Factors Influencing the Delivery of information technology in the Secondary Curriculum: a case study

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1 Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education ISSN: X (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: Factors Influencing the Delivery of information technology in the Secondary Curriculum: a case study R. V. Williams & Dennis Moss To cite this article: R. V. Williams & Dennis Moss (1993) Factors Influencing the Delivery of information technology in the Secondary Curriculum: a case study, Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 2:1, 77-85, DOI: / To link to this article: Published online: 11 Aug Submit your article to this journal Article views: 51 View related articles Citing articles: 7 View citing articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by: [ ] Date: 14 February 2016, At: 11:59

2 Journal of Information Technology in Teacher Education, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1993 Factors Influencing the Delivery of information technology in the Secondary Curriculum: a case study R. V. WILLIAMS & DENNIS MOSS University of Wales College of Cardiff, United Kingdom ABSTRACT This is a report of a single school case study in the United Kingdom in which the entire staff contributed to the results. The study centres on a survey of staff attitudes towards information technology (IT). The study finds that the majority of staff accept the National Curriculum directives to teach information technology across the curriculum and acknowledge the value of information technology within the curriculum. However, many staff lack the confidence and skills to deliver information technology within their subjects. Training is seen to be a major requirement and in-school training is highly valued and preferred. Introduction Within the National Curriculum the delivery of information technology (IT) is a statutory requirement The National Curriculum orders for Technology (DES, 1989) suggest that IT capability is designed as a cross-curricular competence to be delivered across the whole curriculum. Thus all subjects and all subject teachers must play a role in fulfilling this requirement The implications for this delivery of information technology across the curriculum are quite profound. There are implications for resource provision and distribution (of both hardware and software) within the schools, staff development and training and ongoing support, curriculum design strategies and for the management and co-ordination of the overall development 77

3 R.V. WILLIAMS & DENNIS MOSS This paper reports on a study conducted in a single school in Mid Glamorgan, Wales where the opportunity arose to carry out an in-depth appraisal of how well the school was prepared to meet the information technology requirements of the National Curriculum. A more detailed account of the entire study is reported by Williams (1992). Although what is reported here is an in-depth case study of a single school, we believe that readers in similar situations may find the results to be interesting. They may wish to compare the findings presented here with the situation in their own institution. We have chosen to focus this study not on the detailed elements of information technology provision within the National Curriculum as outlined by the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET, 1991) but on staff roles and attitudes, resource provision and training needs and provision, etc. Our intention is to assess the state of readiness of a typical secondary school to meet the needs of the National Curriculum and to try and identify performance indicators which might be used by any school to assess progress and development in this area over time. Rowntree (1982) suggests that the implementation of innovation in education is never easy and needs to "win the goodwill and active involvement of other people" to succeed. Wellington (1985) suggests that the reaction of teachers towards new information technology "can vary from passive or even active resistance, fear and trepidation... to missionary zeal in accepting and spreading the gospel". Among other things we were interested to see how many hearts and minds needed to be won before information technology could be successfully implemented. We are aware of the limited scale of the study but would suggest that the subject is one which would merit further investigation on a wider basis both in the UK and abroad. Methodology The study was conducted in the autumn of 1991 when a six page questionnaire (see Williams, 1992) was circulated to and completed by 50 of the 52 staff then teaching in the school. Since one staff member was on maternity leave and one was the co-author of this paper then this effectively represented a census of the entire staff. At the time of the study the school had a roll of 822 pupils making it just below average in size for Mid Glamorgan where the average school roll is 859 (range ). Twenty-three of the 42 secondary schools in Mid Glamorgan have staff complements of between 40 and 60 suggesting that the school in question was quite typical of many of the schools in that local education authority area. The study sought to obtain teacher reactions to issues such as the perceived importance of information technology, their confidence and 78

4 IT IN THE SECONDARY CURRICULUM preparedness to deliver IT in their subjects, the extent of current use of IT by staff, the adequacy of IT support and training given to staff, the level of IT resources in the school and staff opinion of the value of delivering IT in the manner specified by the National Curriculum. Results Teaching information technology across the Curriculum The National Curriculum requires information technology skills to be developed across the curriculum and many local education authorities (LEAs) together with the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET, 1991) have devised schemes which help schools to plan their curriculum by mapping appropriate information technology skills into different areas and levels of the National Curriculum. This means that the learner will only be able to fulfil the information technology requirements of the National Curriculum by attending a range of subject areas and gaining relevant IT experience in those areas. For example, at a simple level the handling of information via databases might be done in History or Geography, modelling of situations might be done in Mathematics and Science, testing and control in Technology while communication via word-processing would be dealt with in English. Staff were asked whether they resented being required to teach basic information technology skills within their subject. One-third of staff did not mind at all but 50% of staff indicated some resentment with 14% indicating a great deal of resentment Among the staff who indicated such resentment were 62% of the female staff in the school and 41% of the male staff. The sample is too small to draw general conclusions with regard to gender attitudes, but this is a point which might be worth further study on a larger scale and we are exploring that option. The resentment experienced did not appear to relate in any way to teacher age, teaching experience or subject taught Some of the resentment may be a reflection of the need for specific IT skills to be taught in subject lessons before those skills can be usefully applied in that subject. Ninety-two per cent of all staff felt that a basic course in IT skills should be centrally taught so that they can then develop the appropriate basic skills within their own subjects. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools (1989) acknowledge that the development of basic computer awareness may need to be achieved by different strategies in different schools. Presumably this will depend to a large extent on the attitudes and expertise of the teachers in each school. In this particular case a separate preliminary IT course would clearly be preferred. 79

