Action Research for Improving the Effectiveness of Technology


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i.e.: inquiry in education
Volume 6 | Issue 1

Article 3

2015
Action Research for Improving the Effectiveness of Technology Integration in Preservice Teacher Education
Nai-Cheng Kuo
Georgia Regents University, [email protected]

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Recommended Citation Kuo, Nai-Cheng. (2015). Action Research for Improving the Effectiveness of Technology Integration in Preservice Teacher Education. i.e.: inquiry in education: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 3. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.nl.edu/ie/vol6/iss1/3
Copyright © 2015 by the author(s) i.e.: inquiry in education is published by the Center for Practitioner Research at the National College of Education, National-Louis University, Chicago, IL.

Kuo: Teachnology and Teacher Education
Action Research for Improving the Effectiveness of Technology Integration in
Preservice Teacher Education
Nai-Cheng Kuo
Georgia Regents University, Augusta, USA
Introduction
This study aims at exploring how the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework can be used to improve the effectiveness of integrating IDEA ’04 and Research for Inclusive Settings (IRIS) modules in preservice teacher education. The purposes of this study are to maximize the potential of TPACK at the college and university level and to improve the quality of technology integration in teacher education. The results indicate that the use of TPACK in teacher education can offer teacher educators a way to enhance technology integration and to help preservice teachers build a more solid foundation of knowledge and practices.
With the development of technology integration in higher education (Bates & Poole, 2003; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004; Jonassen, Mayes, & McAleese, 1993), identifying a valid and effective way to examine the impact of technology integration in preservice teacher education is important and urgent. The TPACK framework extended from Shulman’s (1987) idea of pedagogical content knowledge has been proven as one of the most important approaches for effective technology integration in the classroom. However, there is limited existing research in preservice teacher education addressing how TPACK can be used to enhance the quality of technology integration, such as the IRIS modules. Grounded in action research, the present study aims at exploring how TPACK can be used to examine the impact of integrating IRIS modules in preservice teacher education.
Literature Review
Preservice Teacher Online Learning Online learning has become an important component in preservice teacher education in two- and four-year institutions. Because online learning has the potential to maximize teaching and learning resources, more colleges and universities in the United States and elsewhere in the world have begun offering a number of hybrid or online courses.
The benefits of online learning are many. First, it promotes continued education opportunities for those who live in distant areas, which in turn expands geographic areas where information can be distributed. Second, it increases flexibility for learners to have access to knowledge without

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i.e.: inquiry in education, Vol. 6 [2015], Iss. 1, Art. 3
physically sitting in a classroom for a specific amount of time. Third, it provides multiple methods of demonstration, discussion, and practice opportunities to reinforce instruction and subsequent comprehension (Smith & Robb, 2010). The use of technology also allows instructors to reach larger numbers of students than in a typical classroom setting.
Lever-Duffy and McDonald (2015) categorize the types of online learning as follows: blended delivery (traditional classroom instruction enhanced by technology), distance delivery (group instruction possible if mediated by technology), interactivity available in class and virtually online, and interactivity primarily online with little face-to-face contact. Because each online learning delivery system has its pros and cons, instructors must carefully identify appropriate online learning programs and evaluate the effectiveness of technology integration with caution (Ertmer, 1999; Ertmer, 2005; Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009; Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2015).
IRIS Modules The IRIS modules funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) are created by the IRIS Center at the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. By November 2014, the IRIS Center has developed a series of web-based and research-validated training modules for public use with no cost for users. These modules cover 17 important topics related to inclusive education for learners, particularly those with disabilities at birth and through age 21 (IRIS, 2014). The topics of the modules include accommodations, assessment, assistive technology, behavior and classroom management, collaboration, content instruction, differentiated instruction, disability, diversity, early intervention/early childhood, learning strategies, mathematics, reading/literacy/language arts, related services, response to intervention (RTI), school improvement/leadership, and transition.
All IRIS modules are developed based on cognitive science research and the How People Learn theory (National Research Council, 1999). Each module has five components: Challenge, Initial Thoughts, Perspectives and Resources, Wrap Up, and Assessment. It begins by raising users’ awareness with a realistic challenge through a scenario. Following the scenario, Initial Thought questions help participants to use what they already know to address the challenge. In the Perspectives and Resources section, users start to learn how to deal with the challenge through a variety of presentations, such as informational videos, hands-on examples, interview videos, and real-life experiences. In the Wrap-Up section, users view a summary of what they have learned in the Perspectives and Resources section and address the Final Thoughts questions on how they will deal with the challenge after learning from the module. Finally, users need to address a couple of questions related to the topic of each module in the Assessment section (Smith & Robb, 2010).
The IRIS Center’s field-testing data from 39 faculty at 40 colleges and universities and from 1,257 students in 39 courses show that most of the users of the IRIS modules were highly satisfied with the quality of the modules, and they found the modules helpful to increase their knowledge and skills of the topic, as well as to improve their professional practices (IRIS, 2012). A recent evaluation conducted by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance indicates that approximately 80% of the quality and the relevance/usefulness ratings across the IRIS modules were either high or very high (Fiore, Nimkoff, Munk, & Carlson, 2013).

