Editor’s Note: Teacher training is greatly facilitated by the opportunity to view master teachers in real classrooms. Whether live or through media, observing and discussing ways to use instructional technologies, complemented by hands-on experience, is important for effective use of these technologies for teaching and learning.
Facilitating Development of Student Teachers’ Positive Beliefs about Educational Technologies through Electronic Modeling, Reflection and Technology Experience
An important task in teacher education programs is to help student teachers develop strong and positive convictions about the effectiveness of instructional technology so that they can use it to provide meaningful learning experiences for their students. Modeling, reflection and personal experience are suggested as effective strategies in affecting student teachers’ beliefs about the value of technology. In this study, two educational technology courses were restructured to employ these strategies. Results revealed that student teachers’ beliefs about technology did not significantly change after taking the courses in one-semester period. However, the student teachers’ perceived effects of technology experience and electronic modeling significantly strengthened existing beliefs. Working on technology projects and observing electronic teacher models using technology were perceived by student teachers to positively influence their beliefs about technology.
Keywords: beliefs, technology, learning, teaching, strategies, electronic modeling, reflection, observation, projects, experiences.
Teachers’ beliefs have been considered an important factor that would affect teachers’ practice in class (Fang, 1996). According to Means (1994), “the primary motivation for teachers to use technology in their classrooms is the belief that the technology will support superior forms of learning” (p. 4). In other words, beliefs about technology play an important role in teachers’ decision-making regarding using technology in their teaching practice. Thus, to help student teachers become technology-using teachers in their future classrooms, it is important to help them develop strong and positive beliefs about technology. In current literature, some strategies have been suggested to be effective in building or modifying teachers’ beliefs, such as modeling, reflection and experiences. When applied to technology use, however, empirical evidence is needed to help us understand the effectiveness of these strategies on specific student teacher’ beliefs about technology. To establish a clear understanding, it is necessary to be specific when speaking of teachers’ beliefs. In this study, student teachers’ beliefs about technology refer to their beliefs about the benefits that technology can bring to teaching and learning.
When discussing the formation of beliefs, Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) pointed out that “On the basis of direct observation or information received from outside sources or by way of various inference processes, a person learns or forms a number of beliefs about an object” (p. 14). According to social cognitive theory learning, acquirement of beliefs can occur by observing others (Schunk, 2000). In the aspect of technology use, Ertmer (2005) suggested that observing teacher models using technology would help to promote changes of teachers’ beliefs. In teacher education programs, modeling approach can present how technology is used in “real-world” classroom, which provides teacher education students with concrete examples of technology-integration (Kay, 2006). However, it is not easy for teacher education students to access suitable K-12 model classrooms due to transportation issues and availability of suitable models. Researchers tried to find alternative ways to allow teacher education students to observe exemplary technology-using teachers without leaving campus. This included videoconferencing with technology-rich K-12 classrooms (Vannatta & Beyerback, 2000) and electronic models (Albion & Gibson, 2000; Ertmer, et al., 2003). For example, in a study conducted with 69 students who observed teacher models presented on a CD-ROM, Ertmer et al. (2003) found that student participants showed significant increases in their perceived ideas about technology integration and their self-efficacy regarding technology integration.
The opportunity for reflection on pre-service experience is one factor that helps to shape a teacher’s beliefs (Fang, 1996). Richardson (1996) commented that “reflection on action may lead to changes in and/or additions to beliefs” (p. 104). Reflection activities facilitate the development of prospective teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning (Dana, McLaughlin & Freeman, 1998). In a study conducted with two groups of student teachers in a seminar on teaching self-directed learning in primary schools, Tillema (2000) found that reflection after the practice could have effect on student teachers’ beliefs. When discussing teachers’ beliefs about technology, Ertmer (2005) suggested that the formation of teachers’ beliefs about technology may not be different from that of other beliefs. Reflection was a helpful strategy to develop teachers’ vision on how to use technology in teaching (Ertmer, 1999) and teachers’ beliefs about technology integration in teaching and learning (Ertmer, Addison, Lane, Ross & Woods, 1999). Therefore, it is reasonable to hypothesize that engaging student teachers in reflection activities related to technology use could support development of their positive beliefs about effectiveness of technology in supporting student learning.
