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Research Proposal Running head: RESEARCH PROPOSAL

Surveying Technology-Related Professional Development in the Classroom: A Research Proposal Michel Lacoursiere ETEC 500 - University of British Columbia


Research Proposal


Hi Michel, if completed, this project would no doubt be welcome for presentation at various conferences (see comments below). You state, “the research instrument is not standardized or based on a specific established survey; although this offers flexibility and customization of the survey to the context it may hinder the validity in some ways.” Why not deal with that—perhaps delete any written responses and closely follow questionnaire development protocols—perhaps use the phone to conduct the research? Very interesting; all the best. 18.5/20 Cliff

Research Proposal


Surveying Technology-Related Professional Development in the Classroom: A Research Proposal One of the major concerns facing teachers and school administrators is the support and integration of useful technologies in the classroom (Irvine & Montgomerie, 2001; Wright & Lesisko, 2008). With perceived and proven benefits of computers and related information and communication technologies (or ICT) care must be taken to properly train and support teachers in an effective manner (Lacoursiere, 2008; Williams, Atkinson, Cate, & O'Hair, 2008). Researchers are continually exploring the preferences, perceptions, policies and efficacy behind technology integration (Irvine & Montgomerie, 2001; Wu, Chang, & Guo, 2008). By surveying large populations and biasing surveys on established constructs and instruments researchers have begun to reveal some of the factors concerning professional development and technology integration (Judson, 2008; Wright & Lesisko, 2008). The following research proposal is an investigation into the technology supports and preferences of school teachers in Canada. By utilizing survey research that is focused on the professional training received or available to teachers as well as demographics and preferences more insight may be gained into better support technology in the classroom. By surveying a complete jurisdiction in detail and developing a specialized survey that caters to this specific context, further steps for professional development in similar Canadian jurisdictions may be found. In addition, the training preferences of teachers will be revealed and hopefully improved as a result of the survey. Purpose The goals of this study are to investigate: (a) the supports teachers receive in their efforts to integrate technology into the classroom and (b) the preferences teachers have in terms of

Research Proposal


technology-related professional development. Both of these issues will be explored in a Canadian context in order to shed light on the current technological and training landscape of that unique population. This research will serve as a snapshot of the current level of support made available to Canadian educators in their endeavour to use and integrate technology in the classroom, information that may be used to guide further policy and efforts in this and similar jurisdictions. there may be funding for this—but I expect you have researched that Background Information Technological Innovation in the Classroom Due to increased importance of ICT and related computer skills in occupations and modern life there has been a well documented push towards integrating technology in the classroom (Lacoursiere, 2008). The development of skills related to these technologies expands well beyond the computer lab as computer and technology-related skills are integrated throughout all classes by some curricula (Irvine & Montgomerie, 2001). Irvine and Montgomerie (2001) studied the skill set required by Albertan teachers according to administrators and found that technological skills are highly valued but lacking in many certified applicants. Teachers are expected to not only be comfortable with various classroom technologies but have the ability to infuse these technologies into traditional lessons and activities unrelated to computers, an ability mandated by curricula (Irvine Montgomerie, 2001; Judson, 2008). According to Wu et al. (2008) this global increase in technology integration calls for a greater understanding of how to develop technology-related skills in teachers. Wu et al. (2008) investigated the gap between available technologies and thus teachers used by surveying nearly 350 teachers across 40 schools in Korea. The results of this study focused on teachers’ perceptions and intentions towards technology but the researchers support researchers such as

