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National trends in the ICTPD School Clusters Programme 2004-2006

Publication Details

This research report is submitted to the Ministry of Education as part of an ongoing evaluation of the Information and Communication Technologies Professional Development Cluster Programme (ICT PD), a teacher professional development initiative announced in the strategy documents Interactive Education: An Information and Communication Technologies Strategy for Schools (Ministry of Education, 1998) and Digital Horizons: Learning Through ICT: A Strategy for Schools (Ministry of Education, 2001, Revised 2003). This report on the 2004-2006 cohort of ICT PD cluster teachers supplements, and makes comparisons with, the evaluations of the first four ICT PD Cluster Programmes submitted to the Ministry in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Author(s): Vince Ham, CORE Education.

Date Published: June 2008

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Summary

Background

This research report is submitted to the Ministry of Education as part of an ongoing evaluation of the Information and Communication Technologies Professional Development Cluster Programme (ICT PD), a teacher professional development initiative announced in the strategy documents Interactive Education: An Information and Communication Technologies Strategy for Schools (Ministry of Education, 1998) and Digital Horizons: Learning Through ICT: A Strategy for Schools (Ministry of Education, 2001, Revised 2003). This report on the 2004-2006 cohort of ICT PD cluster teachers supplements, and makes comparisons with, the evaluations of the first four ICT PD Cluster Programmes submitted to the Ministry in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

As outlined in the performance agreements between the Ministry and the ICT PD clusters, the ICT PD School Cluster Programme in New Zealand is aimed at increasing teachers’ ICT confidence, skills and pedagogical understandings of ICTs, increasing administrative efficiency in schools, fostering quality learning communities, increasing the frequency and quality of the integration of ICTs to support effective classroom teaching and learning and improving student achievement.

The research reported here takes these performance criteria as its starting point to provide a national overview of the programme’s impact on teachers, teaching and learning in New Zealand, by means of an analysis of the results of a pre- and post- survey of c.3,070 participant teachers.

Findings

The overall finding of the study is that the 2004-2006 ICT PD programme had a marked and significant effect on the teachers and students in cluster schools with respect to all of its key goals. There were very high levels of goal achievement reported by participants, and marked increases or changes with respect to all of the relevant Ministry’s objectives as outlined in cluster performance agreements. At the national level, the programme achieved its overall goals of: significantly increasing teachers’ skills and confidence with ICTs, improving teachers’ understandings of the role of ICTs in teaching and learning, and providing quality ICT-mediated learning experiences for students. The programme for the 2004-2006 cohort increased teachers’ ICT skills, confidence and understandings about ICTs, and significantly increased routine student use of a range of ICTs for learning in classes. The 2004-2006 programme achieved levels of participant satisfaction even higher than the preceding (2003-2005) cohort, and achieved overall increases in skills, confidence, understanding and classroom/student usage of ICTs for learning in orders of magnitude at least similar to those of earlier cohorts.

While stating these as general effects, we note that overall the ICT PD programme continues to have a greater impact among primary teachers and schools than among secondary.

Specifically, we found that:

