Outcomes for teachers and students in the ICTPD School Clusters Programme 2005-2007: A national overview

Publication Details

This report focuses on the effectiveness of the 2005-2007 Information and Communication Technologies Professional Development (ICT PD) School Clusters programmes and supplements previous evaluations of the first five ICT PD programmes. It is part of an ongoing evaluation of the ICT PD teacher professional development initiative, which has been implemented in New Zealand since 1999.

Author(s): Vince Ham, CORE Education. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: July 2009

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Section 4: Effects of the ICTPD Programme on student learning

The ICT PD clusters contracts identify several performance indicators related to the expected downstream student learning effects of the professional development. At a general level there is an expectation that the ICT PD programmes would "facilitate improvements in students' learning, engagement and achievement." This was to be evidenced through:

  • increases in 'instances of teaching using ICT with classes to facilitate the learning of students', and
  • identifying 'instances of teachers aligning ICT use with student learning'

The surveys provide both quantitative evidence of the extent of such increases in classroom use of ICTs in the cluster schools, and qualitative evidence of the nature of the 'alignment' of ICT use with a range of student learning objectives.

Increased classroom usage of ICTs

One measure of increased classroom use of ICTs during the programme is the change in proportions of 'high usage' teachers (those who integrated ICT based activities into "all" or "most" of their units of work) at the beginning and end of the programme. In this cohort the proportion of 'high usage' teachers increased from 13% at the start for the programme to 47% at the end. Conversely, the proportion of teachers who did not integrate ICTs at all decreased from 20% to 4% (Table 10). These figures were almost identical to those for the previous (2004-2006) cohort.

Table 10: The proportion of units of work in which ICTs were incorporated before and after ICT PD, as reported in the end of project surveys
Proportion of Units of Work % of Teachers
Before the
programme
After the
Programme
All or almost all units 4% 18%
Most units 9% 29%
Several units 19% 31%
One or two units) 49% 18%
No units 20% 4%
Notes:
  1. 'Low/No usage' = ICTs incorporated into 'no' or 'one or two' units of work in the year before ICTPD
  2. 'High usage' = ICTs incorporated into 'most' or 'all' units of work in the year before ICTPD


The increase in the frequency of participants' usage of ICTs with classes over time was correlated with both sector and length of time in the ICT PD programme. In particular, primary teachers increased their classroom usage significantly more than secondary teachers. At the end of the programme well over half of primary teachers were using ICTs in most or all of their units of work, compared with just over a third of secondary teachers. Those who had been in the programme longer also tended to report use of ICTs in a higher proportion of units than those in the programme for shorter periods. At the end of the programme about a third of those who had been actively involved in the programme for less than a year were 'high usage' teachers. By comparison, almost twice as many (58%) of those who had been active in the programme for more than two years were 'high usage' teachers at the end of the programme.

Aligning ICT use with student learning outcomes

In the surveys we asked teachers to identify the specific learning activities their students had taken part in during the PD programme, the Essential Learning Areas covered by these activities, and the specific student learning outcomes they expected from or observed during those activities. These observed learning outcomes provide a window into what the teachers saw as the 'quality learning experiences' using ICTs provided during the programme.

A qualitative analysis of data from previous cohorts surveys (Ham et al. 2006) has suggested that, in teachers' minds at least, the learning outcomes most often demonstrated when students use ICTs can be grouped into four main categories:

  1. Student motivation and engagement.
  2. Generic thinking skills – (Presentation & Communication, information processing, higher order thinking, and creativity).
  3. Generic social/collaborative skills
  4. Specific curriculum content knowledge and objectives, including technical (ICT) skills and knowledge.

The 2005 cohort's identification of the alignment of ICT-based classroom activities with student learning outcomes is outlined below under these same key categories.

1.  Increased use of ICT-based activities for student motivation and engagement with learning tasks.

The routine involvement of students in ICT activities with motivation/engagement learning intent or outcomes more than doubled over the period of the programme (Table 11).