Research Proposal


Higgins and Spitulnik (2008) as they conclude that professional development may be the key to equipping teachers in effective technology integration in their classrooms. Professional Development and Its Role Teachers and researchers agree that professional development is the primary form of skill development for teachers (Lacoursiere, 2008; Higgins & Spitulnik, 2008). With technology integration and meeting new ICT outcomes in the curricula of utmost concern care must be taken to develop and support the requisite technology skills in teachers. Williams et al. (2008) have studied how teachers receive and develop new skills and have concluded that the best results come from restructuring the school and professional development in order to facilitate teacher innovation and skill development. Williams et al. (2008) explains that through financial support the K20 Center in association with the University of Oklahoma has managed to build a technology-enriched learning community based on established frameworks and well-researched models. Higgins and Spitulnik (2008) support this focus on community learning and the benefits are proven as the center has observed marked improvements in teaching quality and student success. These findings are a bit optimistic and were enabled by extraordinary resources and partnerships but are congruent with the findings of other researchers who see professional learning communities built around technology as viable PD option (Judson, 2008; Lacoursiere, 2008). The key here is to understand the individual needs, experience and context of teachers and communicate with them in order to develop resources and training methods that help them integrate technology. Surveying for Insights Ultimately the point of this research is to provide a snapshot of the current state of educational technology and the types of professional development that are used to support

Research Proposal


technological innovation in the classroom. As I have previously discussed there are a variety of professional development methods being used in Canada, all with varying levels of effectiveness (Lacoursiere, 2008). To gain greater insight into professional development, technology and the role of teacher many researchers have used surveys to develop a better understanding of the situation (Irvine & Montgomerie, 2001; Wright & Lesisko, 2008; Wu et al., 2008). Despite their efforts, obtaining a large sample, developing a balanced survey and grounding all of the research in established frameworks is difficult. Wright and Lesisko (2008) obtained a very large sample in their survey of teachers’ computer use and comfort levels but had trouble interpreting their results because nearly 90% of their questions were concerning technology skills. Researchers such as Wu et al. (2008) managed to keep sample size high but focused on intrinsic characteristics that do not lend themselves to self-reporting, which they focused on entirely. Ideally interviews would be conducted and additional observation methods built into the research plan such as Irvine and Montgomerie (2008) and Judson (2006) accomplished but a balance must be struck between resources and depth. Judson’s (2006) use of established instruments such as the Focusing on Integrating Technology: Classroom Observation Measurement (FIT:COM) are worth applauding but it is obvious through his results and mixed conclusions that using such instruments should not take priority over designing a survey to ask a specific question. This research reveals that creating a survey that is effective and useful is a complicated task and to truly understand the skills and preferences of numerous teachers care must be taken in its planning and execution.

Research Proposal


Methodology Participants & Context The entire teaching population of a Northern Alberta rural school board (Holy Family Catholic Regional Division #37) will be surveyed within this study, a group which totals over 250 certified teachers. This Catholic school board has its main office in Peace River but has schools throughout Northwestern Alberta within semi-urban to rural areas. For the purpose of this study all teachers in the district will be surveyed regardless of location, grade level, professional development and teaching experience. This population was chosen because it includes teachers who received their training throughout Canada, consists of numerous schools over a large geographical area and gave district-wide approval for participation in the survey. a caution—this population may present a profile quite different than let’s say a population consisting of teachers in a large urban school district Instrumentation & Design The survey instrument will be comprised of cross-sectional survey focusing primarily on the skills and abilities teachers develop in terms of technology, how they are supported in their pursuit of ICT knowledge and their individual preferences in these regards. The survey questions will be structured into 5 categories: (a) demographic information, (b) teaching and training experience, (c) professional development preferences, (d) technology preferences and (e) comments. The demographic section will consist primarily of multiple choice and list style questions whereas the remaining sections will focus on checklists and Likert-style questions. A small number of directed, open-response questions will be used in each section but primarily in the comments category.