Technology-training and technology-based activities helped to increase pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy in using technology (Gado, Ferguson & Hooft, 2006; Waston, 2006). In addition to the impact on teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs, technology experience could affect teachers’ pedagogical beliefs (Woodrow, Mayer-Smith & Pedretti, 1996). In relating teachers’ personal experiences with their beliefs, Ertmer (2005) suggested that teachers’ experiences would facilitate change in their “beliefs about teaching and learning, in general, and beliefs about technology, specifically” (p. 32). Thus, it is expected that teachers’ experiences in technology use would promote change in their specific beliefs about technology. In a study conducted with two groups of middle and high school teachers, Gningue (2003) found that teachers reported a change in their beliefs about the effectiveness in using technology in the classrooms after sustained training that allowed them to participate in active learning with computer technology. According to findings in current literature, it is hypothesized that introducing student teachers the use of technology and engaging them in technology activities would facilitate the development of their positive beliefs about technology.
To facilitate the development of student teachers’ beliefs about technology based on what has been reported in current literature, two graduate educational technology courses were restructured to employ electronic modeling, reflection and technology-experience strategies. This study intended to examine how student teachers’ beliefs about technology developed through taking courses, and how student teachers’ perceptions changed on using these strategies in relation to the development of their beliefs. The following research questions were examined:
Participants and Site
The participants in this study consisted of 26 student teachers who enrolled in two graduate educational technology courses in a northern university. Of the 26 participants, 14 enrolled in the course for elementary education majors and 12 enrolled in the course for secondary education majors. Twenty-two (22) were female participants, 4 were male. Prior to the semester, 14 had completed some credits in the graduate program of education.
Two 3-credit introductory level courses were chosen that focused on educational application of computer technology. In both courses, participants learned the same technology knowledge and skills and had same types of learning activities. Each class met 2.5 hours each week throughout the semester. Each of the two courses employed electronic modeling, reflection and technology experience strategies.
In both courses, participants watched videos on CD-ROM or online. The videos showed how teacher models used technology with their students in real classrooms. In addition to video clips of real classroom activities, teacher models talked about their thoughts and reasons for using technology and how they perceived the effect of technology on students’ learning. After watching each video clip, participants reflected on what they had observed in the video in relation to their own experiences and responded to a set of guiding questions provided by the instructor. Guided reflection was conducted after each reading assignment. Besides observing teacher models using technology and conducting reflective inquiry throughout the semester, participants gained personal experience with computer technology. They received training on how to use computer technology and software as tools to facilitate teaching and learning by working on five technology projects. All of the projects allowed student teachers to apply technology to support instructional activities in their selected content areas.
Data was collected from online surveys. A pre-survey was administered at the very beginning of the semester to examine the participants’ pre-existing beliefs about technology. Post-survey was administered at the end of the semester to examine their beliefs after taking the educational technology courses. It also measured perceived effects of electronic modeling, reflection and technology projects on their beliefs about technology.
In pre-survey and post-survey, the participants’ beliefs were measured by 10 five-point Likert scale items (1 strongly disagree to 5 strongly agree). To determine association among the 10 items, two factors were identified and an exploratory factor analysis was conducted. The researcher labeled the two factors as: benefits in teaching (5 items), and benefits in learning (5 items). An internal consistency reliability analysis revealed that the Cronbach coefficient alpha for the two factors were 0.88 and 0.87, respectively.
In post-survey, three five-point Likert scale items from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) were included to measure perceived effects of the strategies. These questions asked participants to rate their perceptions of effects that observing electronic models, reflection and technology projects had on their beliefs. At the end of the survey, two open-ended questions asked the participants to describe how their beliefs about technology were influenced through taking the technology courses.
Descriptive data from pre-survey and post-survey were calculated in terms of means and standard deviations of each beliefs variable and the participants’ perceptions. MANOVA (multivariate analysis of variance) tests were conducted to examine whether demographic information made difference in the participants’ beliefs about technology prior to taking the educational technology courses. The effect size of the multivariate h2 was reported.
When examining the change of the student teachers’ beliefs, paired t-tests were conducted to examine whether there was a significant change in the participants’ beliefs from pre-survey to post-survey. An effect size d was also calculated.