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Kuo: Teachnology and Teacher Education

TPACK Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that explicitly describes the knowledge an educator needs to have in order to maximize the value of incorporating technology in the classroom (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). TPACK was conceptualized by Koehler and Mishra and is built on Shulman’s (1987) instructional approach that addresses how different sources of knowledge are interconnected with each other in the learning context. Table 1 lists the TPACK components and their descriptions.

Table 1

The TPACK Components and Descriptions

Components Content knowledge (CK)

Descriptions Teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter to be learned or taught

Pedagogical knowledge (PK)

Teachers’ knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)

The notion of the transformation of the subject matter for teaching

Technological knowledge (TK)

On-going and open-ended interaction with technology

Technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK)

An understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in particular ways

Technological content knowledge (TCK)

An understanding of the manner in which

technology and content influence and constrain

one another

Note. Adapted from “What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge?” by M. J.

Koehler and P. Mishra, 2009, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1),

pp. 63-66.

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With the increase of incorporating technology in class, teachers’ ability of integrating their technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge in a complex learning context is crucial to maximizing the potential of technology. The TPACK framework raises educators’ awareness that there are multiple factors that contribute to effective technology integration (Koehler & Mishra, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Because the influence of the interconnection among these factors is often immeasurable, instructors must be mindful of the different phases of knowledge embedded in technology integration. Figure 1 shows the TPACK framework.

Figure 1. The TPACK Image. Adapted from tpack.org. Copyright 2012 by TPACK. Reprinted with permission.
Since Drs. Mishra and Koehler published TPACK in 2006, many studies have been conducted and have shown that TPACK has a positive impact on practitioners’ use of technology in the classroom (Abbit, 2011; Chai, Koh, & Tsai, 2013; Schmidt et al., 2009; Voogt, Fisser, Pareja Roblin, Tondeur, & van Braakt, 2013). It was found that when preservice teachers were introduced to the TPACK framework, they became more confident in using technology in K-12 classrooms, and they viewed the use of technology more positively (Chai et al., 2013; Koh & Divaharan, 2011; So & Kim, 2009). The existing literature focuses more on the improvement of preservice and in-service teachers’ integrative knowledge of content, pedagogy, and technology in K-12 classrooms, and focuses less on how teacher educators at the college and university level can use TPACK for their own practices in technology integration. The purposes of this study were twofold: (a) to maximize the use of TPACK at the college and university level, and (b) to help improve the quality of technology integration in preservice teacher education.

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Kuo: Teachnology and Teacher Education

Because practitioners are “fulltime inhabitants of those settings rather than episodic visitors” (Shulman, 2004, p. 297), it is believed that case studies conducted in practitioners’ own classrooms serve as an invaluable means to examine the multiple aspects of a domain.

Action Research Action research is an intentional, systematic, and reflective inquiry done by practitioners (Henderson, Meier, Perry, & Stremmel, 2012; MacLean & Mohr, 1999). Action research aims to improve teaching and learning outcomes and to describe the possible solutions to the questions that practitioners have in their classrooms. Because practitioners are “full-time inhabitants of those settings rather than episodic visitors” (Shulman, 2004, p. 297), it is believed that case studies conducted in practitioners’ own classrooms serve as an invaluable means to examine the multiple aspects of a domain.