Table 11: Proportion of teachers reporting frequent use of ICTs in classrooms for motivation/ engagement outcomes before and after the ICT PD programme
Activity Focus Time High1
Frequency
Moderate2
Frequency
Low3
Frequency
Motivation/Reward/Engagement Before ICTPD 15% 19% 65%
Motivation/Reward/Engagement After ICTPD 30% 23% 48%
Notes:
  1. High Frequency=(Average weekly or daily)
  2. Moderate Frequency=(Average once a term)
  3. Low Frequency=(Not at all or once or twice per year)

2.  The acquisition and demonstration of a range of generic communication and cognitive skills.

Communication skills

The use of ICTs such as faxes and emails for interactive, topic-related communication, for example making enquiries of experts outside the classroom or engaging with social networking websites for classroom learning purposes, did not increase dramatically over the period of the programme at a national level, though we note that the proportion of teachers whose students had 'never' engaged in these kinds of activities did reduce from 71% of teachers to 38%. The proportion that reported regular student use for this purpose several times a term increased from 7% to 20%, but neither of these became daily or weekly occurrences in the great majority of teachers' classes by the end of the programme (Table 12, below).

By contrast, though, the majority of teachers were reporting student use of ICTs quite regularly for other communication activities by the end of the programmme, notably by way of presentations of their work to teacher or peers. By the end of the programme, for example, the proportion of those whose students had 'never' or 'rarely' used ICTs for multimedia presentations had decreased from 73% to 41%. Conversely, by the end of the programme the students of well over half of the teachers were engaging in this at least several times a year or several times a term. Student use of ICTs for static print presentation had been rather more common prior to the programme, but this too increased over the period of the programme. By the final year of ICT PD the students of almost a half of teachers were using ICTs for static print presentations on a very routine (weekly or better) basis, and four fifths on a regular (termly or better) basis.

In all three aspects of ICT use for communication skills, primary students were likely to be involved in these activities more regularly than secondary students.

Table 12: Frequency of students' engagement in ICT based activities connected to communications skills, before and after the programme
Classroom Activity Time High1
Frequency
Moderate2
Frequency
Low3
Frequency
Static print production / presentation Before 17% 13% 53%
Static print production / presentation After 48% 35% 19%
Multimedia presentation Before 4% 13% 73%
Multimedia presentation After 19% 40% 41%
'Online' interaction with others4 Before 7% 7% 86%
'Online' interaction with others4 After 19% 20% 61%
Notes:
  1. High Frequency=(Average weekly or daily).
  2. Moderate Frequency=(Average once a term).
  3. Low Frequency=(Not at all or once or twice per year).
  4. 'Online' interaction with others=email, fax etc.
Information Processing

As had been the case with previous cohorts, the increase in regular student use of ICTs was most dramatic in relation to searching for, gathering or processing information, especially from the Internet. Teachers reported a significant increase in students' regular engagement in such activities over the programme. For example, 54% of teachers reported that their students had never or only rarely accessed or searched for information on the Internet before the programme. By the end of the programme the students of four fifths (81%) of the teachers in the programme were using ICTs for information processing on a regular (termly) or routine (weekly or daily) basis (Table 13).

Primary students were more likely to be involved in using ICTs for information processing as regular or routine users than secondary students (58% cf. 41%).

Table 13: Students' engagement in ICT-based activities related to a variety of cognitive skills before and after the programme
Classroom Activity Time High1Frequency Moderate2
Frequency
Low3
Frequency
Creativity Before 7% 13% 80%
Creativity After 20% 32% 48%
Information gathering/processing Before 20% 27% 54%
Information gathering/processing After 53% 28% 19%
Higher Order Thinking, problem solving etc Before 4% 10% 85%
Higher Order Thinking, problem solving etc After 14% 22% 64%
Notes:
  1. High Frequency=(Average weekly or daily).
  2. Moderate Frequency=(Average once a term).
  3. Low Frequency=(Not at all or once or twice per year).
Higher Order Thinking skills

As can also be seen in Table 13, when teachers were asked about ICT activities associated with higher order thinking skills such as problem solving or synthesis and evaluation, the results show that the proportion of 'regular' and 'routine' users of ICTs for these outcomes more than doubled over the period. However, such increases were less than those noted for information gathering and were lower also than those reported for communications and creativity-based activities. This was also the cognitive outcomes area in which secondary students engaged with ICTs as regularly as primary students, reflecting perhaps a relatively higher use of simulation software, spreadsheets, data loggers and the like, which are often associated with such problem solving activities.