  • The great majority of teachers expressed high levels of satisfaction and goal achievement at the end of the programme. Participant satisfaction, while high across the board, varied somewhat by sector and length of time in the programme, with primary teachers and those who had been in the PD programme for most of the 3 years stating higher levels of satisfaction and goal achievement than secondary teachers and those who were in the programme for only a few months. The great majority of participants’ goals related to the acquisition of technical skills, gaining ideas for ICT-based teaching/learning activities, increasing use of ICTs for school administration, and improved understanding of teaching and learning generally.
  • The programmes were seen by the majority of participants as having been a ‘significant’ event in their overall development as teachers, which for many contributed well beyond any ICT-specific issues of increased technical skill, to encompass improved understandings in relation to teaching and learning more generally. Some 74% of the teachers indicated that the programme had contributed new ideas about teaching and learning, including 12% who felt that the programme had provided them with a whole new approach to teaching and learning. The rest said that the programme had played a more ‘confirming’ role, consolidating current ideas/understandings about teaching and learning. Primary teachers were more likely to see the programme as contributing new insights and ideas in this regard than secondary teachers.
  • eachers generally appreciated all of the ways the programmes were delivered and the knowledge and expertise of particular facilitators. The content of the programmes, being for most programmes a mix of skills development, classroom ideas and principles of effective teaching and learning generally, was seen as relevant and effective. Prominent among the most appreciated aspects of the programmes too, were the various opportunities provided to share ideas and problems and reflect together on their use of ICTs, both within clusters and through the various regional and national conferences, suggesting that a learning community focused on critical reflection of classroom ICT practice is continuing to develop.
  • At the end of the programme the greatest persisting concerns for teachers with regard to their professional use of ICTs were a lack of student access to equipment, a perceived lack of time to keep up to date, lack of technical support and technical reliability, and some concern about the continuing need to self-upskill in using new software packages and technologies as they become available.
  • There was a marked and significant increase in teachers’ ICT skills over the period of the programme. Teachers’ reported skill levels on entry to the programme were generally moderate, though still higher than those for previous cohorts, and still variable across different ICTs. There was a distinct tendency for males and secondary teachers to report higher entry skill levels than female or primary teachers, though such differences were much reduced by the end of the programme.
  • By the end of the programme impressive majorities of teachers were reporting moderate or high skill levels with regard to file management (93%), basic computer operation (93%), word processing (95%), the Internet (95%) and telecommunications (95%). Lower, but still relatively high, rates of moderate to high skill were reported with regard to graphics (78%), multimedia packages (77%), spreadsheets (72%) and databases (65%), and these still show significant increases compared to entry point proportions. The increase in teachers’ skill levels during the programme was considerable across all ICTs, but it was most notable in relation to Internet, graphics and multimedia applications.
  • There was also a marked and significant increase in teachers’ confidence about their professional use of ICTs over the period of the programme, both in terms of their confidence as personal users and in relation to students using ICTs in their classes. On entry the great majority of participants were either ‘not confident’ or ‘neutral’ about their professional use of ICTs, female teachers and primary teachers being less confident than male and secondary teachers. By the end of the programme a solid majority of all the demographic groups studied were reporting moderate or even high levels of such confidence. Moreover, the longer teachers were in the programme, the greater was the extent of their gain in confidence, and throughout the programme levels of confidence as personal users were higher than those related to classroom use of ICTs.
  • The effect of the ICT PD programme on teachers’ classroom practices has been substantial. Over a third acknowledged that over the programme period their classroom practices had changed to ‘a large extent’ or ‘completely’, while 80% felt their practices had changed at least to some extent. Female and primary teachers reported greater change in this regard than male or secondary teachers.
  • On entry to the programme teachers were already generally positive about the value of using ICTs for teaching and learning. At the end of the programme they showed a similarly positive disposition towards the value of ICTs in the teaching and learning process, but many stated that they now had a clearer conception of how its educational value might be judged.
  • The most frequently reported effects of using ICTs with classes on their practice included: teaching with increased confidence and enthusiasm, expanding their repertoire of teaching techniques, using a wider range of activities, and catering for a greater range of student need across a broader range of curriculum objectives.
  • The most prominent effects of the programme in terms of developing teacher understandings about learning were expressed as: a better understanding of student-centred teaching and learning, getting new ideas about establishing a resource-rich learning environment, increased knowledge of teaching and learning styles or approaches, increased awareness of ‘quality’ in teaching and learning, challenging pedagogical perspectives through sharing and discussion, and the accumulation of a variety of practical classroom ICT-based activities.
  • There was a marked and significant increase in teachers’ use of ICTs with their classes as a result of the programme. The great majority of teachers had either never used ICTs with classes prior to the programme, or had only used them once or twice a year. By the final year of the programme the majority of participating teachers reported that their students were using ICTs on a routine basis (i.e.: in most or all units of work over the year).
  • While the proportion of units of work involving student use of ICTs increased significantly during the programme, the range of ICTs used by students for learning remained fairly limited. Word Processors, the Internet, and slideshow presentation packages are by far the most frequently used ICT applications in classes.
  • Primary teachers reported using ICTs in a greater proportion of their units of work than secondary teachers. The other significant predictors of increased classroom usage of ICTs by teachers in the clusters were their rising levels of confidence with and about the technology, and the length of time they were actively engaged in the PD programme.
  • The surveys provide some proxy evidence of the downstream effects of the ICT PD programme on enhancing the ‘quality’ of student learning experiences, through such things as the learning outcomes reported by participating teachers as they observed students engaged in ICT-based activities, the variety of curriculum goals met and Essential Learning Areas covered as students engaged in ICT-based activities.
  • Teachers tended to report the learning outcomes from student use of ICTs in terms of: increased student-centredness in lessons, increased student motivation, coverage of a wide range of curriculum topics and objectives, student acquisition of ICT skills, and increased opportunity for learning activities which promoted communications skills, enquiry skills, high order thinking, creativity and a range of social skills.
  • The largest proportion of ICT-based student activities reported by teachers related to the Languages Essential Learning Area (39%), followed by Science (15%), Social Studies (13%), and Mathematics (12%)
  • In most respects the effects and trends listed above for the 2003-2005 ICT PD national cohort are similar in both nature and magnitude to those reported for the three earlier cluster cohorts. In general, the same effects, of a similar size, have been identified in all cohorts. The only notable exceptions or differences between the 2004 cohort and earlier cohorts in terms of programme effect or effect size were:
  • The skill levels of teachers in the 2004 cohort on entering the programme, and also on exiting it, were generally higher than those of the earliest cohorts but similar to those reported for the 2003 cohort, which immediately preceded it. Skill levels, both on entry and exit, as well as programme impacts on skills, are ‘flattening off’ as successive cohorts begin and finish their programme with higher skill levels across the range of ICTs used in education.
  • There were some cohort differences in terms of the learning outcomes of ICT use by students in the 2003 and 2004 cohorts compared to earlier cohorts. Students in the 2003 and 2004 cohort seemed, for example, to engage in problem solving activities (mostly through spreadsheet use) and information processing activities (mostly through Internet use) more than those in the previous cohorts, and in curriculum practice activities, such as Drill and Practice, less.
  • Levels of goal achievement and meeting of expectations were significantly higher for the 2004 cohort than for the earlier 2003 cohort, across all of the groups of goals identified. However, this may be explained by demographic differences between the two cohorts rather than being a commentary on the relative performance of the two programmes.

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