funded by the U.S. Department of Education aimed at demonstrating that new digital technologies can help educators improve their pedagogical approaches and leverage changes in educational structures. The professional development program consisted of two different models. The first model, called Technology Integration Series (TIS), sought to enhance teachers computer usage skills and understanding of technology integration into classroom instruction. TIS included teams of teachers from different K8 schools. The second model, called Curriculum Technology Theme (CTT), sought to help teams of teachers from the same school integrate technology within specific subject areas (e.g., literacy) or interdisciplinary curriculum themes. During the 20002001 school year, a total of two TIS and nine CTT sections were offered. The design of two different models was dictated by the specific needs of the Eiffel schools and teachers. When sufficient interest from teams of teachers within the same school and discipline existed, for example, the Eiffel staff customized a section of CTT to respond to those teachers particular needs. Teachers who were not part of a team participated in TIS, which was flexibly designed to provide instruction on a range of competencies deemed appropriate for all grade levels and disciplines.
This study focuses on one section of TIS, which included several third- through fifth-grade teachers, and one section of CTT. Both sections were taught by the same facilitator. The particular section of CTT aimed at helping a group of K2 teachers integrate technology within a familiar early childhood theme called the 100 Days of School. The 100 Days of School theme celebrated the first 100 days of school with activities in mathematics, language arts, and social studies that revolved around the number 100. The TIS and CTT teachers selected for this study were all from the same school.
The design of the Eiffel models consisted of three primary components: introductory and advanced workshops, school-site meetings, and in-classroom support. TIS participants attended introductory and advanced 2-hour-long workshops conducted weekly during the course of one year. The introductory workshops (fall 2000) followed a prescribed curriculum intended to help teachers build their technology proficiency, become comfortable with a range of tools (e.g., productivity and Internet tools) and pedagogical strategies (e.g., WebQuests), and design and implement at least one instructional unit that integrated technology. The advanced workshops (spring 2001) provided individual assistance to teachers to help them further develop and enact curriculum projects that were supported by technology and to reflect on their practice.
CTT participants also attended introductory 2-hour-long workshops conducted weekly in the fall of 2000. CTT introductory workshops were specifically designed to help teachers integrate technology within the 100 Days of School curriculum theme by exploring tools appropriate for young students (e.g., KidPix3 and Graph Club4). During advanced workshops, CTT participants engaged in weekly 2-hour-long school-site meetings facilitated by the Eiffel staff and the school technology coordinator. School-site meetings provided a venue for collaboration and teamwork as teachers enacted technology enhanced activities in their classrooms. Classroom visits by the Eiffel staff provided situated support by assisting both TIS and CTT teachers in their classrooms.
The development of both models was guided by the six key principles of effective professional development reported in the research literature (Garet et al., 2001). Table 1 describes the pedagogical activities of the Eiffel models, their relationship to the six key principles of effective professional development, and their intended outcomes.
Table 1. Eiffel Activities and Their Relationship to Key Principles of Effective Professional Development (PD)
This research employed a longitudinal multiple case study design (Yin, 1993). The 7 participants selected for the study constituted the primary unit of analysis. Typical in case study research, data were collected from multiple sources. The use of multiple sources of evidence allowed the researcher to triangulate data and strengthened the findings and conclusions of the study (Merriam, 1998; Yin).
The study involved 7 teachers who attended the two Eiffel professional development models during the 20002001 academic year.5 Specifically, the study included 5 teachers who attended TIS and 2 teachers who attended CTT. All teachers had participated in an earlier study conducted by the author, which documented teacher learning during the course of participation in professional development (Mouza, 2006)6. In the earlier study, teachers were purposefully selected from a total of 20 participants to provide illuminating cases. Further, teachers were selected so that they had different experiences, evidenced by the number of years that they had been teaching, and had a similar number of computers available in their classrooms.
When they enrolled in professional development in 2000, participants had no previous experiences in technology integration. Their school had just assigned them two computers in their classroom that were loaded with productivity software such as word processors, spreadsheets, authoring tools, and painting programs. At least one computer was connected to the Internet and to a printer. After participation in professional development, however, some teachers were able to secure additional hardware and software. At the time that the follow-up study was conducted, for example, 2 teachers participated in a laptop program initiative. As a result, each student in their classes had access to a laptop computer that was loaded with productivity tools and some educational software (e.g., Inspiration7 and TimeLiner8). Laptops were not connected to the Internet. Students had Internet access through the desktop computers located in their classrooms. Table 2 shows the characteristics of teacher participants since they entered the Eiffel program and the resources available in their classrooms over time.
Table 2. Characteristics of Participating Teachers
As indicated, all teachers taught in the same urban elementary school, which was located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of New York City. At the time that the follow-up study was conducted, the school was serving about 1, 300 students, with 94% being Hispanic and 40% being of limited English proficiency. In addition, 94.3% of the students were eligible for free lunch, indicating that most students were from low socioeconomic levels.
As shown in Figure 1, data collection for the follow-up study occurred between October 2002 and June 2003. Data were collected from five sources: interviews, observations, surveys, artifacts, and e-mail exchanges.
Figure 1. Timeline of Early and Follow-Up Study and Data Collection Activities
Individual teacher interviews were the primary data source used in this study. Each teacher was interviewed twice: in October 2002 and June 2003. Interviews were open-ended to allow teachers to express their ideas and beliefs but were framed by a list of open-ended questions to ensure the collection of comparable data. Each interview was approximately 45 minutes long. All interviews were tape-recorded.
The interview questions centered on five main categories directly related to the purpose of the study: (1) teacher technological knowledge and awareness (e.g., Can you describe your comfort level with technology? Can you give some examples of how you can integrate computers in your teaching to address content standards?); (2) use of technology for professional purposes (e.g., In what ways, if any, do you use technology to meet your professional needs?); (3) use of technology for instructional purposes (e.g., In what ways do you use computers in your classroom to support student learning? Can you describe some specific activities that you implemented so far?); (4) beliefs toward technology (e.g., What role do you think computers play in education? What are some advantages and disadvantages associated with classroom use of technology?); and (5) contextual factors influencing the implementation of technology (e.g., What are some of the challenges you face in your efforts to use computers in your classroom?). These questions paralleled those asked in the early study conducted during the teachers participation in professional development to provide common ground for comparisons.
The first interview, conducted in October 2002, provided information on teacher knowledge and beliefs 1 year after the end of the Eiffel program. It also provided retrospective information on teachers use of technology during the previous school year (20012002), which immediately followed their participation in the Eiffel program. Classroom artifacts, such as teacher instructional material (e.g., lesson plans) and student work (e.g., multimedia presentations, concept maps, and so on) saved from the previous year, were also collected during the interview.9 The second interview, conducted in June 2003, provided information on teacher knowledge and beliefs 2 years after the end of the Eiffel program. It also provided information on teachers use of technology during the course of the 20022003 school year. In addition, both interviews addressed questions related to the contextual factors that influenced teacher learning over time, such as the availability of resources, technical support, administrative support, and opportunities for professional development or collegial sharing.
