Literature Review (on-line resources)
This page was written by Megan Dick
This is a review of on-line literature and resources relating to staff development in the use of IT. The review will describe why IT staff development is necessary and the difficulties encountered by schools and teachers when IT is introduced into schools. The review will then look at ways of classifying and evaluating staff development programmes.
A separate web page contains a review of the off-line resources which relate to this assignment.
Preparing students for the changing technological world that they will encounter when they leave school is becoming more and more important. ICT developments are moving incredibly quickly, and schools and teachers must scramble to catch up. The present government requires teachers to, "generally feel confident, and be competent to teach, using ICT within the curriculum," by 2002. (DfEE, 1997) This increases the pressure on teachers to become trained in the use of IT.
There are several problems which are inhibiting the effective use of computers in schools. The first, and possibly the greatest barrier to effective use of computers in schools is inadequate teacher training. (Benton Foundation, 1997) The government's National Grid for Learning paper (1997) acknowledges this. In the foreword, the Prime Minister says that a report commissioned on the potential for ICT in schools identifies the need to train teachers as one of the main hurdles to be overcome if online resources can be effectively created for and used by teachers. (Blair, 1997) It is now widely accepted that the introduction of ICT into schools puts more demands on teachers' time. Any teacher who entered the profession more than a decade ago preceded the introduction of computers, and therefore they need to be trained in the use of IT if they are to be able to use it effectively in the classroom. (Kopp and Ferguson, 1996)
Teachers have had to acquire a whole new set of skills to use IT. They need to learn the mechanics of using new hardware and software. They also have to adjust their classroom management skills from teacher centred classrooms to student centred learning. (Benton Foundation, 1997) So teachers need to learn these new skills and then need to use them in their classrooms. A 1995 report suggested that schools should devote at least 30 percent of their IT spending to training. (Benton Foundation, 1997) However, many schools do not put that much money towards training, as it obviously reduces the amount of money they have to spend on new hardware and software for the school. In addition, it has been shown that some teachers who have received training in the use of ICT do not end up using their new knowledge and skills. (Kopp and Ferguson, 1996) Therefore, effective staff development in the use of IT is needed in schools. There is still some debate about what constitutes effective training for teachers and how this can be provided easily, and in some cases, cheaply.
The Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory (McRel) has published a useful site on the web that contains many pages of research and resources for teachers. They have drawn together the following models of staff development, from a review by Sparks and Loucks-Horsley from 1989. Their review summarises the major staff development studies and lists 5 effective staff development practices. (McRel, 1997. Appendix A: Professional Development Models) The following are their five basic models of professional development activities, describing the range and varieties of experiences commonly found in school:
Further research has been done that attempts to identify models that are effective in training staff in the use of IT. Some models have been deemed more effective than others. Many school must operate under the specific restraints of money and time in how much training they can provide for their teachers. There are also specific problems related to training staff to use new and fairly complicated tools that they are unfamiliar with, and enabling them to use them in their every day teaching.
Traditional INSET training can help teachers make better use of technology. If this type of training is to be implemented in a school, it is more effective if the training does not start with the technology, but with the specific needs of the teacher. The draft document on Connecting Schools, Networking People (BECTA, 1998) states that, "The demand for INSET by teachers moves from initial general/technical to curriculum-based where teachers are looking for solutions to specific classroom-based needs." When this is done, it has the added advantage of increasing the motivation and interest of the teachers, as they can easily see how the new technology can be used in the classroom.
However some experienced members of the education technology movement feel that teachers can learn better, and at a lower cost, from each other. (Benton Foundation, 1997) It seems that the individually-guided model of staff development can be effective, but does require time on the part of the teachers who share their knowledge and the teachers who are learning new skills. An advantage of this model is that the teachers who are learning new skills will have support and help readily available to them as they try out their new skills. This is often a problem with INSET courses, as the trainers who taught the new skills are usually not available to trouble shoot when the teachers encounter a problem when trying to implement their new skills.
BECTA (1998) points out that one of the potentials of ICT is its ability to provide independent learning materials. BECTA's document details a method where training material software relating to a particular application needed by teachers was made available on CD-ROM. It proved an effective and popular model for learning. From this study, a number of factors were discovered which contributed to the teachers' success and it is useful to consider them when planning any IT staff development.
It gave teachers the opportunity to determine their own time and space for training; with an on-line system this could also be extended to the home environment Teachers were able to make mistakes in private There was easy access to the CD-ROM to support revision when teachers moved on to using real data On-line support was available at the point of need A belief arose that the training increased the professional status of the teacher in the eyes of colleagues; this belief was particularly strong in the case of prior novices in the use of ICT.
