Professionalizing in- service teachers’ focus on technological pedagogical and content knowledge

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  • Professionalizing in- service teachers focus on technologicalpedagogical and content knowledge

    Seyum Tekeher Getenet & Kim Beswick &Rosemary Callingham

    # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

    Abstract In Ethiopia, primary school teachers of science and mathematics are encour-aged to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into their teachingas a means to improve the quality of education. However, there has not been the sameemphasis placed on providing professional learning opportunities for teachers on how touse ICT in their teaching. The present study investigated how a group of practisingprimary school science and mathematics teachers developed the skills needed to inte-grate ICT into their teaching. The study employed a combination of qualitative andquantitative researchmethods within an action research approach. The teachers took partin activities from a Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) basedprofessional learning workshop, including designing lessons, classroom instruction, andreflection activities in teams. A lesson evaluation sheet, questionnaire, observationchecklist, and logbook were used to gather data. The results showed that the teachersacquired an improved competency to integrate available ICT into their teaching throughthe intervention activities.

    Keywords Professional development . In-service teachers . Technological pedagogicalcontent knowledge

    1 Introduction

    Studies have shown that the use of ICT as a learning tool within meaningful learningcontexts can lead to significantly improved educational and pedagogical outcomes inschools, and bring major benefits to both learners and teachers (see for example, Ayub

    Educ Inf TechnolDOI 10.1007/s10639-013-9306-4

    S. T. Getenet (*) :K. Beswick : R. CallinghamFaculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Locked Bag 1307, Launceston, Tasmania 7250, Australiae-mail:

    K. Beswicke-mail:

    R. Callinghame-mail:

  • et al. 2010; Voogt 2008). It has been observed, however, that teachers seldom use ICTtools in their teaching (Ruthven 2009). A number of factors have been suggested toexplain this phenomenon. Studies focusing on barriers to integrating technology inlearning suggest that the lack of technological resources is the most frequently citedbarrier (e.g., Agyei and Voogt 2011a; Bingimlas 2009; Hew and Brush (2007),followed by teachers lack of technological knowledge. In recent studies, teacherslack of Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) has been iden-tified as a significant hurdle in the effective integration of technology (see, for example,Chai et al. 2011; Donnelly et al. 2011).

    TPACK, described in detail in Section 2.1, requires teachers to reflect on the criticalrelationships between content, technology and pedagogy (Koehler and Mishra 2009;Niess et al. 2009), the interplay of which is fundamental to effective teaching withtechnology. The capacity of teachers to identify the relationship between content,pedagogy and technology, however, depends largely on the way they have been taughtto integrate technology into teaching, as well as the way these components areaddressed in professional development (PD) (Crisan et al. 2007; Jimoyiannis 2010;Koehler and Mishra 2009).

    This article describes a study that investigated the effect of a multifaceted interven-tion process which consisted of, a professional learning workshop, lesson design, andreflections, in relation to TPACK. The findings indicate that a cyclic form of the PD(planning, acting/trying-out, observing, team revision, and feedback) is a strategy thatmay support practising science and mathematics teachers to integrate available ICTsinto their teaching. In addition, the study suggests that successful PD, together withprofessional coaching of in-service teachers may facilitate teachers gaining the compe-tencies needed to integrate ICT within their professional practice.

    2 Theoretical background

    2.1 TPACK framework in technology-integrated teaching

    Shulman (1986) introduced the idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), anintegration of pedagogical and content knowledge, as a basic requirement for effectiveteaching. PCK has since been used as a basis for teachers learning required foreffective delivery. However, as ICT has become increasingly prominent in studentslearning and lives (ten Brummelhuis and Kuiper 2008), Shulmans concept of PCK hasbeen extended to encompass the additional concept of technology (Niess 2005), withthe resulting development of TPACK. Niess (2005) describes TPACK as a combinationof three types of knowledge: (a) content knowledge, (b) pedagogical knowledge and (c)technological knowledge. Koehler and Mishra (2009) further describe the notion ofTPACK as an intersection of aspects of technology, pedagogy and content. Theysuggest that effective technology integration for teaching specific subject matter re-quires knowledge, not just of content, technology and pedagogy, but also of therelationships between these elements and their interplay (Koehler and Mishra 2009).