Observations and Artifacts
Classroom observations were also a key source of information. Observations elicited data related to teachers use of technology. On average, each teacher was observed on four different occasions. Teachers who had access to laptop computers were observed on seven different occasions because of their frequent use of technology. Each observation ranged from 90 minutes to 3 hours. Observations were conducted by the author, who had also collected all data for the initial study. Classroom observations documented (1) the specific types of technologies used (e.g., type of hardware and software), (2) the role of the teacher and the types of activities enacted, (3) the role of the students in the activities employed, and (4) classroom interactions. Detailed field notes were kept for every classroom observation. Relevant artifacts from teachers and students were also collected (e.g., lesson plans, multimedia presentations, spreadsheets, Web sites, and so on). Each classroom observation was followed by a short debriefing session with the teacher to increase the likelihood that the investigator understood the purpose and context of the activities performed.
The survey used in this study was originally designed by Eiffel staff to assess teacher computer usage skills. The survey consisted of 49 items asking teachers to indicate whether they were familiar with a particular skill through a Yes or No response format. The follow-up survey included an additional question that asked teachers to list any technological skills acquired after their participation in the Eiffel program. The survey was distributed twice (October 2002 and June 2003) and results were used to document teacher computer usage skills over time.
During the course of the study, e-mail also was used as a source of information. E-mail exchanges with teachers focused on technology-enhanced curriculum units enacted and organizational issues that influenced the implementation of technology (e.g., availability of resources). A total of 25 e-mail exchanges occurred during the year between the investigator and individual teachers. The majority of the e-mail exchanges (10 e-mails) were between Betsy (a teacher) and the investigator. The rest were distributed among participating teachers.
Survey responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results were then graphed to illustrate changes in teachers comfort level with technology.
Interviews, Observations, Artifacts, and E-mails
Interview and observation data were analyzed using case study analytic techniques that included identification of patterns and explanation building (Yin, 1993). Emphasis was placed on looking at events chronologically to build explanations regarding teacher learning and technology implementation practices over time. First, data were transcribed and coded using codes generated from the early study, which focused on teacher learning during participation in professional development, as well as codes that emerged during the current analysis. The coding scheme included five categories: (1) changes in teacher knowledge, (2) changes in teacher practice with regard to technology, (3) changes in teacher beliefs, (4) process of change, and (5) contextual variables influencing change.
After coding all interview and observation data, a data analysis matrix was developed for each individual teacher that displayed his or her knowledge, practices, and beliefs at two different points in time: October 2002 and June 2003. Data displayed in the matrices were compared with those collected at the end of teachers participation in the Eiffel program (June 2001) to asses learning over time. Two outcomes were defined as critical measures of long-term learning: sustainability and growth. To determine the outcome achieved by individual teachers the following questions were asked:
Sustainability: (1) Did the teacher maintain the computer usage skills and understanding of technology integration acquired during his or her participation in the Eiffel program? (2) Did the teacher continue to use the computer skills, software applications, and technology-enhanced lessons developed through his or her participation in the Eiffel program? (3) Did the teacher exhibit ways of thinking and talking about the role and importance of technology in school similar to those documented at the end of his or her participation in the Eiffel program?
Growth: (1) Did the teacher acquire new computer usage skills and understandings not addressed in the Eiffel program? (2) Did the teacher implement new computer skills, software tools, and technology-enhanced lessons in addition to those used during his or her participation in the Eiffel program? (3) Since the end of the Eiffel program, did the teacher exhibit new ways of thinking and talking about the role and importance of technology in school?
Throughout the data analysis phase, examination of classroom artifacts was used to verify the actual use of technology and confirm or dismiss emerging themes. To ensure reliability, a second researcher who was familiar with the initial study and knowledgeable about teacher learning was asked to apply the coding scheme on data collected from two participants. The second coder was also asked to consider the previously listed questions and determine whether teachers sustained or advanced in their learning and technology integration. Interrater reliability was initially calculated at 87%. All disagreements in coding, however, were resolved and a consensus was reached between the author and the second coder.
To synthesize teachers views on the contextual variables that facilitated or inhibited their capacity to further develop their learning over time, the author counted the number of teachers who reported a particular variable and constructed a frequency table. A variable that was reported and supported by five or more teachers was identified as a theme.
FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
This section presents the findings of the study organized around the three aspects of teacher learning discussed earlier: educational technology knowledge, application of technology into classroom practice, and beliefs toward teaching with technology.10
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY KNOWLEDGE
When they enrolled in the Eiffel program, all teachers exhibited very limited familiarity with technology. Even introductory computer usage skills, such as launching new applications or saving files, presented a challenge. When asked to describe her comfort level with technology at the beginning of the Eiffel program, Mary noted characteristically, I feel very inhibited by technology. I always wonder whether I am doing things right. I easily get frustrated because I make mistakes that I do not know how to resolve. I feel I am in the stone age because of my inability to use a computer. An important goal of the Eiffel program, therefore, was to help teachers acquire fundamental computer operation skills. This goal is aligned with the ISTE NETS-T (2000) standards that ask teachers to demonstrate a sound understanding of technology operations and concepts.
Participation in professional development enabled teachers to improve their knowledge of introductory computer operations, productivity software (e.g., Microsoft PowerPoint), and Internet tools (e.g., Internet searching; Mouza, 2006). Knowledge of fundamental computer operations and programs is important for improving ones own productivity and applying technology in educational settings. Further, most teachers learned how to use photo imaging software and computer peripherals (e.g., scanner) that allowed them to digitize images or student work. Such tools are useful because they allow teachers to visually represent curriculum concepts, display student work publicly (e.g., on the Web), and document classroom life.
Follow-up survey data demonstrated that all teachers maintained and built on the computer skills acquired through their participation in the Eiffel program. Figure 2 illustrates teacher competence in introductory computer operations over the 3-year period (20002003), and Figure 3 illustrates competence in the use of productivity software and the Internet. In addition, all teachers learned new skills not covered in the Eiffel program, although the nature of those skills and extent of teacher learning varied widely. Whereas some teachers explored one or two additional software programs (e.g., Inspiration), others became proficient in a range of tools that differed in their complexity and sophistication (e.g., using an LCD projector to display multimedia presentations for teaching, using Web design software to publish student work on the Internet). The narrative provided next is also illustrative of the ways in which teachers discussed their CK after their participation in the Eiffel program.
Figure 2. Teacher Competence in Basic Computer Operations
Figure 3. Teacher Competence in the Use of Productivity and Internet Tools
Note: The survey used to collect data on teacher competence included 14 word processing tasks, 18 PowerPoint tasks, and 10 Internet and e-mail tasks.
Sue: A miracle of learning. Like most teachers at the beginning of their participation in the Eiffel program, Sue lacked fundamental technology knowledge and skills and was very apprehensive when using computers. At the end of her participation in professional development in June 2001, however, Sue exhibited great improvements in her technological knowledge and competencies, as well as understanding of using technology to support curricular needs. She reported feeling comfortable with key computer terminology and the kinds of things she can do with a computer. She also felt more comfortable taking risks and trying new things on the computer on her own.
In her follow-up interview in June 2003, Sue commented again on her increased comfort level with technology and willingness to try new tools:
With each year I feel a little more comfortable in using and integrating technology in my classroom. I am also more open to trying new technologies and thinking how they could be applied with my own students. Prior to participating in professional development, I feel like I built a wall around me when it came to technology. While now, I am open to new ideas and I feel comfortable experimenting with new and unfamiliar programs. If a teacher or a student brings in a new software program like an encyclopedia or Encarta, I do not get intimidated. I get to try it out and ask around if I have questions. Trying out a new program does not seem like a daunting task anymore. So on a scale of 110, I think I am now at 7if you remember where I started, I think this is a miracle!
