Literature Review (Part II)
This page was written by Megan Dick
This literature review will examine research on how to design a questionnaire to analyse teachers training needs. Having previously discussed what skills teachers will need to have in the future and what areas previous surveys about ICT have focused on, this section will look at what methods are appropriate for assessing teachers training needs. It will try to determine how a questionnaire can be designed that will effectively assess teachers training needs to meet the official criteria needed in order to receive funding from the New Opportunities Fund.
In September 1997, the Technology College Trust asked teachers at many of its member or affiliate schools to take part in a survey designed to measure their own perceptions of their confidence and competence in the use of ICT. Head-Line Communication Ltd (1998) provides a summary of the TCTs findings in their proposals for developing a suitable package of resources for assessing teachers ICT skills. Their summary states that only a small proportion of teachers in most schools were skilled in the use of ICT. The summary goes on to say that the majority of teachers had no training in the use of generic or specific applications. In addition, less than one-fifth of teachers were confident and competent enough in the use of ICT to enable them to use or develop this with pupils. Many teachers did not consider specialist applications relevant to their subject teaching needs, even where such relevance was indicated in the National Curriculum.
In an American article on Assessing Staff Technology Competence, Jamie McKenzie (1993) asserted that since schools, "have spent more than a decade flirting with new technologies, there is some evidence that we have failed to integrate the use of technologies by all teachers throughout the regular classroom curriculum in ways that are meaningful, natural and powerful." The author concluded that teachers could be divided teachers into two groups, pioneers and reluctants or sages. McKenzie explained that the pioneers have welcomed new technologies and have often spent much weekend time to mastering new programs and software. This might be a large group in an area, but often there is another group of people, "who have acted as if technologies were just another form of bandwagon." He calls these people reluctants or sages, saying that they have not spent any time on the new technologies.
This division is applicable to British teachers experiences as well. There is a wide range of ICT skills in schools, as evidenced by the TCTs findings. This range has to be taken into account when designing a needs assessment for teachers on ICT.
A questionnaire developed to evaluate teachers ICT skills and training needs must consider that many of the respondents might be complete beginners with no ICT skills. Any needs assessment should therefore be understandable to all teachers, regardless of their current ICT abilities. However, teachers are required by the National Curriculum to use ICT with students where relevant and will be required to use ICT in many other ways in the future. An assessment has to ask questions that determine all teachers levels of ability with ICT as well as which skills they will need to be trained in to meet official requirements. Therefore, a questionnaire must also be able to assess what skills teachers who are already confident with ICT possess, so that their training needs can be taken into account as well.
Teachers Perceptions of ICT
Teachers perceptions of ICT should also be measured by a needs assessment. The TCT survey discovered that many teachers did not consider ICT to be relevant to their teaching needs. (Head-Line Communication Ltd., 1998)
Don Passey (1998) recognises that teachers need to be supported while they develop ICT skills and integrate this into practice. He suggests two central areas of focus for ICT needs assessments. The first consists of developing appropriate teacher perceptions to fit contextual needs. He identifies the problem that teachers and pupils have different perceptions of ICT. Some teachers still see ICT as daunting and something that stands out from its environment, while others see it as something that can not be done without other equipment. But many pupils see ICT as something that does not stand out but something that moulds itself into its environment and can be taken for granted as much as a pen or a book. Passey feels that it is important to ensure that teachers see ICT as many pupils do, so that teachers will readily be able to offer pupils access to the resources offered by ICT. Therefore, teachers perceptions should be determined through any assessment, so that this can be taken into account when designing a programme of professional development.
The second focus suggested by Passey is that an ICT needs analysis should support pedagogic competence. Passey states,
In order to enable teachers to develop not only an understanding of this intrinsic position of ICT, but also an intrinsic practice with regard to ICT, we must enable the teacher to develop, and continue to develop, firstly pedagogic competence, and secondly operational competence. Operational competence should serve the pedagogic need - not vice versa!
Though teachers have a great deal of pedagogic competence already, an ICT needs assessment should support teachers in their attempts to integrate their pedagogic competencies with new pedagogic and operational competencies with ICT.
Teachers Confidence and Competence with ICT
In NCET's (No Date) document "Training Today's Teachers in Information Technology: IT elements of capability for teachers", six areas that teachers should be aware of and have skills in are identified. These are:
For each area, the document describes what a competent teacher should be able to do. NCET (No Date) has therefore concluded that teachers need to be competent users of ICT and should have positive attitudes towards its use.
Passey (1998) also concludes that teachers should be both competent and confident in their use of ICT. He says that his study on the Development of questionnaires for teachers to assess ICT skills assumes from the beginning that "ICT users should be both competent and confident in pedagogic terms." Passey describes a competent user of ICT as someone who takes ownership of their own development and training, even if they make mistakes. He also says that these users have strategies to use in given situations or have the confidence to develop them in new situations. They can also identify the strategies that they can rely upon. He makes the point that, "An ICT needs assessment should attempt, therefore, to identify strategies that teachers do, or do not, have. An ICT needs assessment mechanism should enable teachers to comprehend the learning application of the technology." (Passey, 1998)
A needs assessment should therefore attempt to discover not only teachers competence with ICT, but also their attitudes towards ICT. Teachers who do not have a positive attitude to ICT will need training that they can immediately see as relevant. Davis (1997c) highlights this, as she points out that one factor that can stimulate professional development is a teachers recognition that a change will benefit their students. If a teacher is trained in the use of a key IT application, they can be persuaded that ICT is relevant to them and will enhance teaching and learning. This means that any questionnaire developed must be able to determine both the technical ICT skills teachers have and those they need training in, as well as how confident teachers feel about using ICT.