When exploring the relationship between the student teachers’ beliefs about technology and their perceived effects of electronic modeling, reflection and technology projects, sequential multiple regression analyses were conducted. In regression analyses, the participants’ post-survey beliefs scores were regressed as functions of their perceptions scores to examine of which strategy that the participants’ perceived effect significantly predicted their beliefs. To control the influence of participants’ pre-existing beliefs, their beliefs scores on the pre-survey were used as covariates in regression analyses. The significance level was set at .05 in all statistical analyses.
Participants’ responses to the open-ended questions in the post-survey helped to explain change of their beliefs and the relationship between their beliefs and perceived effects of those strategies. Responses to open-ended questions that reflected identical or similar ideas were combined into one category. The number and percentage of participants who had specific perceptions were summarized.
Descriptive statistics of the participants’ beliefs scores on pre-survey and post-survey are presented in Table 1.
Descriptive Statistics of Participants’ Beliefs (N = 26)
MANOVA tests showed that the participants’ pre-survey scores on beliefs were not significantly different based on majors (p = .87, h2 = 0.03) or the number of credits completed prior to the semester (p = .94, h2 = 0.19). This indicated that the participant demographics did not make any difference in their beliefs about technology prior to taking the courses. Participant perception scores on post-survey are presented in Table 2.
Descriptive Statistics of Participants’ Perceptions (N = 26)
Change of Student Teachers’ Beliefs
Paired t-tests revealed that the participants’ beliefs about technology related to benefits in learning did not change from pre-survey to post-survey
Analysis of the participants’ responses to open-ended question regarding changes of beliefs revealed that 46% (n = 12) of the participants thought their beliefs were changed. They realized that technology could help teaching in many ways and facilitate exploration and discovery learning. Of 26 participants, 38% (n = 10) commented that their beliefs did not change much. Four out of 26 participants (15%) stated that their beliefs about technology were positively reinforced but did not change.
Relationship between Student Teachers’ Beliefs about Technology
Step 1 Teaching benefits beliefs on pre-survey
Teaching benefits beliefs on pre-survey
Step 2 Perceptions on projects
Perceptions on projects
Step 3 Perceptions on observing models
Perceptions on observing models
Step 4 Perceptions on reflection
Perceptions on reflection
Note. B=raw regression coefficient; b=standardized regression coefficient; sr2=squared semi-partial correlation.
Table 4 presents the results of regression analyses of participants’ beliefs related to benefits in learning. The results showed that the participants’ perceived effect of technology projects was the significant predictor of their beliefs score on post-survey (p = .0005). It explained 29% (sr2 = .29) of the variance in their beliefs. As the covariate, the participants’ beliefs score on pre-survey, again, was a significant predictor of their beliefs score on post-survey (p = .005).
Note. B=raw regression coefficient; b=standardized regression coefficient; sr2=squared semi-partial correlation.
In response to the question regarding the influence of the courses, 81% (n = 21) of participants specified that working on technology projects had an effect on their beliefs about technology use in teaching and learning and 62% (n = 16) commented that observing the electronic models using technology had an effect on their beliefs. Only 23% (n = 6) of the participants mentioned reflection activity in their responses.
According to Richardson (2003), “It has been assumed for some time that changing beliefs of teacher candidates is difficult, although not impossible” (p. 11). In this study, student teachers’ beliefs about technology were not significantly changed by taking educational technology courses that employed strategies of electronic modeling, reflection and technology experience. The lack of significant results in this study indicated the difficulty in changing beliefs. However, compared to the number of the participants (n = 10) who thought their beliefs did not change throughout the semester, more participants perceived that taking these courses had influenced their beliefs. Such influence either brought changes to their beliefs (n = 12) or strengthened their beliefs about technology (n = 4).
Participants’ perceived effects of technology projects and electronic modeling on their beliefs significantly predicted their beliefs scores on post-survey. This indicated that working on technology projects and observing electronic models were perceived to have contributed to the development of the participants’ beliefs about technology. In addition, technology projects and electronic modeling were the two activities that the majority of the participants mentioned in comments on how their beliefs were influenced by taking the educational technology courses.
In this study, participants received technology training on the use of computer technology and worked on five technology projects. For each project, they needed to develop technology-integrated instructional products that they could use with their students, such as an instructional presentation and a technology lesson plan. While working on the projects, the participants were encouraged and guided to think about how technology could benefit teaching and learning and how to make it part of the curriculum. Participants felt they gained insights into how technology could be used to enhance teaching and learning through working on these projects. Examples of the participants’ comments are: “By doing the projects I feel that I have been given a new perspective on technology use in the classroom and I have learned more about how to use it,” “the projects helped me realize all the things that technology could do and be useful in the classroom. There were many different things that I learned through the projects that I did not know before.” One participant specified that “this course has affected my beliefs about technology and learning in that I am more able to make connections between the two. The technology projects especially helped me to see this.”