2. Pedagogical Knowledge
In addition to helping teachers acquire fundamental computer skills, a key objective of the Eiffel program was to help teachers develop their PK of educational technologythat is, an understanding of how technology can be applied to design effective learning environments and address learning goals derived from the general curriculum (Margerum-Leys & Marx, 2003).
When they entered the Eiffel program in 2000, all teachers had a very limited understanding of how they can use technology to design and implement curriculum plans. Sue noted characteristically, The computers I have in my classroom are not even plugged in yet. They were in my room one morning when I came in at the beginning of the school year. I am not even sure what exactly I am going to do with them. Other teachers also reported being unaware of the ways in which they can use computers to design technology-enhanced experiences for their students. Data collected at the end of teachers participation in the Eiffel program indicated that all teachers developed a pedagogical understanding of the ways in which they can use a range of technological tools and strategies to address content standards and student needs (Mouza, 2006).
Follow-up data demonstrated that all teachers continued to exhibit an increased awareness of the ways in which they can use technology to address instructional goals. As a result, they were able to provide concrete examples of technology lesson plans that could address curricular needs across various subject areas. Furthermore, two teachers, Betsy and Lisa, experienced increased growth in their PK. They became astute in coming up with ideas that integrated technology resources within specific curriculum units. The following narratives provide an example of both sustainability (Sarah) and growth (Lisa) in PK and are illustrative of teachers capacity to generate concrete examples of effective technology integration.
Sarah: Empowered by new knowledge and understandings. Sarah was a special education teacher. When she entered the Eiffel program in 2000, Sarah was teaching third grade but later was assigned as a support teacher for third- through fifth-grade students. She continued, however, to have her own resource room with two computers available. As a special education teacher, Sarah had a range of educational software that she acquired prior to her participation in the Eiffel program through special education funds. Despite that, Sarah had a limited understanding of how she could use technology with her students. At the onset of her participation in the Eiffel program, she noted that in the past, she had merely used computers as a reward for students finishing their work. The primary software used was interactive storybooks.11 As a result, Sarah could not really see how various technologies could be integrated in her classroom. Through the Eiffel program, Sarah developed an increased understanding of the ways in which technology could support classroom teaching and advance student goals. In June 2001, she noted,
I feel that I have advanced in terms of my knowledge and understanding of technology and the ways in which it can be integrated into our curriculum. Students can use the computer to word process essays, find information on the Internet related to books and authors we study in class, or graph and analyze data using spreadsheets. So essentially, you can use the computer in any areait can become part of what we do in school.
Sarahs newfound understandings were sustained after her participation in the Eiffel program. During her two follow-up interviews, Sarah continued to provide examples that demonstrated her understanding of the affordances of various tools and the ways in which they can be integrated into classroom teaching. She explained,
The computer is a tool that could be used across the curriculum. It helps students visualize concepts because it includes a variety of media. It also helps students communicate ideas using different formats. Further, the computer can help with research. Lets say that students work on a science project that involves animals; they can use the Internet to find information, locate pictures and sounds, analyze information from different sources, and use multimedia to present their findings. Finally, students can use various features of the word processor to express themselves in writing while being creative.
Lisa: A journey of growth in pedagogical understandings. Lisa was an energetic third-grade teacher. When she entered the Eiffel program, she was familiar with introductory computer usage skills but indicated frustration with technology because of its rapid rate of evolution and change. Through her participation in the program, Lisa became very enthusiastic about technology and devoted much time to learning new software and practicing new skills. Learning more about the capabilities of different tools opened up new windows of understanding for Lisa. At the end of her participation in the Eiffel program, Lisa was quick in coming up with technology integration ideas and noted, Professional development has sparked a lot of ideas on how to integrate technology in my classroom. I feel that every project we undertake can be enhanced with technology.
Lisas enthusiasm for learning and using technology continued to grow after her participation in the Eiffel program. Because of her readiness for and engagement with learning about technology, administration assigned her as a laptop teacher during the year that the follow-up study was conducted. Having laptops was an exciting development for Lisa because it enabled her to easily put many of her ideas into action. In her two follow-up interviews, Lisa provided a range of examples for using technology to support content and pedagogy, which demonstrated a clear growth in her understandings. During her first follow-up interview, for example, she noted,
I feel a lot more comfortable with technology. My thinking is a lot quicker in terms of planning projects that I can do with my students using technology. For example, I have now started thinking of ways to help my students with the concepts of prediction and probability in mathematics. I would like to try the M&M project12 in my class. The project incorporates spreadsheets to help students make predictions, collect, organize, and sort information and graph data.
This example illustrates Lisas abilities to identify technology tools and strategies that could advance student learning of mathematics. Use of spreadsheets, and the M&M project in particular, was not among the topics addressed in the Eiffel program, therefore demonstrating growth in Lisas knowledge base and understanding of technology integration. It was clear that Lisa continued to learn and explore new tools and their potential to support instructional goals.
3. Pedagogical Content Knowledge
PCK of educational technology is used to describe strategies derived from and applied to the use of technology in teaching and learning that does not always transfer to other subject areas (Margerum-Leys & Marx, 2003). This idea is consistent with Shulmans (1987) idea of knowledge for teaching within a specific discipline. PCK of educational technology involves (1) knowledge of teaching strategies that use technology to represent content (e.g., repurposing commercial software to help students represent curriculum concepts, or identifying and selecting educational software to represent content); (2) pedagogical techniques that enable teachers to gauge student prior knowledge in technology and effectively manage the introduction of new skills; and (3) strategies to manage student learning in a technology-enhanced environment and maximize focus on content instead of the technology (e.g., addressing time constraints inherent in the integration of technology and maintaining control of the classroom when technology is in use). The ISTE NETS-T standards also highlight these strategies as important performance indicators for teachers using technology with their students.
Findings of the study demonstrated that participation in professional development helped teachers build and sustain their PCK of educational technology. Moreover, Betsy and Lisa exhibited increased growth in the development of their PCK over time. Serving as laptop teachers, Betsy and Lisa developed additional strategies for (1) integrating productivity tools across the curriculum, (2) helping students acquire technology skills in the context of teaching and learning, (3) managing a class where each student had a computer, (4) initiating tactics for taking out and storing laptops, and (5) addressing time constraints associated with laptop integration. In her second follow-up interview in June 2003, Lisa explained,
Managing student learning with laptops was initially an issue. Organizing the distribution of laptops, introducing technology skills, and keeping track of students digital work were some of the challenges I faced. I have definitely become better in dealing with these issues. I continued to use the navigator model that was introduced during the Eiffel workshops; I trained a few skilled students on how to perform various tasks and in turn had those students train the rest of the class. Those students kept everything flowing and helped out with laptop management issues. They helped distribute laptops and associated accessories and collect students work on disks. This strategy helped me accomplish things a lot faster without wasting valuable instructional time. I also assigned two students to monitor printing, as suggested in the workshops, and that helped a lot as well.
