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Unpacking a University Design Partnership: From Course Creation to Evaluation

Debra Sprague (George Mason University, USA)
Joseph DiPietro (George Mason University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 2:45pm
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 4
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 3
Virtual Session

Explore the impact on learning when an education professor and an instructional designer collaborate to create a series of one-credit online courses.

Extended Abstract

Learning to teach well is a complex process that requires a balance between content knowledge (what we teach) and pedagogical knowledge (how we teach) (Shulman, 1986, 1987). Learning to teach with technology provides another layer of complexity (technological knowledge). For colleges of education, helping preservice teachers to develop these three types of knowledge (referred to in the literature as TPACK) (Koehler & Mishra, 2009; Niess, 2005, 2008) often happens in a stand-alone technology course. Although these courses can improve self-efficacy (Albion, 2001; Gunter, 2001) and help preservice teachers develop an overview of technology and its potential in the classroom (McRobbie, Ginns, & Stein, 2000), stand-alone courses often do not provide enough information to learn about technology plus ways to use it in teaching (Kay, 2006). Preservice teachers are often left wondering how to combine their pedagogical and technological knowledge.
To address this issue, one university decided to split the stand-alone technology course into three one-credit courses (running five weeks each) that preservice teachers would take in conjunction with their methods courses. Each one-credit course focused on a specific content area (Math, Social Studies/Fine Arts, and Literacy). As the preservice teachers took each method course they also took the corresponding technology course. Each of these courses focused on specific technologies appropriate for the content area.
In order to address scheduling conflicts, the courses were moved online. The university offered support to faculty interested in designing an online course. This support included a stipend and an instructional designer who would work with faculty to design the course and develop needed material. The faculty in charge of the technology courses (Presenter #1) met weekly with the instructional designer (Presenter #2) to design an effective technology course. The faculty member was concerned about how to teach preservice teachers to integrate technology in an online environment.

Design Process
Over the course of two academic semesters, the faculty member and instructional designer met face-to-face (F2F) approximately once per week; the two also engaged in frequent and rich email discussions during this time. Both stakeholders had equal say in the partnership and collaborated to design and develop the three courses under study. The design partnership promoted the pair to ensure correlation between learning outcomes and course activities, that current and cross-platform technologies were selected for all course activities, and that the overall vision of each of the three courses could be mediated by the university's learning management system, Blackboard Learn.
The pair fleshed out a series of activities and online modules designed to meet each course's respective goals. These modules included topics such as using blogs for education; creating screencasts to teach about abstract concepts; the exploration of a variety of interactive Web 2.0 tools; the writing of fan fiction; the creation of media-rich digital stories, and the planning for and engaging in virtual field trips. Unbeknownst to either was the enduring professional development impact of the design partnership. Working with the instructional designer had a positive effect on the professor, and collaborating with the professor helped the instructional designer hone his craft as well. An unintentional byproduct of this research was a deeper understanding of how the pair could effectively collaborate. Tips for efficient communication and strategies for successful design partnerships were also unintentionally highlighted through the pair's collaboration.

Research Study
After teaching the first iteration of the online courses, the faculty member still wondered how effective the online courses were at developing TPACK in the preservice teachers. Would the information and activities chosen transfer into practice? In order to answer this question, a mixed method research study was conducted. Data sources included preservice teachers' blogs, lesson plans, and a self-reported survey, the Technology Integration Confidence Scale (TICS) v.2 (Browne, 2011). In addition, the faculty member conducted classroom observations during the presevice teachers' independent teaching. Lesson plans were analyzed using the Technology Assessment Integration instrument by Harris, Grandgenett, and Hofer (2010). The Technology Integration Observation instrument by Hofer, Grandgenett, Harris, and Swan (2011) was used during the observations.
The participants in this study were the first preservice elementary education teachers to complete all three of the required technology integration courses online. A total of 18 preservice teachers agreed to participate in this study (Age range = 23-44 years; Female: 15; Male: 3).
The results of the study showed a disconnect between what preservice teachers discussed about technology on their blogs, their level of self-efficacy when it came to technology, as measured by the TICS v.2, what was written in their lesson plans, and what they actually taught. For many participants, self-reporting high self-efficacy in using technology did not also align with planning for the use of technology in an otherwise pedagogically effective lesson nor did it translate to actually teaching with technology. In other words, the preservice teachers indicate they were comfortable with using technology and that they had the skills and ideas for integration in the classroom; however, when asked to create a lesson plan that integrated technology they chose teacher-centered activities in which students passively watched the teacher interact with the SMARTboard or drill-and-practice programs and websites. The same pattern occurred during the observations. The student use of technology was for drill-and-practice activities or the preservice teacher was the one using the technology.
Puzzled by the level of disconnect, the faculty member chose to conduct case studies on five of the preservice teachers using TPACK as a framework. These case studies revealed that there were different reasons for these disconnects. For some, their technological knowledge and their technological pedagogical knowledge needed to be further developed. For others, their pedagogical knowledge and their pedagogical content knowledge proved to be a hindrance. Recognizing that different aspects of TPACK need to be developed for different preservice teachers is helping to improve the technology courses. These improvements will be discussed in the presentation.

Lead Presenter