Change is difficult at the best of times, but even more so in schools that have busy schedules, traditional pedagogies with the ‘we have always done it that way’ mindset, and a myriad of approaches, methodologies and technologies all vying for teachers’ attention. David Thornburg put it that managing such change, whether it is at a whole-system level, school level, or classroom level is as difficult as trying to rebuild a car engine while speeding down a highway! (Thornburg, 1995). Just because something is difficult, however, does not mean it should not be done. If teachers expect students to embrace a growth mindset then at the very least so should they and part of a growth mindset is to embrace challenges and persist in the face of setbacks (Dweck, 2006).
Implementing new technologies and related pedagogies like a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle, or cloud-based collaborative technology like Google Apps for Education (GAFE) requires effective strategy to inform the users of benefits (Aladwani, 2001). Both of these technologies have been introduced to the author’s school over the last two or three years and this would be the case for many other educational institutions. Most schools implement change through a ‘top down’ management approach. Although this is necessary to a point, only using this approach is not ideal, especially when introducing new technologies that require a change in pedagogy in order for transformation of teaching and learning rather than mere replacement to occur (Hughes, Thomas and Scharber, 2006).
Assuming research has been done to introduce a new innovation as appropriately as possible, a strategy for change is:
- Introduce the new innovation.
- Use an innovation adoption model to determine acceptance and adoption.
- Analyse the results and target groups or individuals with personalised professional development to address the identified needs.
- Use bottom up approaches, such as peer mentoring and action research to drive collaboration, training and further change.
The UTAUT framework is a method of conducting questionnaires using a Likert scale with the following classifications: user perception, community influence, satisfaction, service quality, learnability, and technical quality. In a study conducted by the author, the questions asked to teachers in determining their use of Moodle are shown below and were modified from Users’ Acceptance and Use of Moodle: The Community Influence (Baytiyeh, 2013). The survey can be modified for any technology and for teachers or students to complete.
- Moodle enhances the instruction in courses
- Moodle enhances the organisation of learning materials in courses
- Moodle results in better communication between students and teachers
- Moodle results in better collaboration among students
- Moodle enables students to be more engaged in courses
- Moodle helps managing course activities
- People who are important to me think that I should use Moodle
- People who influence my behaviour think I should use Moodle
- My students think that I should use Moodle
- The college encourages the use of Moodle
- I find Moodle useful for my teaching/learning tasks
- Using Moodle enables me to accomplish my teaching/learning tasks more quickly
- Using Moodle increases the effective use of my time in handling my teaching/learning tasks
- Using Moodle improves the quality of my work
- Using Moodle enable me to organise my teaching/learning tasks
- I find Moodle reliable for my work
- The college IT staff are helpful in the use of Moodle
- When I need help to use Moodle functions, guidance is available to me
- On the Moodle course, I can find contact information of my students (for example, email addresses)
- Questions/feedback can be provided through Moodle
- The college offers adequate support for Moodle users (for example, training)
- The system is well maintained and up-to-date
- My interaction with Moodle is clear and understandable
- I am skilful at using Moodle
- Learning to use the Moodle system is easy for me
- The functions of Moodle are clear
- I find it easy to get Moodle to do what I want it to do
- Moodle is user friendly
- The online quizzes are easy to manage
- Moodle functions are clear and easy to navigate
- Moodle can be personalised or customised to meet my needs
- Moodle has many communication features (for example, blogs, wikis and discussion forums)
- Files in Moodle are easy to upload/download
- Warning messages prevent possible errors from occurring, such as deleting a file
- Moodle uses multimedia features properly
Using the Results
The answers to the questions can be used to reveal what the majority of teachers might feel as good or easy as opposed to negative or difficult, allowing appropriate and targeted professional development to be organised. For example, most felt that Moodle enhances the organising of learning material (question 2), so that perception does not need addressing in a whole-school staff meeting. By contrast, most teachers found online quizzes not easy to manage (question 29), so further surveying as to why this is the case is needed and then either more training in Moodle or another, easier to use online quizzing technology is needed, depending upon the research results. Because this was a widespread issue, it could be addressed in a whole-school staff meeting.
The message here is that this is a method used that has revealed issues with a technological innovation introduced to a school that would not be known if surveying like this was not done. Now that the issues are known, the widespread ones can be dealt with in whole staff meetings, while the issues that affect individuals can be dealt with in a smaller setting, such as in pairs or small groups through approaches like peer coaching. One way to manage this could be to identify individuals who found a particular feature easy or useful to use and pair them up with someone who found the opposite. To complement the peer coaching approach, changes made as a result can then be implemented in practice as part of an action research process and then the effect of the change analysed and reflected upon and further refinements done where needed. The survey shown above was done anonymously, so follow up would be needed to identify individual needs or a survey can be conducted that is not anonymous to allow for identification.
Why a Bottom Up Approach?
Bottom up approaches such as peer coaching are personal rather than managerial focused and are needed in addressing concerns in implementation of technology in order to really put pedagogy before technology (Towndrow and Wan, 2012). It allows the school to start with educational requirements for learners’ and teachers’ needs, ensuring pedagogy exploits technology, not vice versa (Laurillard, 2009). Action research on the other hand provides context-specific support (Khoboli and O’Toole, 2012) far better than one-size-fits-all training (Towndrow and Wan, 2012). More training needs to be conducted in schools to respond to local contexts (Albion et al, 2015), with every school being unique and requiring agility and empathy (Peterson, 2010). In order for action research to be most effective, it requires reliable and useful data – UTAUT is one way to provide that.
UTAUT surveying provides:
- an effective framework for understanding teachers’ responses to change
- data to design targeted professional development to drive change implementation
- tools for explaining the impact of action research
- challenges for administrators to look beyond their own beliefs regarding benefits of innovations
- examination of the implications of changes on those most affected
No one model accounts for all concerns (Straub, 2009); however, using UTAUT in combination with action research and peer coaching in complementary ways will be far better than pushing a new innovation onto teachers and expecting them to know what to do with it. Adding design thinking and technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) to the mix will make for a powerful model for change! But that is another article waiting to be written.
Originally published in edition 70 of etsmagazine print edition as well as online February 11, 2016 by etsmagazine
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