This example demonstrates how Lisa continued to use the navigator model, a peer teaching strategy introduced through the Eiffel program, to help students acquire technology skills and minimize the time spent on technical issues versus content coverage. It also shows how Lisa extended that strategy and had students provide assistance with the distribution of equipment, collection of students work, and printing issues. Those strategies were derived directly through her use of technology (i.e., laptop computers) in the classroom and are not necessarily applicable to teaching without technology. Additional excerpts demonstrating individual PK and PCK of educational technology during the follow-up study (20022003) are presented in Table 3.
Table 3: Examples of PK and PCK Exhibited During the Follow-Up Study (20022003)
Use of technology varied considerably among teachers in terms of frequency and purpose served. Nevertheless, findings indicated that all teachers became accustomed to using technology to accomplish professional tasks. Professional uses of technology included word processing schoolwork, maintaining student records, searching the Internet for educational material, and using e-mail to communicate with colleagues. John, for example, became member of an e-mail list that enabled him to communicate with other teachers participating in a professional development course that he was attending at the time. Sue used the Internet to become more responsive to students questions, and Jenny often used the Internet to look up information, resources, and lesson plans related to her teaching. Jenny noted,
I have been using the Internet extensively for information and resources. Even though my class is not officially a bilingual class, I am having a lot of students whose first language in not English. I use the Internet all the time to get information and articles related to teaching second language learners. This has helped me out tremendously as a teacher. It has given me new insights on how to approach students who struggle to express themselves in English and on what strategies I can exploit to help them.
Figure 4 shows teachers professional uses of technology over time. Use of computer peripherals, such as scanners and digital cameras, diminished over time because teachers did not have easy access to such equipment back in their school.
Figure 4. Professional Uses of Technology Over Time
Instructional use of technology appeared to be significantly more diverse among teachers. In the early study conducted during teacher participation in professional development, findings demonstrated two types of technology practices: conventional and integrated (Mouza, 2006). John and Sarah were the only teachers who exhibited conventional practices during their participation in professional development; they used technology primarily for mundane instructional tasks such as word processing and Internet research. All other teachers exhibited integrated practices; they used technology in sophisticated ways to address curricular needs, accomplish complex tasks, and promote student inquiry. Follow-up data indicated that except for Jenny, all teachers sustained their use of technology over time. Further, 4 teachers exhibited growth in the way that they used computers in instruction.
Specifically, follow-up interview and observation data demonstrated that John and Sarah sustained their conventional technology practices in areas in which they used computers primarily for mundane tasks, such as word processing and Internet research, but they failed to initiate new types of activities and move to integrated technology practices. Mary and Sue sustained their integrated technology practices but also exhibited minimal growth in their implementation of technology. Mary and Sue continued to implement the software tools and technology-enhanced activities designed during their participation in professional development, and they also implemented one or two new activities that were not previously enacted (e.g., using one new piece of software or using Internet resources to extend a new unit). Finally, Betsy and Lisa exhibited maximum characteristics of growth in their technology practices. These teachers not only continued to implement the technology-enhanced activities that they designed during their participation in the Eiffel program, but they also enacted a host of new activities that leveraged the power of technology to create rich, inquiry-based learning environments.
The following excerpts provide illustrative examples of both minimal (Sue) and maximum (Betsy) growth in the integration of technology. Furthermore, Table 4 summarizes teacher instructional uses of technology across the 3-year period.
Table 4. Teacher Instructional Uses of Technology (20002003)
Sue: Trying New Activities in the Context of Existing Practice. Throughout her participation in professional development, Sue was successful in implementing technology-enhanced activities in her classroom. As part of her participation in the 100 Days of School project, Sues students used (1) spreadsheets to enter, graph, and analyze data collected from 100 teachers on their favorite aspect of teaching; (2) word processing software to type reports and poems; (3) painting software to illustrate their writings and communicate ideas in different formats; and (4) a WebQuest to conduct research on the history of toys as part of a social studies unit on ways of living in the past and present. In her follow-up interviews, Sue reported that she had successfully reenacted the 100 Days of School activities during the years following her participation in the Eiffel program. In addition, she indicated that she had frequently used the Internet to look up resources or information related to topics studied in class. Sue explained that she often had her students read stories and current news from an online publication for students called Time for Kids,13 which complemented and enhanced existing curriculum units. She also explored and used a new software program called KidSpiration, a concept mapping tool that allowed students to organize ideas for writing, such as personal narratives and fiction stories. As Sue reported, she was very excited with the software because it enabled her students to develop graphic organizers, brainstorm ideas, and produce better quality writing products. In her last follow-up interview, Sue explained,
I continued to use the activities I designed and enacted during my participation in the Eiffel program. At the same time, I used technology to complement and extend some other units we covered in class. For example, when we were reading stories, I had students go to the computer and read similar material from Time for Kids. My goal was to enhance and reinforce what we were reading in class; if we were reading nature stories, for instance, I tried to locate material related to this topic online that kids can read. Further, I tried to locate interactive activities that students can complete online. In one of our units students read an article about hibernation. After doing some research, I was able to find an online activity that allowed students to read additional material on hibernation, match certain animals with the place they were going to hibernate, and answer vocabulary questions. So those are all activities that I had not implemented before.
This excerpt demonstrates that Sue continued to implement activities designed during her participation in professional development. Further, she attempted to integrate tools that she was familiar with (e.g., the Internet) within new curriculum units, and she tried one new tool (i.e., KidSpiration) to support writing instruction. Nevertheless, Sue did not attempt to design new sustained technology-enriched projects in her classroom. The new technology-enriched activities that she implemented were valuable, but she only used them to supplement or support existing units, rather than using computers to fundamentally alter previous ways of teaching. Sues case demonstrates that technology use was mostly patterned on previous experiences. Although such an approach helped Sue to reach her objectives in the context of existing practices, it did not enable her to continue reconsidering her teaching and moving to higher levels of technology adoption.
Betsy: Moving to Higher Levels of Technology Adoption. Betsy was a motivated fourth-grade teacher. Prior to participation in the Eiffel program, Betsys students had mainly used computers for word processing and limited Internet research. During the year in which she participated in professional development, Betsy made increased changes in her instructional use of technology. In particular, Betsy designed and implemented two innovative technology-enhanced units. The first unit was related to language arts and aimed at teaching an audience of fourth-grade students about various poetic elements. Students worked collaboratively to write definitions, draw pictures, and record sound files from reading their own poetry. The final product resulted in a slideshow presentation that was featured in the school auditorium. The second project was related to science and ran throughout the entire school year. The project focused on acid rain and was divided into three phases. Initially, students worked in groups and performed research on the Internet on various aspects of acid rain. Research findings were culminated in multimedia presentations that were featured in class. Subsequently, students performed experiments to determine whether the soil in their schoolyard had been polluted by acid rain. Finally, students graphed and analyzed the results of their experiments using spreadsheets and drew conclusions.
During the year immediately following her participation in the Eiffel program (20012002), Betsy reenacted the science project on acid rain. During the last stage of the project, students were asked to compare their results with data collected by Betsys class during the previous year. This comparison led to new insights about pollution in the area. The acid rain project was highlighted at the district science fair, where Betsys students presented their work accompanied by Excel graphs and charts. According to Betsy, the award committee members of the fair became extremely impressed with the level of understanding that her students exhibited and their enhanced abilities for data manipulation and graphing. Moreover, the committee highlighted the seamless integration of science and technology. Betsys project received a superior grade, and her students were awarded a medal. The science project on acid rain is just one example of the instructional sophistication that Betsy exhibited following her participation in the Eiffel program.