    The TPACK framework strives to capture the essential knowledge that teachers requireto integrate technology in their teaching. Mishra and Kohler (2006) stress that rather thanlooking at each of the components in isolation, the elements should be considered in terms

    Educ Inf Technol

  • of the three possible pairings: Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), TechnologicalContent Knowledge (TCK), and Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK). Theintersection of all three, conceptualised as Technological Pedagogical ContentKnowledge (TPACK), refers to the knowledge needed by teachers to understand thepedagogical approaches that use technologies, in systematic ways, to teach content. Eachof the resulting seven knowledge types that comprise TPACK is explained in Table 1.

    2.2 Acquisition of TPACK through PD

    According to Koehler et al. (2007), PD that merely emphasises the acquisition oftechnology skills is unlikely to succeed, as it does not address crucial relationshipsbetween content, and technology and pedagogy (see also Schrum 1999). In contrast,effective PD accommodates the interplay between these forms of knowledge and encour-ages authentic collaborative activity, embedded within the school context (Cavin 2008;Harris 2008; Harris et al. 2009; Koehler et al. 2007). Harris (2008) states that TPACK-related PD for experienced teachers should promote both autonomous and collaborativeinstructional decision-making. Consistent with this advice, Cavin (2008) proposes the use

    Table 1 Description of TPACK components


    TK Knowledge of operating systems and computer hardware, and the ability to use standard sets ofsoftware tools such as word processors, browsers, and e-mail. Moreover, it includes knowledge ofhow to install and remove peripheral devices, install and remove software programs (Mishra andKoehler 2006, p. 1027).

    PK Knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning. It includesknowledge about techniques or methods to be used in the classroom; the nature of studentaudience; and strategies for evaluating student understanding (Koehler and Mishra 2009;Shulman 1986)

    CK Knowledge about the actual subject matter that is to be learned or taught including central facts,concepts, theories, and procedures within a given field (Shulman 1986). In this study the relevantcontent developed from the primary school mathematics and science curricula.

    PCK Knowledge includes knowing what teaching approaches fit a specific content, and knowing howelements of the content can be arranged for better teaching. It also includes knowledge of whatthe students bring to the learning situation that might be either facilitative or dysfunctional for theparticular learning task. Knowledge of students includes their strategies, prior conceptions,misconceptions that they are likely to have potential influence on their learning (Mishra andKoehler 2006, p. 1028).

    TCK Understanding that technology and content influence each other on the learning process (Niess et al.2009). It requires teachers to know not only the subject matter they teach but also the manner inwhich the subject matter can be changed by the application of technology (Mishra and Koehler2006; Niess et al. 2009).

    TPK Teachers understanding of how teaching and learning changes when particular technologies areused. This might include knowing of the existence of a range of technologies for a particular task,the ability to choose a technology based on its fitness for the task and knowledge of pedagogicalstrategies (Mishra and Koehler 2006).

    TPACK The basis of effective teaching of a particular content with technology. It requires an understandingof the concepts using technologies, pedagogical approaches that use technologies in systematicways to teach a specific content (Harris et al. 2009; Mishra and Koehler 2006; Su 2008).

    Educ Inf Technol

  • of a microteaching lesson study PD strategy to develop technological, pedagogical, andcontent knowledge among mathematics teachers. In the microteaching lesson study,teachers work in small groups, through iterative cycles of teaching, reflecting, andmodifying a group lesson. Such PD is team-centred and can provide teachers withopportunities to experiment, make mistakes, discuss, and negotiate among peers.

    This model can be used to provide a situated learning environment for teachers toexperience teaching with technology. Following the implementation of themicroteaching lesson study, Cavin (2008) reported that mathematics teachers developedan awareness of the nuances of teaching with technology in a student-centred learningenvironment. Cavins approach was consistent with team-based PD, where teachers trynew ideas, reflect on outcomes, and co-construct knowledge about teaching andlearning in the context of authentic activity, as advocated, for example, by Butleret al. (2004), and Putnam and Borko (1997).