Creativity

In relation to ICT activities specifically aligned with creativity as a learning outcome the proportion of low frequency-users of ICTs for creative activity almost halved over the period, from 80% to 48%. Conversely, the proportion of routine users increased from 7% to 20%. The greatest student use of ICTs for creative activities were in the 'regular' (termly) rather than 'routine' (weekly/daily) categories. Proportionally more primary teachers also used ICTs with students for creative activities than secondary teachers. This possibly reflects the relatively greater role of activities such as 'creative writing' and 'story telling' in the primary sector.

3.  ICTs for collaborative or social learning

The frequency of student engagement in ICT based activities related to collaborative learning, social interaction, and a sense of being part of a learning community, such as working in groups to solve a problem, collaborating on DTP projects etc, also increased over the period of the programme, though there was much less emphasis on these learning outcomes in ICT use than on other outcomes such as communication, information processing and the like. Over four fifths (85%) of teachers said their students had never engaged in ICT based activities connected to collaborative learning and social interaction during the year prior to the programme, though by the end of the programme this had reduced to 61%. The proportion of teachers who reported high levels (daily or once/twice a week) of their students' engagement in collaborative ICT based activities increased from 5% to 16%. Again, the bulk of the proportional increase seems to have occurred from the non-use or rare use categories to those of occasional or regular use.

Table 14: Students' engagement in ICT-based activities related to collaborative and social learning, before and after the programme
Classroom activity Time High1
Frequency
Moderate2
Frequency
Low3
Frequency
Collaborative learning and social interaction Before 5% 10% 85%
Collaborative learning and social interaction After 16% 23% 61%
Notes:
  1. High Frequency=(Average weekly or daily).
  2. Moderate Frequency=(Average once a term).
  3. Low Frequency=(Not at all or once or twice per year).

4. Curriculum content, Essential Learning Areas & technical skills

There was also an increase in the frequency of students' use of ICTs for reinforcement of content knowledge, practice at rule application and concept learning through the use of drill and practice, educational games, tutoring software and the like. Again, the proportion of teachers' whose classes had rarely or never used these technologies for these purposes reduced noticeably over the programme, and conversely the proportion of teachers who reported daily or weekly student engagement in such classroom activities increased. By the end of the programme well over a third of teachers, and proportionally more primary than secondary teachers, were reporting routine (weekly or daily) use of ICTs for curriculum practice of this type.

Table 15: Students' engagement in ICT-based activities related to curriculum practice and technical skills, before and after the programme
Classroom activity Time High1
Frequency
Moderate2 
Frequency
Low3
Frequency
Curriculum practice Before 16% 18% 67%
Curriculum practice After 39% 25% 36%
Technical skills Before 19% 21% 60%
Technical skills After 49% 27% 24%
Notes:
  1. High Frequency=(Average weekly or daily).
  2. Moderate Frequency=(Average once a term).
  3. Low Frequency=(Not at all or once or twice per year).

Essential Learning Areas

The largest proportion of ICT-based student activities reported by teachers related to the Languages Essential Learning Area (26%), followed by Mathematics (15%), Science (13%), and Social Studies (12%) (Figure 4, below). We note this represents a smaller, rather more even, spread across the Learning Areas than in previous cohorts.

Figure 4: Students' use of ICTs by Essential Learning Area

Figure 4: Students' use of ICTs by Essential Learning Area

ICT skills as a learning outcome

Interestingly, and as had also been the case with previous cohorts, a significant proportion of identified learning outcomes of ICT use, and a significant amount of regular use of ICTs by students, related to student acquisition of ICT skills per se. The tendency to view technical skills acquisition as a legitimate outcome for computer based learning activities was especially strong amongst primary teachers, over half of whom reported that they routinely used ICTs for such a purpose at the end of the programme (cf. 30% of secondary teachers).

As noted in the report on the 2003-5 cohort (Ham et al 2006), this is perhaps testimony to the notion held by many teachers that pre-taught technical skills are a prerequisite for effective learning activity with ICTs, even as the focus of the PD itself moved towards pedagogical and learning issues. It also perhaps reflects the view that technical skills themselves are a legitimate outcome of students' experience at school, along with curriculum knowledge, cognitive skills and other benefits. Teachers often see the role of technical skill acquisition through ICT use not just as preparation for further school lessons. It is also a part of a wider function of preparing the students for a technologically permeated future. ICT skills seem very much seen as useful 'life skills' and part of a necessary preparation for functioning in 21st Century society.

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