In addition to the acid rain project, Betsy initiated several other complex projects, not previously enacted in her classroom, that also used technology. Essentially, every project that Betsy launched was enhanced by technology. In social studies, for example, students studied the Revolutionary War by creating electronic newsletters on various revolutionary events (e.g., Boston Tea Party) and developing an interactive timeline that featured the major battles of the revolution using multimedia. In another project, students performed research on the Internet on various topics, conducted schoolwide surveys (e.g., the NYC teacher strike), analyzed findings using spreadsheets, and wrote articles that were sent to Time for Kids. Betsy described,
As part of studying current events, students developed their own questions and conducted interviews with the teachers asking them about the NYC teacher strike. They also interviewed students in the school about their opinions on the teacher strike. Then they used spreadsheets to enter and analyze their data. Once this was done, they wrote articles with their findings. We sent all articles to Time for Kids magazine. Dina, one of my students, had done an impressive job with her article. She conducted research on the Internet and inserted graphs indicating findings from past strikes (e.g., how many days they lasted) and compared those with current data. Time for Kids was so impressed with her work that they selected her to be a Time for Kids reporter. That was an amazing opportunity for her. Other students interviewed the teacher union leaders or looked through newspapers to locate information that they could graph. Students did amazing work and none of it would be possible without the use of technology.
Acknowledging her efforts to make technology a catalyst for change, the school administration assigned Betsy to participate in a pilot laptop program initiative. Consequently, during the year that the follow-up study was conducted (20022003), all students in her class had access to a laptop computer. Having convenient access to computers enabled Betsy to continue building on her use of technology. During the 20022003 year, Betsy reenacted most of the units that she had previously implemented in her classroom. At the same time, she continued building new interdisciplinary projects that made innovative use of technology over extended periods of time. The following excerpt describes a new exemplary unit that Betsy enacted during the year that the follow-up study was conducted. The unit, called Where Did the Money Go? integrated technology into mathematics and literacy and was illustrative of Betsys abilities to initiate innovative projects that seamlessly integrated technology and learning goals. Betsy described the project as follows:
Every activity in this unit was related to Judith Viorsts book, Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. This is a story of a boy who kept spending his allowance money unwisely. We first started by reading aloud Alexander, Who Used to be Rich. Students kept track of how much money Alexander was spending. They created flowcharts in Inspiration showing how much money Alexander spent and what exactly he spent it on. In the next step, students wrote their own fictional stories modeled after Alexanders using word processing software. Their stories were accompanied by an Excel spreadsheet that showed the starting amount of money, the items money was spent on, and the remaining amount. The remaining amount was calculated automatically after students figured out the formula they had to enter in Excel.
Not only did Betsy make technology an integral part of her instruction, but she also took initiative to lead various technology activities outside the classroom. Along with Lisa and Mary, she launched an after-school computer club in which teachers and students worked on the development of a school Web-based newsletter after receiving additional training from a nonprofit organization in New York City. This training became possible because of a grant awarded to Betsy for writing a successful proposal through an organization called Donors Choose.14 In summary, following her participation in the Eiffel program (20012003), Betsy initiated a wide range of new projects that integrated technology within a student-centered environment and promoted pedagogical changes in her practice. Those projects demonstrated Betsys abilities to repurpose both familiar and unfamiliar software to meet instructional goals. Betsy explained,
I have definitely made a lot of changes in my classroom after my participation in the Eiffel program. Basically, almost every project that I have done these last 2 years in my classroom has incorporated technology. When I do my planning, I always think of ways I can create lessons that make meaningful use of technology. The last couple of years, I have also made several pedagogical changes in my classroom; I used a lot more group work than I ever had before and have utilized my students as helpers.
Upon entering the professional development activities, all teachers thought that technology would motivate students and help them to acquire skills required in the modern workplace. Even though all teachers considered computers an important asset in the classroom, some exhibited concerns about managing the equipment and maintaining students attention. Findings of the early study demonstrated that all teachers broaden their perspectives of the role of technology in teaching and learning (Mouza, 2006). In some instances, teachers merely integrated new beliefs into existing ones or warranted previous points of view (additive learning; Thompson & Zeuli, 1999). For example, most teachers thought that technology can be used in all subject areas but could not provide any evidence to justify this belief until after participation in professional development. In most instances, however, teachers abandoned previously held ideas and adopted a new set of beliefs as a direct result of the knowledge and experiences acquired through professional development (transformative learning; Mezirow, 1991, 1997). For example, although initially, all teachers emphasized the role of technology in preparing students for the workplace, they later highlighted the role of technology in supporting student learning. Data from the follow-up study indicated that all teachers maintained and solidified their new thoughts and ideas. Further, two teachers (Betsy and Lisa) continued to reflect on their belief system and broaden their perspectives on the role and importance of technology in teaching. The following paragraphs present examples of both sustainability (Mary) and growth (Betsy) in teacher beliefs. Table 5 demonstrates teachers beliefs over time.
Table 5. Primary Teacher Beliefs Evolution Over Time (20002003)
Mary: Solidifying New Beliefs. During her participation in professional development, Mary both solidified and reconsidered existing beliefs toward teaching and learning with technology. Similar to all other teachers, Mary initially thought that her students would benefit from technology because it would prepare them for the workplace. She explained, Computers are important because they expose students to technology and prepare them for future employment. But Mary did not think that computers provided any other advantages to her students. On the contrary, she thought that computers often take away from the real work.
During her participation in the Eiffel program, however, Mary designed and implemented two technology-enhanced projects. In the first project, students developed a collaborative multimedia presentation modeled after stories read in class that featured peaceful solutions to classroom problems. In the second project, students studied pond habitats through a collection of digital photos taken from their trip to Central Park in New York City, looked for further information on the Internet through an interactive WebQuest, and developed multimedia presentations with their findings. In both projects, Mary became impressed with her student accomplishments and the motivational impact of technology. As a direct result of these experiences, Mary began reconsidering her beliefs, placing more emphasis on the importance of designing and implementing technology-enhanced experiences for students. In fact, at the end of her participation in the Eiffel program, Mary expressed a new set of ideas that replaced previously held assumptions. Instead of placing value on the importance of using technology for the sake of acquiring technology skills, she shifted emphasis to the role of technology in supporting student learning. She also reported various advantages of using computers, such as student motivation, improvements in reading and writing through exposure to new vocabulary found on the Internet, development of professional-looking products, and increased levels of collaboration. Describing the role of technology in supporting student learning, for example, Mary noted,
I think computers are extremely important and we should try to convince parents in minority communities of their usefulness as learning tools, in the hope that they would consider buying computers at home. There would be a lot more opportunities for students to learn if they had access to computers at school and at home. They could perform research, complete creative homework, etc. Computers can really motivate students and enhance learning, particularly in reading and writing. They particularly help those students who have difficulty with the motor skills required for handwriting. Reading from the Internet also helps students come across vocabulary that normally would not be used in the classroom. This is just one example where it has helped my students a lot.
