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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. By faculty, we mean all people, including graduate students, who hold undergraduate teaching positions (excluding TA’s)—whether full- or part-time, tenured or untenured—in postsecondary institutions, except for emeritus instructors and postdoctoral researchers.

  2. This means that, at least initially, each instructor has multiple rows of data, one for each 5-min interval that was observed.

  3. A typical 50-min class would have ten 5-min intervals worth of data per respondent.

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Correspondence to Matthew T. Hora.

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Hora, M.T., Holden, J. Exploring the role of instructional technology in course planning and classroom teaching: implications for pedagogical reform. J Comput High Educ 25, 68–92 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-013-9068-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-013-9068-4

Keywords

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