Journal of Computing in Higher Education

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 68–92 | Cite as

Exploring the role of instructional technology in course planning and classroom teaching: implications for pedagogical reform

  • Matthew T. HoraEmail author
  • Jeremiah Holden


Instructional technology plays a key role in many teaching reform efforts at the postsecondary level, yet evidence suggests that faculty adopt these technology-based innovations in a slow and inconsistent fashion. A key to improving these efforts is to understand local practice and use these insights to design more locally attuned interventions. This exploratory study draws on systems-of-practice theory from distributed cognition research to provide a framework for producing comprehensive accounts of technology use. This account includes three components: (a) awareness of the local resource base for instructional technology, (b) decision-making processes regarding tool use, and (c) actual classroom use of technology. Interviews and classroom observations of 40 faculty in math, physics, and biology departments at three research universities in the U.S. were analyzed using thematic and causal network analysis. Results indicate that faculty have both a shared and discipline-specific resource base for instructional technology. The adoption, adaptation, or rejection of technology-based innovations is influenced by the alignment among pre-existing beliefs and goals, prior experiences, perceived affordances of particular tools, and cultural conventions of the disciplines. Classroom use of technology varied across disciplinary groups, with mathematicians and biologists exhibiting relatively limited repertoires of tool use while physicists used a larger variety of tools. Additionally, different tools were associated with different teaching methods and types of student cognitive engagement. Policymakers and instructional designers can use these insights to inform the design and implementation of technology-based initiatives, especially in ensuring that innovations resonate with existing belief systems and practices.


Instructional technology Adoption of innovations Decision-making Perceived affordances Math and science education Teaching 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wisconsin Center for Education ResearchUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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