Action research typically involves a cycle of “identifying problems of meaning,” “developing questions and examining assumptions,” “gathering data,” “analyzing data,” “interpreting data,” and “taking action” (Henderson et al., 2012, p. 2). Creswell (2015) described similar steps of action research which include: (a) “determining if action research is the best design to use,” (b) “identifying a problem to study,” (c) “locating resources to help address the problem,” (d) “identifying information you will need,” (e) “implementing the data collection,” (f) “analyzing the data,” (g) “developing a plan for action,” and (h) “implementing the plan and reflecting” (pp. 591-592). To put it simply, action research involves a spiral process of three phrases: look, think, and act (Stringer, 2014).

Cresswell (2015) suggests that action should be taken when a study has a focus on a practical problem or issue in the community, and it should be used to help the practitioner grow professionally as a result of conducting the study. While action research is widely used and formally applied in the education fields (Ferrance, 2000; Grabe & Stoller, 2002; Groves & Zemel, 2000; Hine, 2013; Stringer, 2014), it is important to note that simply being an insider or speaking with a teacher’s voice is not enough for the claims of action research (Shulman, 2004). To establish a warrant for the claims of action research, practitioners must display substantive sophistication of knowledge, collect and analyze multiple sources of quantitative and qualitative data to address an inquiry (Cresswell, 2015; Shulman, 2004).

Methods

Participants Thirty-two preservice teachers at a southern public university voluntarily participated in this study. These participants were pursuing their initial teacher certification in special education and were enrolled in two introductory courses, Fundamentals of Literacy and Characteristics of Learners with Mild Disabilities. Both courses were three semester hours of credit and were taught by the researcher of the present study. All participants signed an IRB-approved, datestamped informed consent form, and they received $10 as an incentive. The participation rates in both classes were 100%. Table 2 shows the participants’ demographic information.

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Table 2

Participant Demographics

Introductory Courses
White American African American Male Female

Fundamentals of Literacy (n = 10)
5 5 0 10

Characteristics of Learners with Mild Disabilities (n = 23)
16 7 2 21

Course Design and Technology Incorporation The semester was broken into three blocks of time, with the middle focused on a field placement when students had a chance to implement what they learned in the field, then a debriefing back in class afterward. During the 5-week block of field placement, all participants were placed in different K-12 classrooms in the university partner schools in order to complete their 30-hour fieldwork related to the course. The participants were supervised by their collaborating teachers and three university supervisors. After the field placement period, the face-to-face classes resumed.

Both introductory courses were delivered in a similar format that included: (a) blended delivery (traditional classroom instruction enhanced by technology), and (b) interactivity available in class and virtually online (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2015). During the first six or seven weeks of face-to-face classes, five IRIS modules were integrated in Fundamentals of Literacy (one class was cancelled due to Labor Day), and another six modules were integrated in Characteristics of Learners with Mild Disabilities. The modules were selected based on the topic and the contents of the texts each week. Table 3 shows the Fundamentals of Literacy course plan. The text used in this course was Raymond’s (2012) Learners with Mild Disabilities: A Characteristics Approach. Table 4 shows the Characteristics of Learners with Mild Disabilities course plan. The text used in this course was Jennings, Caldwell, and Lerner’s (2010) Reading Problems: Assessment and Teaching Strategies.

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Table 3

Fundamentals of Literacy Course Plan

Week

Topic

1 Introduction

Content (in-class activity)

Course materials

2 Assessment Formal and informal assessment, tests of Text: Ch. 4 & 5 / IRIS

general reading assessment, diagnostic Module: Classroom

reading tests, curriculum-based

assessment, Part 2:

measurement (CBM), etc.

Evaluating reading

progress

3 Instructional Instruction for struggling readers, early Text: Ch. 6 / IRIS

support

intervention programs, interventions for Module: PALS: K-1,

older students, total school or classroom PALS: 2-6, or PALS High

interventions, peer-assisted learning

School

strategies (PALS), etc.

4 Early literacy Oral language development, listening

Text: Ch. 7 / IRIS

comprehension, print knowledge and

Module: RTI, Part 3:

environmental print, alphabet knowledge, Reading instruction

phonemic and phonological awareness,

vocabulary and rapid naming

5 Diversity

Literacy in a multicultural society, English language learners, the role of parents and family, adolescents and adults with reading problems, etc.

