EDUC 639 Research Prospectus
Matt Cassidy, Dyan Lester, Krista Nebel, Matt Ozolnieks, Tysheonna Porcher
Within the world of education and educational technology a number of competing yet complementary stakeholders create challenges to good pedagogy in the implementation of technological tools. While each of these stakeholders are important in their own right, when partnered with perceived competing interests within the institution, common strengths and challenges can be discovered and capitalized upon to improve delivery of educational objectives. Individual segments of the organization within the institution become myopic in perspective. This myopia becomes a threat to the delivery of sound pedagogy in the area of technology when those who typically work in support roles and those who lead instruction in the classroom are at odds.
Other toxic conflicts in the realm of educational technology lie within generational gaps among teachers, and those competing demands of special education and general education. Perceptions within these components of education are centered on the concept of a zero-sum equation in which each must pursue the most resources for their niche. Reality is much different. Professional development can play a pivotal role in breaking down some of the barriers that pose threats to the delivery of sound pedagogy in the twenty-first century educational institution.
Professional development, as it has been practiced over the decades has earned a poor reputation. Teachers have a generally negative attitude toward its intention and meaning. Research shows that much of the problem of teacher retention centers around the notion that teachers do not feel valued or heard, nor do they feel they have a voice concerning ways of improving delivery of sound pedagogy. Research points to the positive effect of the collaborative model in the area of professional development. Numerous studies have pointed to the gulf that separated special education and general education teachers in their perception of technological needs in the twenty-first century classroom.
Within any educational system, interests like IT and classroom teachers or Special education teachers and General education teachers compete for increasingly sparse technological and instructional resources. Far too often these interests become entrenched and fail to see solutions that could prove to be simple, yet effective in the delivery of sound pedagogy. Competition between stakeholder groups interferes with, and creates barriers to, effective pedagogical change.
For any educational system, the key to success in education lies in the effective delivery of sound pedagogy. Within the twenty-first century educational model, technology plays the central role. With increasingly strangulated fiscal constraints, competing interests fail to note the role other stakeholders within the institution play in the effective delivery of pedagogy. IT staff and classroom teachers must come together, as should Special Education and General Education teachers and staff in order to determine what technology is needed to bring students into deeper understanding of educational objectives. This brings with it the understanding that there is no “silver bullet” to solve the problems of, nor is there a solely high-tech solution that will move students to a level of deeper understanding of content objectives. The solution lies in (a) a collaborative approach among competing interests; (b) the understanding that “technology” doesn’t always mean the latest and greatest gadget or software; and, (c) in the absence of a “silver bullet”, differentiation will mean the use of low and high tech solutions in the classroom to maximize engagement and understanding by the learner.
- Has the perception of the relationship and understanding of each other’s technological needs improved among educators, special educators, and informational technology staff from the perception prior to the collaborative professional development, in between collaborative professional sessions, and after several collaborative professional development sessions?
- Have technology objectives become clearer to educational staff, and have the curricular objectives become clearer to technology staff since the collaborative professional developments began, in between collaborative professional sessions, and after several collaborative professional development sessions, and has this understanding developed and improved the educational result throughout the school year?
- Has staff awareness of the appropriate technology solution for curricular objectives improved since the collaborative professional developments began, in between collaborative professional sessions, and after several collaborative professional development sessions?
- Does a collaborative approach to professional development yield better results than current methods of professional development in regards to the use of technology, and the relationships among regular teachers, special education teachers, and information technology specialists?
The hypothesis of this research proposal is based in the observation that relationships among educators, special educators, and informational technology staff has been subpar, and that current methods of professional development have been inadequate with resolving this disparity. The hypothesis of this proposal is that the relationships will improve through the process of collaborative professional development that encompasses an understanding of appropriate technology solutions, and a greater understanding of each other’s roles, curriculum, and objectives.
