Teacher development through curriculum development – teachers’ experiences in the field-trialling of on-line curriculum materials
Tony Fisher, Nottingham University, United Kingdom ; Tim Denning, Keele University School of Education, United Kingdom
Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, in Nashville, Tennessee, USA ISBN 978-1-880094-44-0 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Chesapeake, VA
This paper reports on the experiences of teachers participating in the field trials of new on-line curriculum materials and associated technologies in the UK.
During the period January to July 2001, teachers in 60 secondary schools in England and Wales participated in the trialling of new on-line curriculum materials designed to support teaching and learning activities in Mathematics, Japanese and Latin. The three subjects had been specified by the UK government's Department for Education Employment (DfEE)and were chosen because all three subjects are currently experiencing a shortage of specialist teachers, for different reasons. The materials were to be capable of both mediated and unmediated use by learners. In the case of mediated use, which is our focus in this paper, teacher-mediators might or might not have a specialism in the subject in question. Three companies with experience in writing multimedia curriculum materials were contracted to develop and set up field trials for the materials in the three subjects. The total expenditure from the government for the three contracts was around £7 million.
The models of delivery and classroom use of the materials varied between the three subjects. One project (Japanese) involved wholly on-line delivery and minimal in-built requirement for teacher mediation. In contrast, the materials for mathematics made extensive use of interactive white-board technology, and imposed a significant requirement for teacher mediation. In the case of Latin, school teacher-mediators lacking a subject specialism in Latin received support from an Latin specialist 'e-tutor' who received and marked work using network technologies.
The three subject projects also differed in the training and support for the teachers involved. In the case of the mathematics project, there were regular face-to-face training sessions, on-line community building and support, help desk and regular school visits by the developers. In the case of Latin, there were two training events, technical support and visits to schools, in addition to on-line e-tutor support. In the case of the Japanese, there was a launch event, regular electronic newsletters, a telephone help-desk and school visits.
Two external evaluators - the writers of this paper - were contracted by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, (Becta) to conduct an external evaluation, and to report to government. The evaluation involved school visits by the evaluators in order to observe the use of the materials in context, and also to conduct interviews with teachers and students using the materials.
Additional data about the background to the use of the materials, and responses to the materials themselves, was gathered by postal questionnaires completed by teachers and students. Another aspect of the evaluation was contact between the evaluators and the developers, with the evaluators providing formative feedback for later development cycles. In addition, the evaluators were in regular dialogue with the project managers at Becta, undertaking what Stake (1979) refers to as 'responsive evaluation'.
This paper reports the views and experiences of the teachers involved in the project. The research design made use of triangulation procedures, involving classroom observation of the materials in use by teachers, teacher interviews and postal questionnaires. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured approach, and were recorded on digital mini-disk. Content analysis of the field recordings was undertaken by the researchers, as was analysis of the questionnaire responses. This comprised an eclectic methodology employing both quantitative and qualitative approaches.
The paper reports the experiences of the teachers involved in the three projects. Though experiences varied between the three subjects, overall the teacher response was extremely positive. Variation in response between the three subject projects reflects the differing approaches to training and support employed in the three projects, the differing inherent pedagogy of the materials themselves, and the differing levels of technological demand.
Teachers reported that the experience of being involved in the field trials of the materials had been a professionally developing experience. All had become more aware of the opportunities for using networked and other technologies to support teaching and learning. They had also become more confident and competent as users of the technology required by their particular subject project. In addition, a number of teachers had quickly become adaptive users of the project materials, particularly when local circumstances made this either necessary or possible.
Stake, Robert (1979) 'Program evaluation, particularly responsive evaluation' in Dockerell, WB and Hamilton, D (Eds) Rethinking Educational Research Kent, Hodder and Stoughton
Fisher, T. & Denning, T. (2002). Teacher development through curriculum development – teachers’ experiences in the field-trialling of on-line curriculum materials. In D. Willis, J. Price & N. Davis (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2002--Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1135-1139). Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).