This training model allowed each member of a specific management team to train concurrently, thereby supporting school-based strategic development It promoted a more equal distribution of corporate skills, providing a common platform for organisational development The training activity positively contributed to team building, particularly in the development of inter-personal relationships The training method was perceived as opening up the path towards a more participatory style of management, through increasing understanding between hitherto specialist areas.
The TREK Institute (Technology Research Exploration for Kids) in Nebraska has piloted and analysed a different kind of training model. (Kopp and Ferguson, 1996) The TREK Teacher Training Model (TTTM) was an attempt to train teachers using master teachers as facilitators in a weekly training course. Classroom teachers were immersed in hands-on activities and worked with teaching materials they would own at the end of the course. Teachers were enthusiastic about the new skills they had learned but follow-up data indicated that many did not use their new knowledge and skills back in their own schools. There are several reasons for this. Often they were afraid to use the new technologies at their schools, some forgot the new skills they had learned and others were afraid to introduce new things into their schools as other teachers might react badly to them.
The initial attempts at these training weeks provided insight into how well this model worked, and what parts needed to be refined. On the next one week course, a group of teachers where separated out, called Group B, and were put onto another variety of the initial course. Kopp and Ferguson (1996) explained that this group would work directly with children for another week after their initial training.
It was hypothesized that through active participation in manipulative materials, teachers would gain the skills and confidence to replicate the activities in their classrooms. Also hypothesized were that Group B teachers would: 1) develop more positive attitudes toward technologies; and 2) Initiate more technology-related activities in their classrooms because of the greater in-depth experiences gained in the additional week of training and working with the 100 children.The findings relating to Group B were encouraging. Group B teachers did implement the technologies in the classroom to a greater extent than those in the initial one week course. This study of a model of staff development highlights two important points that need to be provided for teachers to be trained effectively in the use of new technologies. Firstly, teachers need the time to learn and develop new skills and knowledge. This seems fairly obvious, but the length of the staff development course carried out at the TREK Institutes is not often possible in schools, due to money and time restraints. Secondly, the study points out the usefulness of putting teachers in real situations with students. This seems a valuable way of training teachers, as it gives them concrete experience with the new technologies and how they might be used in the classroom with students.
It is often difficult to arrive at concrete conclusions about the effectiveness of a staff development programme. A useful research paper on the development of IT in secondary schools provides models to assess a school's needs and the effectiveness of any programmes provided. (Kirkman, 1998) Kirkman's thesis outlines how innovations are introduced, accepted and then used in society. In many ways, this process is, by necessity, accelerated in the school setting. In his thesis, Kirkman has been studying the introduction of IT as an innovation in schools. He lists several stages in adopting IT into the school setting. He found that, "A crucial stage in getting an innovation adopted is to reach a point where the potential adopter (teacher of department) makes a decision to use that innovation." This seems to be an important stage to note in teacher staff development. Though some teachers go on courses to train them in using IT, often they return to school and do not put their new knowledge into practice in the classroom, as has already become evident.
Kirkman's approach is useful for determining what stage a school or teacher has reached. Once this has been done, more informed decisions can be made about what type of training is needed. Following training, the stages are also useful for evaluating the effectiveness of the professional development undertaken. Kirkman provides models for the diffusion and adoption of innovations that allow easy identification of the stages of development. Once a school or department's needs have been studied using these models, the follow up study can be done using the stages to link theory with practice.
Another useful tool in determining the effectiveness of a staff development programme is a checklist provided on the McRel site. (McRel, 1997. Exhibit A: Short-Term Professional Development Checklist) The checklist is designed to determine the likely effectiveness of a training programme. It is designed to be used by project developers and/or participants to get information about the perceived quality of the proposed programme. The checklist contains criteria to determine how well planned and provided the whole programme is. It asks questions relating to what has been learned as well as what expectations the participants had before the course, and whether or not they have been fulfilled. It is the questions relating to what the participants' expectation were that seem to be very useful. Often it is a teachers own acceptance or resistance to the new technologies that determines whether or not a training method will succeed or fail. This checklist could be a valuable way of determining the likelihood of success of a programme before it has even been undertaken.
There are several conclusions that can be drawn from this review. IT staff development is necessary but schools have several difficulties to overcome as they try to train their staff to use the new technologies. The difficulties encountered in the school setting, mostly those of time and money, need to be taken into account before a training method is decided upon. The model provided by the TREK programme seems to be very effective, however it would not be appropriate for most schools to use on their own with small groups. The amount of money and expertise needed to carry out that programme would often be out of reach. So, although there are several models of staff development that have proved themselves effective, some are more useful than others in training staff in the use of IT and ensuring that teachers new skills are transferred to the classroom. The tools provided by Kirkman's study would be an effective way of deciding how much training teachers need and how effective any training provided has been. In addition, the checklist provided by McRel would also be valuable when deciding how effective a proposed training programme might be. All these tools could be used to ensure that staff receive a training programme that enables them to use IT in the classroom.
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