Subsequent to the Eiffel program, Mary maintained her positive attitude toward technology and the belief that computers can significantly enhance the learning process. As a result, she continued to use technology with her students for routine word processing tasks, research on the Internet, and development of multimedia presentations. These experiences helped reinforce the beliefs of Mary, who, despite her early apprehension, continued to think of technology as a great resource in the classroom that could motivate students and contribute to learning gains among low achievers. In her final interview in June 2003, Mary reported,
I asked the administration to participate in the laptop program initiative next year. Some of my colleagues think that I am just looking to make my life more difficult but I really think that technology can help students. Laptops might be particularly helpful with students who have difficulty with the fine motor skills required for writing. This year, I had two students in my class who struggled with handwriting. These students were inhibited from expressing themselves because they were constantly concentrating on the motor skills instead of the content. Because I have limited access to computers in my classroom, I made more traditional booklets to help them practice printing letters, but it only slightly helped. Their writing is still not clean enough for anyone, even themselves, to understand. Continual use of word processing software, however, would enable them to see clearly the printed words, correct spelling by themselves instead of waiting for me to check it, and communicate their ideas more easily.
The previous statement mirrors some of the ideas and beliefs expressed by Mary in June 2001, when she discussed the role of technology in supporting student learning in reading and writing. It is clear that Mary solidified her beliefs over time and was able to provide concrete evidence to justify those beliefs. This set of beliefs enabled Mary to continue implementing technology in her classrooms in familiar ways, thereby strengthening her knowledge of and skills with familiar tools. In the absence of formal guidance and support, however, Mary could not substantially expand on her instructional uses of technology and continue adding to her ideas and beliefs.
Betsy: Continual Growth of New Beliefs. During her participation in the Eiffel program, Betsy experienced transformative learning regarding her beliefs and practices toward technology. She abandoned preexisting ideas and restructured basic assumptions about teaching and learning with technology. Similar to Mary, Betsys initial focus was on the acquisition of technology skills, something that is widely valued in society. After having the experience of designing and implementing technology-enhanced projects in her classroom, Betsy began reconsidering her beliefs, placing more emphasis on the ways in which technology facilitates and advances student learning. At the end of her participation in the Eiffel program, she commented, I think computers play a huge role in education. Prior to participating in the Eiffel program, I did not really think that they were really necessary. Now I strongly believe that they enhance the learning process to a great extent. Computers are truly a valuable asset in the classroom.
By reexamining her beliefs, Betsy placed increased emphasis on technology integration. After her participation in the Eiffel program, Betsy continued to implement computers extensively in her classroom and reexamine the powerful role of technology in promoting student learning. She also continued to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages associated with computer use. During her final interview in June 2003, Betsy was able to provide concrete, detailed examples that justified her beliefs about the advantages related to the use of educational technology. In particular, she explained how use of technology motivated and empowered students, resulted in improvements in student achievement, and facilitated collaboration. She noted,
I read articles and I talk with some people who say that technology is not really important because it does not raise test scores. But from my perspective, not only did it raise my student scores in math, but it also helped them make significant improvements in other areas. I know that everybody mentions how technology motivates students. I am also a firm believer. My students were far more motivated to read and write on their computers rather than on paper. But I think it goes so much beyond that. It really facilitates learning in very constructive ways. Most productivity programs, for example, require students to think logically and practice critical thinking skills. Those are skills that students need.
In my class, we made extensive use of Inspiration for brainstorming and planning writing activities. It really helped significantly because students frequently went straight to writing without planning. As a result, their essays turned out to be short with no imagination or details. The other day I was on jury duty and the students got a substitute teacher that had them write an essay. They did a wonderful job despite the fact that the substitute did not allow them to use technology. I was so proud of them. Using Inspiration throughout the year for planning, and word processing software to go through several rounds of revisions, paid off at the end. They became so accustomed to these processes that they created outstanding pieces of writing even when they had no access to technology.
Throughout the year, my students were also very proud of the work they completed using technology. They started creating their own projects in groups, and going beyond required assignments.
The previous statement demonstrates how classroom experience helped Betsy continue to reexamine the value of using technology in her class, thereby integrating new ideas and beliefs into existing ones and strengthening her knowledge and skills in technology integration.
THE PROCESS OF TEACHER LEARNING AND CHANGE
Effective use of technology requires changes in teachers knowledge, practices, and beliefs. Of particular interest to this study was not only the extent to which teachers sustained or altered their knowledge, practices, and beliefs following participation in professional development, but also the process by which such change occurred. Findings from the early study demonstrated that the process of change was highly dependent on the continual interaction between practices and beliefs. As a result, it followed a cyclical and continual pattern in which changes in practice influenced changes in beliefs, and vice versa (Mouza, 2006; see Figure 5).
Results from the current study continued to indicate that most teachers (John, Sarah, Mary, and Sue) followed a cyclical change process. As shown in Figure 5, participation in professional development fostered changes in those teachers knowledge (e.g., improvements in computer usage skills and technological awareness). New knowledge stimulated changes in teachers instructional practice. Teachers used computers for professional tasks (e.g., looking for instructional resources on the Internet) and experimented with integrating various forms of technologies (e.g., Internet, multimedia, and so on) into their classroom. Experimentation with technology over time and reflection on practice allowed teachers to witness positive outcomes for themselves (e.g., they became more efficient in locating instructional resources using the Internet) and their students (e.g., they became more motivated). These new insights influenced teachers beliefs with regard to the role of technology in teaching and learning and, in turn, produced further changes in their professional and instructional use of technology. As a result, even though the relationship among the elements in the cycle appears linear, in reality, teachers frequently went back and forth between current and previous change elements (e.g., practice-beliefs-practice). By going through the cycle several times during the 3-year period, teachers progressively refined and solidified the knowledge, practices, and beliefs acquired through participation in the Eiffel program and strengthened their abilities to use technology in the context of their practice.15
Figure 5. Cyclical Process of Teacher Change
Essentially, this cyclical process of change can be compared to what Argyris and Schon (1974) call single loop learning. In single loop learning, solving problems (e.g., addressing curriculum goals through the use of technology) is mostly patterned on previous experience and proven solutions. Single loop learning enables learners to reach their objectives in the context of existing practices but does not enable them to question their underlying goals and values. This is consistent with the change process exhibited by John and Sarah, who continued to integrate technology in their professional and instructional practices in the same ways that they had done during their participation in professional development. Even though Mary and Sue exhibited minimal growth in their use of technology, such growth remained in the context of existing practices and therefore only reinforced (rather than spurred) additional changes in beliefs. As a result, Mary and Sue were unable to reconsider their practices and move to higher levels of technology adoption.
Betsy and Lisa not only sustained their learning after participation in the Eiffel program, but they also fundamentally strengthened their knowledge, altered their practice (e.g., implemented a host of new technology projects), and reconsidered their beliefs. Figure 6 illustrates the process of change exhibited by Betsy and Lisa. Instead of going through a loop, Betsy and Lisa followed a spiral trajectory. The spiral of teacher change cycles, modeled after the spiral of action research cycles (Zuber-Skerritt, 2001), indicates continual growth.16 The upward direction of the spiral in particular is used to signify the continual growth exhibited by Betsy and Lisa.