5 R.V. WILLIAMS & DENNIS MOSS Despite their reservations about the time required to teach basic IT skills, staff were generally satisfied with the objectives for IT within the National Curriculum. Eighty-one per cent felt that the IT content for their subject was "about right" with only 15% feeling it was "too much". Around one quarter of the teachers felt that the IT objectives for their subject were "ambitious" or even "over ambitious". Eighty-seven per cent of all of the teachers felt that the IT content delegated to their subject was relevant to the subject It would seem therefore that the vast majority of teachers are happy to accept the National Curriculum provisions for IT within their subject but there is some resentment in the need to allocate subject time to the teaching of basic IT skills. One very notable response was produced when teachers were asked whether they were aware of the amount and type of IT being covered in subjects other than their own. Seventy-two per cent of the staff were not familiar with developments in other subjects which may be due to pressures on staff to look after the needs of their own subject. However it does present problems of co-ordination of IT development and means that such co-ordination becomes an additional curriculum management task within the school. Staff Attitudes to information technology Staff were asked to indicate how important they felt IT was both within their own subject and within the whole school curriculum. While 93% felt it was important or essential within the whole school curriculum, only 73% felt that to be so in their own subject area. This is very similar to the response reported by Moss (1992) on a study of six comprehensive schools in South East Wales. The majority of staff recognise and acknowledge the importance of IT but some remain to be convinced of its application in their own subject. However in comparison with the findings reported earlier by Moss (1992) the perceived importance of IT is greater in this study (which was conducted some 15 months after the earlier study) suggesting that teachers' perceptions of the value of IT are continuing to change in a positive manner. Certainly the figures represent a substantial development over the situation which might have pertained 10 years earlier when we must presume that most teachers would not have seen any relevance at all in their own subjects. Staff Confidence, Motivation and Preparation Given that information technology is to be delivered across all subjects, we needed to know how well prepared teachers felt they were to do this. Each teacher was invited to rate his/her level of confidence and motivation on a four point scale of 'very', 'fairly', 'not very' and 'not at all'. While 78% of 80

6 IT IN THE SECONDARY CURRICULUM teachers indicated that they were motivated to use IT in their subject, only 53% expressed confidence in doing so. Confidence was highest in Mathematics and Technology and lowest in Science and Languages (including English). When asked how well prepared they were to deliver IT only 35% (about one in three) felt they were well prepared. This result is very similar to that reported by Moss (1992) where he found that one third of teachers use computers for administrative purposes on a weekly basis or more often. However it is clear that the prospect of teaching IT skills to others does worry most of the teachers in this case study. When the questions turned to training provision, then 59% felt that they were 'not well trained' while a further 16% indicated they had never received any training. This was most marked in English, Humanities and Modern Language subjects where 91% felt they were not properly trained. Staff attitudes do not differ markedly in terms of gender in this case study but staff with less than five years of teaching experience are generally less confident than other staff. When staff are analysed by age then the middle age band of scores better on all four aspects (confidence, motivation, preparedness and training) than either younger or older colleagues. This may be because older teachers are not as prepared to retrain and develop new teaching skills related to IT use, perhaps believing that their existing skills and experience will suffice. What is surprising is that younger teachers, who might reasonably be expected to have encountered specific IT training in their preparation for teaching, are less confident This puts a question mark against the level of preparation for IT in Postgraduate Certificate of Education and BEd programmes. There were other indications in the survey which reinforce the low confidence levels reported here. Thirty-six per cent of teachers felt that other schools are more active in IT than their own while only 10% felt sure that this was not the case. Training Provision Most staff were generally concerned about the poor training they had received for information technology. During the academic year, 41 staff had received no training at all, while nine staff had shared 12 days of training between them. IT training provided during initial teacher training had been minimal as might be expected for such a recent area of development Ninety per cent of the staff had received no IT training during initial teacher training. When staff were asked how often they used IT within their subject, 48% said 'seldom' or 'never'. When asked why this was so the responses were: 81