    3 Research setting

    3.1 General context

    The present study was undertaken in an Ethiopian primary school. The Ethiopianeducation system encompasses kindergarten, general, technical-vocational and tertiaryeducation programmes (Transitional Government of Ethiopia [TGE] 1994). Ethiopianschool education reflects an 8+4 structures, consisting of 8 years of primary education(divided into two cycles of 4 years each) and 4 years of secondary education (dividedinto another two cycles each of 2 years duration). Primary schooling comprises Grades1 through to 4 of basic education, followed by Grades 5 through to 8 of general primaryeducation (TGE 1994). Students are taught different subject at different grade levels.Mathematics is offered consistently through the school system. Science, however, istaught as environmental science in basic primary (Grades 1 to 4), and then as integratedscience in Grades 5 and 6, and separately as Biology, Chemistry and Physics thereafter.The language of instruction, starting from Grade 7, is English, and students mustunderstand and use English as the learning medium. Although the education systemin Ethiopia is decentralised, most curriculum materials are prepared centrally, andteachers involvement and authority to modify the curriculum is limited.

    A survey of Ethiopian schools (Hare 2007) indicated that, at the time of reporting,40 % of schools in Ethiopia had computers; most of those schools, however, werelocated in the capital city Addis Ababa. There is thus some inequality of access todigital technology in Ethiopian schools. A related challenge is that most schools havelimited access to the Internet. The schools that are connected to the internet generallyuse it only for e-mail and administrative purposes. Access to ICT by teachers is limited,especially with regard to computers and the internet. It should be noted, however, thatnon-government organisation (NGO) schools and, private schools in Ethiopia, have amuch higher standard of ICT infrastructure than do government schools in terms ofcomputers, the necessary software, and internet connections. Although the NGO andprivate schools are reported to have better access to technology, and most particularlycomputers, teachers and students in those schools may not be adequately supported touse the technology or to incorporate it in classroom practices.

    Educ Inf Technol

  • Notwithstanding the challenges involved, the Ethiopian Government hasexpressed a strong desire to integrate ICT into the education system throughconsistent application of a wide range of effective student-centred teaching ap-proaches and the use of available technologies that foster both independent andcollaborative learning (Ministry of Education [MOE] 2010). One often-cited initia-tive is the one laptop per child program. This program aims to create educationalopportunities for children by providing each child with a laptop, with content andsoftware designed for collaborative, enjoyable, and self- empowered learning(Kocsev et al. 2009). The role of the teacher is essential to the success of thisproject, and it is likely that this role will develop in parallel with the integration ofICT into the normal curriculum.

    3.2 Study context

    The research study reported in this article was conducted in an NGO Ethiopian primaryschool with a view to supporting Grade 7 and 8 practicing biology, chemistry, physicsand mathematics teachers to integrate ICT into their teaching, through the TPACKframework. The school had a range of ICT tools, and the schools teachers wereencouraged to use ICT in their teaching. The teaching staff had attended a PD sessionon how to use ICT in teaching, and the school administration strongly encouraged itsteachers to use the available ICTs, located in various resource centres, in their teaching.There were three different ICT resource centres in the school to expedite the teachingand learning process: the computer lab (containing laptops, desktop computers, anddata projectors), the audio-visual centre (with televisions and radios) and the pedagog-ical resources centre (containing motion pictures, models etc.). The capacity forteachers in the school to access digital technology tools through these resource centresmeant that the teachers could, at least potentially, integrate such technology into theirteaching practices.

    From a consideration of the general education context in Ethiopia, the specificschool-setting of this study, as well as the relevant literature, a number of issuesarose. First, policy-makers and schools in Ethiopia encourage teachers to integrateICT into their professional practice and second, less emphasis is given tosupporting teachers in learning how to integrate ICTs effectively into their teach-ing. Accordingly the following research question was developed for investigation:how can in-service teachers in Ethiopian primary schools be supported to integrateICT in their teaching?

    4 Method

    This study employed an action research approach to...


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