Essentially, the learning trajectory exhibited by Betsy and Lisa can be compared to what Argyris and Schon (1974) called double loop learning. Double loop learning enables learners to use their knowledge to solve new problems and prompts them to reconsider fundamental goals and values. Betsy and Lisa used the knowledge and skills acquired through their participation in the Eiffel program to rethink previous practices and create new models of instruction that integrated technology. Such practices spurred reconsideration of beliefs and helped Betsy and Lisa question fundamental aspects of their teaching and continually move to more sophisticated uses of technology, thereby strengthening their knowledge and skills over time.17
Figure 6. Spiral Process of Teacher Change
FACTORS INFLUENCING CONTINUAL LEARNING AND CHANGE
Interview data revealed three factors that influenced teacher learning and change over time: (1) beliefs about student characteristics; (2) availability of resources, including technical and administrative support; and (3) collegial support.
BELIEFS ABOUT STUDENT CHARACTERISTICS
Findings from this study indicated that teachers beliefs about their students constituted a critical variable influencing decisions to use technology. In fact, most teachers commented on how their students characteristics dictated both their decision to use technology and the types of technologies to use. Student characteristics highlighted by teachers included academic achievement, language barriers, and discipline issues. The following excerpt from Jenny, who abandoned technology use after participation in the Eiffel program, demonstrates the ways in which teachers beliefs about their students influenced decisions to use computers in the classroom. Jenny explained during her first follow-up interview,
I am going to be very honestlast year my computers were simply collecting dust. The year I participated in professional development, I had an exceptional class, a wonderful teacher assistant, and a lot of support from my colleagues because we worked on a collaborative project. Those were all mechanisms that enabled me to implement technology in my classroom. The year following my participation in professional development was all about surviving. My students were facing various behavioral and academic issues and I spent a lot of time on discipline. Even the most advanced of my students could not work independently on the computer because of behavior issues.
On top of this, I had to share my teacher assistant with another class. Therefore, I had no one to help me organize group work or supervise students on the computer. I am not saying that only students who are academically competent can use computers, but it was challenging with the group of students I had. I think computers could have helped my students academically, but when you are constantly overwhelmed with Johnny not hitting Kristi or Kristi not beating up Tommy, it is difficult to think about using technology. I think the computer is a wonderful toola vehicle to get students into reading, writing, and math. But I dont see that happening because those students have so much going on in their lives that cause behavioral problems, which do not allow us to teach properly.
Jennys comment illustrates how her beliefs about the characteristics of her students, coupled with the lack of support, prevented her from using or thinking about technology. Mary expressed similar ideas justifying her decision not to expand significantly on her use of technology after the end of the Eiffel program. During her first follow-up interview in October 2002, she said,
Last year I reenacted the science unit on Biomes/Habitats, where the students conducted research on the Internet related to Pond Habitats and prepared multimedia presentations with their findings. However, it was not as successful as the year I was participating in the Eiffel program. Students were not very interested in the project, perhaps because of their limited English language skills. They did not have an understanding of the language and it was difficult to get them engaged. I think all they wanted to do was get on the Internet and play games or go to inappropriate sites. So I became very apprehensive in using the Internet extensively because the students were not productive.
During her final interview in June 2003, Mary reported similar ideas. She indicated that her current students were very challenging because they lacked basic skills and had limited English proficiency. She explained,
The make-up of my class was very difficult this year. Students lacked very basic skills. The gap was tremendous. Most of the students could not speak, read, or write any English, and our school does not have any software or resources in Spanish. If I had students who could speak or read a little bit of English, I would have done more with the technology. On top of it, I had some students who had never been to school before in their home countries. Learning the school procedures in a different culture and language was really difficult.
Betsy and Lisa, who exhibited maximum growth in their instructional use of computers, also indicated that their technology choices were influenced by their perceptions of their students abilities. Unlike other teachers, however, who perceived student characteristics and abilities as external entities outside their control, Betsy and Lisa saw technology as a means of addressing individual students needs and maintaining classroom discipline (e.g., through the motivational impact of technology) and therefore became more invested in using technology. Lisa, for example, explained how she used word processing software to get her slow writers motivated to complete their work, and at the same time, she made sure that her more advanced students were using computers to continually edit, revise, and improve their writing. The difference in teacher attitudes may be attributed to the increased benefits of technology to student learning witnessed by Betsy and Lisa over time.
ACCESS TO RESOURCES
Limited access to resources and technical support was a major obstacle in teacher efforts to use technology. With two computers available for 25 students, teachers found it difficult to establish procedures for regular, as well as equitable, use of technology by students. Furthermore, when equipment malfunctioned, technical support was not readily available. Even though the school employed a technology coordinator, it was difficult to attend to all teacher needs on a timely basis. Further, in some instances, the technology coordinator needed expert technical assistance that had to be provided through the district. As a result, all teachers had to wait for several days, or even weeks, before they could get a technical person to repair their equipment, a factor that frustrated them. John in particular experienced increased technical difficulties that were never resolved.
Access to hardware was not as problematic for Betsy and Lisa because of their participation in the laptop program. Because laptops were not connected to the Internet, however, any activity that relied on the use of Internet tools required students to use the two desktop computers available in their classroom. Further, both Betsy and Lisa experienced increased difficulty with their new equipment. Given that laptops were refurbished and therefore varied in their capabilities, teachers often faced software compatibility issues. On several occasions, disk drives malfunctioned and batteries did not work. As a result, laptop teachers found themselves continually troubleshooting equipment, installing programs, updating software, and keeping track of student work on the computer. Although these teachers were often provided more timely technical support to keep the laptop program running, additional resources were still needed. As a result, these teachers learned to rely on their more technically competent students as sources of assistance in troubleshooting and technical support.
Administrative support also diminished over time. During the year in which teachers participated in professional development, administration provided them with resources (hardware and software), common time for grade-level planning, and sometimes release time to attend a seminar or a district conference. These support mechanisms were put in place by the school administration to help teachers translate their professional development learning into practice. The expectation was that following their participation in professional development, teachers would be prepared to effectively integrate technology into their classroom without additional administrative support mechanisms.
Consistent with results reported by other researchers (e.g., Windschitl & Sahl, 2002; Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon, & Byers, 2002), findings from teacher interviews indicated that social support from peers, along with collaborative technology planning, is essential for continual learning and improvement. While participating in professional development, Jenny and Sue were members of a cohort of teachers implementing the 100 Days of School project and worked closely with other colleagues to design technology integration activities. These collaborative relationships did not continue after the Eiffel program ended, mainly because of time constraints. Mary and Lisa also collaborated extensively during their participation in professional development. They often met during lunchtime to develop ideas for technology-enhanced projects and provide technical and pedagogical support to each other. Their collaborative relationship, however, also gradually diminished because Lisa became a laptop teacher.
During the year that the follow-up study was conducted, Lisa collaborated with Betsy and a fifth-grade laptop teacher. They talked about laptop integration, technical and management issues, and obstacles and frustrations. This sharing of ideas helped those two teachers sustain and build on their learning over time. Although their collaboration was not as consistent as they had hoped because of scheduling difficulties, they still learned techniques from each other that helped with the implementation of laptops, such as the strategy to have students lower their laptops to a 45-degree angle when their attention was needed.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
According to Guskey (2002), investigating the sustainability of teacher learning from professional development is an issue that has been largely neglected in the literature. This study attempted to bridge this gap in research by investigating the sustainability and further professional growth of teachers who participated in a research-based professional development program on the use of technology. Findings indicated that participation in research-based professional development fostered sustained changes in teachers knowledge, practices, and beliefs with regard to technology. Further, in the case of Betsy and Lisa, these changes became the basis for ongoing professional growth.