To facilitate development of student teachers’ beliefs about technology, it is necessary to engage them in hands-on experiences with technology. Such experiences should not only teach them about technology but stimulate them to ponder over why technology is necessary and how to use technology to truly facilitate teaching and learning. In this study, participants perceived that working on technology projects influenced and contributed to development of their beliefs about technology. The technology experience made them more aware of what teachers could do with technology in classrooms to make teaching and learning more meaningful and effective.
According to social cognitive theory, models who are similar to the observers that perform particular tasks well will motivate observers to perform the same tasks if the outcome of the behaviors were valued (Schunk, 2000). In this study, participants watched the videos that demonstrated how teacher models used technology with their students in class activities. Observing the teacher models using technology influenced participants’ beliefs. One participant stated that “Watching the videos of exemplary teachers using technology in their classrooms has affected my beliefs about technology use in teaching and learning. I have been able to observe great teachers using technology in ways that I would like to use technology in my own classrooms.” Another participant wrote, “watching the videos gave me some great ideas of how to incorporate technology into my teaching. The videos also reminded me of certain management strategies that I need to take a closer look at before using the technology in my teaching.”
The results suggested that modeling strategy could facilitate the development of student teachers’ beliefs about technology. If live models were not easy to access, electronic models would be effective alternative. Student teachers need to witness how technology is implemented in real classrooms. Observing teacher models using technology in classrooms gives student teachers an opportunity to see and examine how technology can facilitate teaching and learning. This will help them develop strong and positive beliefs about the benefits of technology. As one participant commented, “I liked seeing the videos because it gave me an opportunity to actually see technology being used in the classroom and how students responded to the teachers. This affected my beliefs because now I see how the students like the technology and how useful it really is.”
The student teacher participants did not perceive that reflection influenced their beliefs. This may be due to the lack of communication that allowed the participants to share ideas and discuss beliefs in class. Risko et al. (2002) suggested that reflection in the form of personal writing could help student teachers examine and modify previously held beliefs; however, writing as the only reflection activity may not be effective; reflection through social interaction with peers and instructors can influence student teachers’ understanding of other perspectives and inspire them to have more in-depth thoughts. In this study, the participants’ reflection activities were completed mainly through writing. In-class, discussions about their thoughts and reflections took place occasionally instead of regularly due to time limits. This may have resulted in insufficient dialogues among participants related to personal beliefs about technology, which in turn influenced their understanding and adoption of different perspectives. Participants did not think their beliefs were influenced through reflection.
In teacher education programs, to facilitate the development of student teachers’ beliefs through reflective practice, it may be necessary to provide student teachers an environment that allows them to communicate their thoughts and discuss their beliefs with the informed others. If there was not enough time in class, teacher educators could try other communication channels, such as online discussion forum, to engage student teachers in reflective thinking about beliefs through online communication.
To help student teachers develop strong and positive beliefs about technology is an important task in teacher education programs. This study intended to provide empirical evidence to support development of student teachers’ positive beliefs about effectiveness of technology through electronic modeling, reflection and technology experience. Statistically significant changes in student teachers’ beliefs did not take place during this one-semester study in educational technology courses. However, the student teachers perceived that meaningful technology experience and observing teacher models using technology contributed to the development of their beliefs about technology. Reflection in the form of personal writing was not perceived to have an effect on the student teachers’ beliefs. In teacher education programs, teacher educators should engage student teachers in reflective activities and encourage interpersonal dialogues about personal beliefs. Hopefully, the findings in this study will further our understanding of strategies for facilitating development of student-teachers’ beliefs about technology and suggest good practice for teacher educators.
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Hua Bai, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Information and Communication Technology at the State University of New York at Potsdam. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Technology from Purdue University. Her research focuses on scaffolding students’ learning with computer technology, strategies to facilitate learning in technology-enhanced environments, and communication in online learning.
Address: Information and Communication Technology Department, The State University of New York at Potsdam, 44 Pierrepont Avenue, Potsdam, NY 13676.