Text: Ch. 14 / IRIS Module: Teaching English language learners

6 Students with Students with disabilities, learning

Text: Ch. 15 / IRIS

special needs disabilities and ADHD, students who are Module: RTI, Part 5: A

at risk for school failure, reading

closer look at Tier 3

instruction for students with special needs

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Table 4

Characteristics of Learners with Mild Disabilities Course Plan

Topic 1 Introduction

Content (in-class activity)

2 Perspectives on disability

High-prevalence disabilities; the power of language, labeling, classifying, and identifying; the historical context of disability

3 Intellectual and developmental disabilities

History, definition, assessment and identification, levels of severity, prevalence, factors associated with risk, characteristics, instructional support

4 Learning disabilities

History, definition, assessment and identification, levels of severity, prevalence, factors associated with risk, characteristics, instructional support

5 Emotional or behavioral disorders

History, definition, assessment and identification, levels of severity, prevalence, factors associated with risk, characteristics, instructional support

6 Attention disorders & other conditions

History, definition, assessment and identification, levels of severity, prevalence, factors associated with risk, characteristics, instructional support

7 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

History, definition, assessment and identification, levels of severity, prevalence, factors associated with risk, characteristics, instructional support

Course materials
Text: Ch. 1 / IRIS Module: What do you see? Perceptions of disability
Text: Ch. 4 / IRIS Module: Universal design for learning
Text: Ch. 5 / IRIS Module: SRSD: Using learning strategies to enhance student learning
Text: Ch. 6 / IRIS Module: Functional behavioral assessment
Text: Ch. 7 / IRIS Module: Differentiated instruction
Text: Ch. 8 / IRIS Module: Assistive technology: An overview

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Data Collection Procedures Consistent with the tenets of action research (Creswell, 2015; Henderson et al., 2012; Stringer, 2014), three steps were taken in the present study.
The first action. The researcher (i.e., the participants’ instructor) first used her technological content knowledge (TCK) to plan how to use IRIS to enhance the traditional classroom activities. To do so, the strengths and weaknesses of the course materials were carefully reviewed in order to align them with the course objectives. When IRIS modules were integrated in the courses as participants’ homework prior to each class, the research used the Initial and Final Thoughts questions embedded in each module to assess the participants’ prior knowledge in each class. The researcher then used her pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as well as technological content knowledge (TCK) to transform the subject matter for teaching and learning. That is, based on the participants’ performance on each module, the researcher adjusted the in-class activities to improve or reinforce participants’ knowledge.
The second action. The second action was to repeat the first action for each module until the participants completed all modules before their field placement period.
The third action. After a cyclical procedure of integrating the modules and adjusting in-class activities based on participants’ performance on the modules, the researcher utilized technological and content knowledge (TCK) to evaluate how teaching and learning were intertwined when the IRIS modules were integrated in the courses and how they might have an impact on the participants’ practices in their field placement. Later, the researcher served as one of the three university supervisors to observe the participants in their 30-hour field placement in K-12 public schools. One open-ended question on a survey questionnaire was conducted at the end of the study. The survey question given to the participants was: How did IRIS modules help you increase knowledge and skills in relation to the characteristics of learners with mild disabilities/ fundamentals of literacy? What parts hindered your understanding and use of the modules?
Data Analysis This study utilized mixed research methods to analyze both quantitative and qualitative data. For the Initial and Final Thoughts answers, the participants’ responses were turned from words into numbers using the content of each module as the coding scheme. The researcher adopted a coding scheme developed in her previous studies to analyze the participants’ Initial and Final Thoughts responses. The coding scheme was based on the themes of each module. When the participants used the themes to address the scenario questions properly, their responses were coded. No participant was double-coded on each theme. Even if the participant used the same theme to address the questions in a module multiple times, his or her use of the theme was only recoded one time throughout the module, which indicated that he or she already knew the theme and could use it to address the question(s) properly. For the one open-ended question about the participants’ perspectives toward the incorporation of the modules, the coding scheme was based on the themes emerging from the participants’ responses. Two graduate students were hired and trained to code and analyze the data. When the inter-rater reliability did not reach 100%, the data were re-read, and a problem-solving process was undertaken until agreement was reached. The

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Action Research for Improving the Effectiveness of Technology