Exploring primary teachers' beliefs and practices with technology in Cyprus
University of Cambridge
Faculty of Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Mama, M. (2011). Exploring primary teachers' beliefs and practices with technology in Cyprus (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11702
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This study explores uses of educational technology as echoed in teachers' beliefs and classroom practices. The research is situated in Cyprus, where integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in schools remains in its infancy. The literature reveals that the 'impact' of ICT use on education has been limited; the overall scene is one of teachers unable to make advanced use of the range of possible applications and tools. This thesis is premised on the argument that these limited uses can be explained by the lack of incorporation of an effective pedagogy. On the basis that understanding teachers' pedagogical rationales and responses in depth is crucial for the successful implementation of an ICT initiative, especially when this is still at an early stage, as in Cyprus, I investigate teachers' philosophies and practices of ICT integration. In particular, my research is devoted to identifying the relationship between their beliefs and actual practices with technology in the classroom and the factors that influence this relationship. In view of the overabundance of survey studies measuring self-reported attitudes and practices, and taking into account that practice does not always reflect beliefs, direct evidence of practice beyond self-reports expecting to bridge research with school reality became an imperative. Moreover, the nature of my focus required in-depth understanding and exploration. Therefore a multi-case design was conducted, involving 11 primary school teachers serving in a unique, in terms of technological infrastructure, state school in Cyprus. A questionnaire, pre-lesson interviews, direct classroom observations, and post-lesson interviews cowprised the data collection methods. The Activity Theory model was employed as an analytical tool. Within- and cross-case thematic analyses indicated four main types of response which led to sample grouping; the responses and the groups which emerged were differentiated on the basis of teachers' beliefs about technology in education, their practice with ICT in the classroom, the level of (in)consistency between reported a; d observed practices, and the impact of the external factors on their practice. Following the analyses, an additional round of interviews with three Ministry officials, involved in the educational technology sector, was undertaken to shed more light on the main study findings. Moreover, most teachers encountered considerable difficulty in articulating and explaining the reasons behind their choices with ICT. This indicates that their reported acknowledgement of its benefits for teaching and learning might not have necessarily been informed by their personal experience but more by their inclination to respond 'properly'. The last point is also corroborated by the inconsistency identified in most of the cases between reported and observed practices, in terms of the frequency and sophistication of teacher and student interaction with technology. Several contextual factors, both school- and system-related, appear to have provoked this inconsistency; inadequate technical support and maintenance, lack of pedagogical support rn using ICT, time and curriculum constraints, and problematic communication between the involved agents, constitute the main ones. However, these external factors, which were the same for all participants, had varying impact on the four emerging groups, highlighting the influence of additional, teacher-related factors. These include teachers' limited ICT competence, lack of awareness of tools and support available to them, attachment to traditional teaching styles which enhanced existing (rather than resulting in a changed) pedagogy 'behind' ICT use, and perception of their role and professional responsibilities. The findings highlight the requirement for teachers to understand fully the affordances of a technology, which would encourage their engagement in pedagogical reason.ing with it, not necessarily aiming for higher, but, for more purposeful and 'integrational' technology uptake. The tensions, identified within the teachers' activity systems with the help of the Activity Theory model, have implications for change with ICT. These not only concern practitioners but also policy-makers who, having to inform and set the framework for classroom practice, need to justify a new national ICT initiative by clearly relating it to specific pedagogical aims and the curriculum. Implications also arise for the educational technology officials, who orchestrate the policy implementation, and who need to establish effective communication and cooperation between the agents involved. As for the ICT district coordinators, who are responsible for supporting teachers' classroom uses of technology, the findings suggest that they should tackle technical and maintenance issues promptly. Mo reover, 1�t 1� s i�m portant that they encourage teachers to make informed decisions by indicating the p~dagogical ~otential of the available tools to them. It would also be useful if, when possible, they situated the use of technology in specific lesson settings to encourage meaningful integration. Finally, the study offers recommendations to JCT t ram� m� g orgam�s ers and instructors to design and conduct training programmes in association with pedagogical approaches. Teachers need support not in advancing their isolated technology uses but in improving the quality of their teaching through integrating technology in their pedagogical practice.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11702