Research Proposal


Prior to the survey becoming available to the participants it will be pilot tested by one school teacher population, Glenmary High School in Peace River, Alberta. Teachers from this school will complete the survey and will be prompted for feedback related to survey design, structure and focus. Any additions, deletions and modifications would be made prior to the survey being delivered to the remaining population. As the survey is being developed to meet the needs of this specific population it is important to make sure the instrument is well structured, designed correctly and accurately assesses the unique technological and professional climate of the district. Analysis The data from the survey will be statistically analyzed from a variety of dimensions in order to uncover the level of experience and professional development preferences of the educators involved. Information such as school location, years of experience and education may be compared to comfort level, preferences and techniques in order to determine any relevant trends in training, development and teacher perspective. Significance Research has revealed a push from administration and government to integrate technology into the classroom and the onus is now on the teachers and school officials to develop and support the skills required to do this. probably not much research was needed to figure that out From a practical standpoint the results of this survey could, in the short term, help the given division better meet the needs technology-related professional development needs and preferences of their teachers. Changes can then be made to professional development offerings, delivery and further support of professional learning communities built around technology. As Judson (2006) states, awareness of the skills and abilities teachers have received through teacher-

Research Proposal


training and continuing professional development may help answer some of the questions overlooked by previous research. Although it is obvious that no drastic changes such as those achieved by Williams et al. (2008) will result of this work it is important to understand the current position of this population in order to prepare for the future in terms of technology integration. It is expected that teachers will acknowledge that numerous professional development opportunities are available but current programs lack transferability to the classroom, a common complaint among classroom teachers (Lacoursiere, 2008). With this complaint in mind surveying preferences and allowing comments could reveal areas to be improved. This could lead to changes in how this and other school divisions integrate technologies and continue the education of their teachers. From a contextual standpoint the results and conclusions of this survey should be limited to this context but other, more general conclusions could be made to ICT-related professional development in Canada. Limitations Two potential limitations were identified in the preliminary design of this research. First, the participants are limited to a given school jurisdiction within Canada. As a result, teacher may have had similar experiences concerning technology and professional development and this may limit the application of findings over broader areas. Secondly, the research instrument is not standardized or based on a specific established survey; although this offers flexibility and customization of the survey to the context it may hinder the validity in some ways. Regardless of these limitations the snapshot information this survey provides will clearly shed light on teacher preferences and experience.

Research Proposal


Conclusion There is no doubt that technology is beginning to play a predominant role in our modern lives and this is putting emphasis on the technological skills of teachers. In order to utilize the instructional benefits of technology and develop the needed ICT skills in students care must be taken to give teachers the required skills and abilities to do so. Professional development, being the primary means of educating practicing teachers, can serve as a valuable tool in this endeavour but more information is needed to properly support teachers and facilitate professional development that is effective and meets the needs of educators. Through this proposed survey research greater insights can be made into technology-related professional development Canadian teachers receive. The results could hold key information in understanding how technology integration teachers can be better equipped and how technology can be further integrated to Canadian classrooms.

Research Proposal


References Higgins, T. E., & Spitulnik, M. W. (2008). Supporting Teachers' Use of Technology Science Instruction Through Professional Development: A Literature Review. Journal of Science Education and Technology , 17, 511-521. Irvine, V., & Montgomerie, C. T. (2001). A Survey of Current Computer Skill Standards and Implications for Teacher Education. ED-MEDIA 2001 World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. Proceedings, (pp. 806-811). Tampere, Finland. Judson, E. (2006). How Teachers Integrate Technology and Their Beliefs About Learning: Is There a Connection? Journal of Technology and Teacher Education , 14 (3), 581-597. Lacoursiere, M. E. (2008). The Ecology of Technological Innovation in Classrooms: Internal Professional Development as a Solution. Retrieved April 10, 2009, from Williams, L. A., Atkinson, L. C., Cate, J. M., & O'Hair, M. J. (2008). Mutual Support Between Learning Community Development and Technological Integration: Impact on School Practices and Student Achievement. Theory Into Practice , 47 (9), 294-302. Wright, R. J., & Lesisko, L. J. (2008). Technology Infusion in a Rural School System: A Case Study from Pennsylvania. Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association March 24-28. New York, NY.

Research Proposal Wu, W., Chang, H. P., & Guo, C. J. (2008). An Emprical Assessment of Science Teachers' Intentions Toward Technology Integration. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching , 27 (4), 499-520.