Stages of Development with ICT
McKenzie (1993) refers to the work of Mandinach, who builds on the work of Sandholtz, Ringstaff and Dwyer, in outlining four stages through which teachers might pass in learning and applying new technologies in the classroom. These are the survival stage, the mastery stage, the impact stage and the innovation stage.
McKenzie says that if a portrait of the staff's relationship with technology can be developed, that portrait can provide the basis for planning effective staff development. The staff development thus planned will be effective because it will offer many opportunities that match the learning styles, preferences and developmental levels of staff members. He therefore developed a survey that should assess which members of staff need which kinds of experiences to help them feel comfortable and proficient. There are three sections in his survey. The first determines technological literacy and competency, the second determines how staff feels about learning new technologies and programs and the third determines comfort and proficiency.
The stage of learning of the teachers should also therefore be taken into account when designing training needs assessments. Passey (1998) states that it is now recognised that learners develop along a U-curve of learning, and not a linear one. This means a potential reduction in their performance while they are coming to grips with their new knowledge. The U-curve consists of these stages: survival, exploration and bridging, adaptation, conceptual change and intervention. It might be important to determine where a teacher is on this curve if one is to design a programme of staff development that correctly identifies their training needs. Passey also describes the development of teachers through three phases: the techno ghetto stage; the keyboarding stage; and the integration stage. Teachers face difficulties in moving from the keyboarding stage to the integration stage. Passey concludes that, "It should be our intention, therefore, to consider carefully the necessary bridging and reconstruction that teachers will face. We should be looking to offer assessments which will enable teachers to recognise the need for those bridges, to know what the bridges consist of, and to provide the mechanisms and strategies to build and move across them."
Discussing ways that the US government human resource departments should be modernising, Marjorie Budd (1995) stated that needs assessments are multi-level. Training needs should be assessed on three levels; organisational, occupational and individual. These levels are explained as:
(Marjorie Budd, 1995)
Budd explained that an organizational needs assessment would focus on the business objectives of the office and customer needs to determine the skills needed to provide strategic human resources support. This first level should not apply in the case of this assignments needs assessment, as the government in the NGfL already specifies the skills and knowledge teachers must have in order to improve students learning. However, an occupational needs assessment must be carried out to discover the gaps in teachers knowledge and skill. Budd explained that an occupational needs assessment, "would go further to identify the continuing professional education needs of each occupation." The individual needs assessment would then identify specific development needs of individual teachers. In this way, training could be tailored for the individual.
Passey (1998) places the audit process in a whole pedagogic reconstruction process, consisting of firstly, an audit, then construction of a staff development program, then implementation, then evaluation. This should then bring the planner back to the audit stage, where the whole process should be repeated. Passey concludes that:
The implications are clear - whilst on the surface the development of an audit tool can be an end in itself, it cannot be divorced from the needs of the teacher or the provider in terms of construction, implementation, or evaluation. The intentions behind an 'audit or 'assessment' tool should therefore account for:
- the pedagogic construction needed when teachers reassess their uses and potential uses of ICT;
- the pedagogic implementation that can and should occur, so that uses of ICT are focused upon learning needs rather than just ICT manipulation; and
- the pedagogic evaluation of what will ultimately be undertaken in classrooms by children.
Therefore, a needs assessment can be seen as part of the process of improving teachers ICT skills and knowledge. Passey goes on to make the point that, "The ICT needs assessment is an important initial element within a longer and wider set of processes of teacher development and support."
Teachers will need to be confident and competent users of ICT in order to meet the official requirements set by the present government. In order to receive funding to train teachers, schools will need to assess the skills of their staff. This literature review has examined what methods are appropriate for assessing teachers training needs.
It is clear that an effective assessment should determine teachers perceptions of ICT, as well as their skill and knowledge level. Teachers stages of development with ICT should also be identified to make any training program that is designed effective. Based on the research of teachers current abilities with ICT, a questionnaire should contain questions that are understandable to all teachers, regardless of their current ICT skill level. Many teachers have not yet come to grips with new technologies, as evidenced by the Technology Colleges Trusts finding. Another factor that will have to be taken into account when designing a questionnaire is the limited amount of time teachers will have in school to complete it. The questionnaire will have to be kept to a reasonable size, and should be one that teachers can fill out quickly.
Importantly, the information gathered by any needs assessment must ultimately be useful to the school in their attempts to design and implement ICT training for their staff. A training needs assessment can and must have the further role of helping to develop a program of effective staff development. Filling in a questionnaire will encourage teachers to reflect on their current practice. And used as part of a whole pedagogic reconstruction process, the audit and then implementation of a program of staff development will enhance teachers ICT skills and knowledge and can form part of whole school ICT development.
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