This study will be a qualitative longitudinal field study of k-12 teachers in general education and special education. Selected teachers will be polled about their perception of the effectiveness and technological needs of the other group. As a control, this same group of teachers will be polled at the onset of the study to weigh perceptions. Pre-service activity will be tracked and perceptions will be weighed across special education/general education lines. Following two semesters of professional development, perceptions will be gauged and the second phase of the study will begin. Selected special education and general education teachers will be assigned to collaborative groups. Groups of eight to ten teachers will work in these groups to discuss effective use of technology in the advancement of good pedagogy. Collaborative strategies will be employed to enhance professional development within the groups. Participants will be polled during the study to track changes in perception of the other group’s (special education or general education respectively) academic effectiveness and technological needs.
This design will be used to randomly choose schools in each of the k-12 educational levels and determine if collaborative professional development sessions would enhance the instructional staff relationships and improve their perceptions towards each other. This research design will be ongoing for the duration of one academic school term. The independent variables will be the levels of education as operationally detailed in the settings section of this document; elementary school, middle school and high school. The dependent variable will be the survey that is given to each educator, special educator and information technology staff members; as detailed in the instrumentation section of this document.
In recognizing the diverse group affected by the cultural barriers presented in technology, the study encompasses a plethora of participants, each adding a unique perspective to the sampling. The population includes educators and technology practitioners from a variety of disciplines who are actively using technology in grades K-12. Additionally, the population will include both urban and rural schools and include teachers and practitioners with various years of experience. Due to the nature of the study, participants will be asked to record the number of years served in the field of education.
Using the internet as the venue for the survey, the population of the study will utilize computers available to the school system in which they serve. The letter of introduction, the internet link to the survey, and the collection of data will stay constant in the study.
Professional development will be the focus of the study, and learning processes and experiences will be recorded. Likert-style surveys will be distributed to the participating teachers prior to, and immediately following completion of two semesters of their annual professional development series. The participants will be asked to evaluate the strength of their feelings toward different components of professional development process including delivery method, timing, content, and participant grouping. Research has shown that “responding to a Likert-type item is an easier task and provides more information than ranking and paired comparisons” (Spector, Merrill, Van Merrienboer, & Driscoll, 2008, p. 771).
After receiving approval from the pertinent school boards, emails will be sent out to potential participant teachers to solicit their involvement and distribute the pre-survey. This will be coordinated with the corresponding Principals of each school involved, and their support/encouragement to participate will be included. The participants will have 30 days to return their agreement to participate and complete the online survey about perceptions of stakeholder needs, with one follow up survey reminder and instructions being sent at the 15 day mark. The survey will deactivate approximately two weeks prior to the beginning of the school year. A second survey will be administered at the beginning of school year, following the same procedures, and a third following two semesters of professional development.
As is often the case with qualitative data, analysis and interpretation will be on-going (Spector, Merrill, Van Merrienboer, & Driscoll, 2008, p. 774). Data reduction will be used to construct theory and patterns of meaning throughout the surveying process. This type of analysis will allow the researchers to derive meaning based on the results, and to build meaning as the surveys progress.
Assumptions and Limitations
Some assumptions that arise from this study are:
- All educational personnel will be licensed in their field of study
- At least 90% of educational personnel at any one school will take and submit surveys
- All participants will have prior knowledge about completing and submitting online surveys
- Each school will have at least 3 collaborative professional development sessions over the course of one school term
Perhaps the most relevant limitation from this study will be that the data that is derived will not lead to actual statistical information about suggestions and improvements for the collaborative developmental sessions, but instead will speak to the validity of the collaborative professional development approach. One way to address this issue will be to add an open ended question to the survey where the educational personnel will be able to add their personal viewpoints on general improvements for the developmental sessions. An additional way to counter this difference will be by having multiple surveys given throughout the course of the school year so that the opinions and attitudes of the educational personnel can continually be monitored. In addition, one important point that must be at the forefront of this study will be to maintain an neutral stance on the adoption of collaborative learning and instructional technology integration in order to avoid bias in this process.
Grossman, E, Arnold, D. (2011) A Habit of Collaboration: Using Technology While Building Professional Relationships during Teacher Preparation. International Journal of Instructional Media. 38. (4) P 311-314.
Spatig, L., Swedberg, A., et al (2010) The Power of Process: A Story of Collaboration and Community Change. Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society. 41. (1) . P 3-5
Spector, J. M., Merrill, M. D., Van Merrienboer, J., & Driscoll, M. P. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd ed.) New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group