7 R.V. WILLIAMS & DENNIS MOSS Lack of training 68% Logistical problems 56% Lack of resources 48% Inappropriate to subject 12% Thus lack of training was identified as the major disincentive to the use of information technology. In addition, 95% of all staff felt that a well-planned programme of staff training was important to meet their needs. The staff were invited to make a judgement on the extent and usefulness of seven forms of training and support ranging from self-taught via support from the IT coordinator to formal training classes. The extent and usefulness were each rated on a five point scale. Table I shows the results expressed as a weighted score for each category (e.g. if a teacher said the training was 'extensive' then a score of 4 was given while a score of 3 was given for 'quite a lot' and so on). In each case the responses have been adjusted for missing values so that each score has a maximum of 200 and a minimum of zero. Advice from IT coordinator Self-taught Course from IT co-ordinator LEA INSET co-ordinator Departmental cascadence LEA advisory service Formal external course Extent Usefulness Total TABLE I. Staff judgement on the extent and quality of training sources. The results in Table I are quite striking. The personal advice of the IT co-ordinator is used as extensively as self-instruction and gains the highest rating for usefulness. The extent and usefulness of all provision from outside the school is seen to be valued poorly including that from LEA in the form of advice and courses. Perhaps surprisingly the expected cascadence of knowledge and skills within a department seems to be infrequent and of moderate value suggesting that development programmes based on the 'multiplier effect' are not likely to succeed. What this result does show is the very key role played by the IT co-ordinator as a training resource. When the staff were asked which forms of training they would prefer the responses were very clear cut Sixty-four per cent would prefer more training and advice from their IT co-ordinator while 30% would prefer an LEA course. When the extent of training received from the various training resources was analysed by subject areas then dramatic differences were

8 IT IN THE SECONDARY CURRICULUM seen. History, English, Geography and Welsh teachers had received only one-third to a quarter of the training received by teachers of Mathematics, Business Studies, Technology, Music and French. While part of this imbalance might be a reflection on the extent of use within those subjects, some of the differences (self-instruction, formal courses and departmental cascadence) might reflect the low level of interest shown by members of that department Resource Provision It should be self-evident that the provision of appropriate hardware and software resources are a necessary prerequisite for the successful implementation of information technology in the National Curriculum. We were able to assess the provision of computers in the school over the period from 1990 to 1992 and the results are summarised in Table II. It can be seen that in a very short time the ratio of pupils to computers available for teaching has improved from 20:1 to 10.7:1 reflecting the investment made in information technology resources for teaching. However it is also clear that school management and administration makes a significant demand on such resources and approximately 20% of such resources are dedicated for this purpose. The 1992 ratio of 10.7 pupils per computer is about average for Mid Glamorgan but despite this some 65% of staff in the school feel that the school is less well resourced than other schools in the authority. Perhaps what we are measuring here is an inherent tendency for staff in an organisation to believe that things are better elsewhere. Year School roll Total computers Teaching computers TABLE II. Growth in computer resources. Ratio 2:4 20:1 15:2 10.7:1 The overall resource provision for the school may not reveal the problems faced by different subject teachers. Eighty per cent of all of the staff had access to a fully equipped information technology room for teaching purposes and 60% also had access to departmental computers. However 24% of staff indicated in the survey that they felt constrained by a lack of information technology resources. Half of these staff were from English and Modern Languages subjects and it may be that imbalances between subjects in terms of resource distribution and access need to be examined carefully within the context of information technology in the National Curriculum. 83

9 R.V. WILLIAMS & DENNIS MOSS However it does seem that resource provision is not the problem it might have been two or three years ago and this is now a minor factor in determining the delivery of information technology in the curriculum. Conclusions The survey reported here has shown that the provision of information technology resources is less significant than staff training as a constraint in the delivery of IT within the National Curriculum. The study also suggests that the majority of teachers readily accept the responsibilities for information technology which have been allocated to their subjects via the National Curriculum. However, what is clear is that staff development and training have not kept pace with curriculum design and resource provision in making teachers confident and able to deliver information technology in their own subjects. This is perhaps more evident in modern languages and humanities. It is also clear that the role of the information technology co-ordinator is perceived as being very supportive and a crucial and valued element of staff training and development The findings suggest that as the role of the LEA continues to be reduced as a result of current central government initiatives in England and Wales, then significant educational developments (such as IT across the curriculum) will not be hampered. This case study reveals a picture of self-reliance within schools with the main training initiatives coming from the IT co-ordinator and from the teachers themselves undertaking self-instructional activities. The issues presented in this case study seem likely to be fundamental influences on the success of information technology development and provision across the National Curriculum. It will be interesting to see how these findings compare to similar studies elsewhere in the United Kingdom and abroad. Correspondence Dennis Moss, School of Education, University of Wales College of Cardiff, 42 Park Place, Cardiff CF1 3BB, United Kingdom. Fax: (0) References DES (1989) National Curriculum Order for Technology. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI) (1989) information technology from 5 to 16: curriculum matters 15. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 84

10 IT IN THE SECONDARY CURRICULUM Mid Glamorgan LEA (1990) A progress report on the use of the educational support grant funding to promote the use of information technology across the school curriculum. Mid Glamorgan LEA. Moss, G.D. (1992) Comparing awareness and use of content-free software in comprehensive schools, Computers and Education, 18, pp NCET (1991) Focus on IT: IT in the National Curriculum. Coventry: National Council for Educational Technology. Rowntree, D. (1982) Educational Technology in Curriculum Development. London: Harper & Row. Wellington, JJ. (1985) Children, Computers and the Curriculum. London: Harper Education. Williams, R.V. (1992) Issues arising from adopting a whole school approach to the delivery of information technology in the secondary school. Unpublished MEd Dissertation. University of Wales, College of Cardiff. 85

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