Arguably, Betsy and Lisa represent unique cases because of (1) the increased infusion of resources placed in their classrooms, (2) the affordances of the new tools (e.g., portability of laptops), (3) the changes in pedagogical practice inspired by technology, and (4) the external expectations placed on them by administration. In laptop classrooms, for example, teachers can reconfigure places and spaces for learning and are often forced to adapt their practice to the presence of the new tools (Windschitl & Sahl, 2002, p. 170). Further, current research indicates that in conjunction with the use of technology, teachers often adopt student-centered pedagogical approaches and are inspired to use more complex tasks and material in instruction (Means, 1994; Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997). With a 1:1 student-to-computer ratio, Betsy and Lisa were both inclined and expected to use technology extensively in their classroom. In turn, increased use of laptop computers enabled Betsy and Lisa to witness positive outcomes for both themselves and their students. Ongoing reflection on those outcomes helped teachers to continually build on their knowledge and beliefs and enact new instructional strategies consistent with those beliefs, thereby engaging in continual growth in pedagogy and technology integration.
It is important, however, to clarify that Betsy and Lisa continued to make extensive use of technology in their classrooms in the year immediately following their participation in professional development when they had access only to two computers. In fact, it is because of their motivation and involvement with technology during the prior years that the school administration appointed them as laptop teachers. Access to laptops, therefore, did not trigger teachers interest in using, or desire to use, technology. Rather, laptops provided the means that helped teachers implement ideas into practice and transform previous models of instruction. In a study that traced teachers use of technology in a laptop school, Windschitl and Sahl (2002) also found that the mere availability of laptops did not compel teachers to make extensive use of technology or alter their pedagogy.
Findings of the study also provided insights into the process of teacher change as documented over a 3-year period. The study found that the process of teacher change was cyclical and spiral rather than linear, as often portrayed by earlier studies of teacher change (e.g., Guskey, 1986). Changes in teachers knowledge and skills (e.g., learning how to operate the equipment) produced changes in instructional practices. In turn, classroom experiences acquired through the enactment of new practices, and reflection on those experiences, helped teachers reconsider existing beliefs. Modifications in beliefs, however, prompted teachers to further refine or adapt their practices and continue experimenting with using technology in their classrooms, thereby adding to their knowledge and skills. The evolution in knowledge, practices, and beliefs was therefore developed interactively throughout the 3-year period. Although this position has been supported by other researchers (e.g., Richardson, 1998), empirical evidence verifying the interactive relationship between practices and beliefs has been scarce (e.g., Clarke & Hollingsworth, 2002; Kubitskey & Fishman, 2005; Mouza, 2006).
Findings on the relationship between teacher practices and beliefs with regard to technology have important implications for professional development. It becomes evident that to foster ongoing learning, professional development needs to engage teachers in planning and implementing rigorous technology-enhanced activities in their classrooms. Enactment of new activities and resulting student outcomes can help teachers gather concrete evidence on the importance of technology and foster reconsideration of beliefs. Even though the Eiffel program required teachers to enact at least two technology-enhanced units in their classrooms, John and Sarah enacted projects that made trivial uses of technology (e.g., Internet research) and therefore did not have an opportunity to clearly witness the impact of technology on student outcomes. In the absence of concrete evidence that demonstrated clear benefits of technology for students, John and Sarah had only integrated new beliefs into existing ones, a condition that influenced their future learning trajectory. During their participation in the Eiffel program, Mary and Sue designed and implemented rigorous technology integration projects and exhibited transformative learning in their ideas and beliefs. After the Eiffel program ended, however, they did not continue to enact new rigorous projects in their classrooms and therefore were unable to continue adding to their new set of ideas.
Furthermore, findings of the study indicated the important role of follow-up support after participation in professional development. The Eiffel program provided 40 hours of professional development over the course of 1 year, but it did not provide follow-up support. Although all teachers were able to sustain professional development gains over time, most of them were unable to fundamentally advance their learning without consistent follow-up support and guidance. Future professional development programs may consider distributing training and resources over a longer period of time and working more closely with school administrators to ensure that teachers continue to be adequately supported in their efforts to use technology.
In conclusion, findings from this study provided evidence that research-based professional development can foster sustained teacher learning. They also offered insights into the process by which teachers modify their knowledge, practices, and beliefs and the conditions that influence learning over time. Further, they provided new lenses for analyzing teacher learning that suggest looking more closely into the ways in which classroom experience, particularly reflection on student outcomes as a result of using technology, influences continual learning and change. Future research needs to examine whether teachers with diverse backgrounds and experiences exhibit similar learning trajectories. Such research is of fundamental importance to the design of more effective professional development programs that can recognize, anticipate, and support possible trajectories of teacher learning and change.
This work was partly supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and a General University Research Grant from the University of Delaware. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the funding agencies.
1. Mishra and Koehler (2006) made a distinction between technology knowledge (TK) and CK, thereby addressing four types of educational technology knowledge. In their framework, TK involves skills required to operate particular technologies, whereas CK of educational technology involves knowledge about the manner in which technology and content are reciprocally related. Margerum-Leys and Marx (2003), however, discussed both of these types of knowledge under CK of educational technology, thereby being consistent with Shulmans (1987) tripartite knowledge scheme. In this work, we adopt the definition of CK of educational technology provided by Margerum-Leys and Marx. In characterizing and discussing PK and PCK of educational technology, however, we draw from both frameworks because their definitions are more consistent with one another.
2. WebQuests are inquiry-oriented activities in which most or all of the information comes from the Internet.
3. KidPix (Broderbund) is a popular painting program for young students.
4. Graph Club (Tom Snyder Productions) is a spreadsheet program appropriate for K2 students.
5. The initial study conducted during the course of participation in professional development included 8 teachers. One CTT teacher participant, however, quit teaching at the end of the Eiffel program to pursue graduate studies in law.
6. See Figure 1 for the timing and data collection activities of the early study, which documented teachers learning and practice during their participation in professional development.
7. Inspiration (Inspiration Software, Inc.) is a concept mapping tool that allows students to create graphic organizers.
8. TimeLiner (Tom Snyder Productions) is a software program that allows students to visually organize information on a timeline or number line.
9. Prior to conducting the first follow-up interview, teachers were instructed to bring with them any material, saved from the previous year (20012002), related to their use of technology.
10. Findings of the early study demonstrated that, despite some differences in the nature of components employed, both models of professional development produced comparable learning outcomes among teachers because they were founded on the same development principles and were implemented by the same facilitator. As a result, this study does not discuss findings in relation to the particular model that teachers attended.
11. Interactive storybooks are software that feature popular childrens stories and aim to introduce students to reading.
12. The M&M project involves students around the world sharing data about M&M's. The purpose of the project is to determine the frequency, average, ratio, and percentage of each color of M&M's in a 1.69-ounce bag.
13. For more information, readers can refer to http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK.
14. For more information on Donors Choose, readers can refer to http://www.donorschoose.org.
15. The example provided earlier on Marys beliefs clearly illustrates the interactive relations among knowledge-practices-beliefs and their role in the teacher change process.
16. The interpretation of teacher change within the context of action research was also proposed by Clarke and Hollingsworth (2002).
17. The example provided earlier on Betsys beliefs illustrates the spiral process of teacher change in which teachers gradually progressed to higher levels of technology implementation.
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