1. a. Research topic.
The introduction of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) into the English classroom has led to a greater range of pedagogical choices for teachers but also a new set of challenges. Since the implementation of DER, English teachers have been faced with the challenge of when, how and why to introduce digital technologies into their lessons. Traditionally English in Australia has been viewed as a teacher-centred discipline with a heavy focus on reading and writing. The introduction of multimodal and multimedia texts into the curriculum reshapes this understanding of English. The current NSW Stage 4/5 syllabus and the Draft Australian Curriculum: English both stipulate that teachers are required to help students to become productive, creative and confident users of technology and become reflective, independent, and creative learners through the use of planning scaffolds and peer and self-assessment activities. (Rationale of English Stage 4/5 Syllabus and Australian Curriculum: English rationale)
Project-based learning is a pedagogy that engages students in relevant, real-world problems that require them to attain and strengthen skills essential for success in the 21st century – collaboration, communication, creativity, digital citizenship – as well as understanding positive ‘habits of mind’ (Costa, 2007). Founded in Constructivist theory, Project Based Learning provides a framework for students to use texts as a spring-board for their investigation into real-world problems and share their discoveries with an authentic audience including experts, community members, teachers, family, friends and/or peers.
Feedback or assessment for learning practices have ‘more impact on learning than any other general factor’ (Petty, 2006) however many teachers are still primarily using assessment of learning practices. This study posits that project based learning will provide teachers with the impetus and framework to successfully and purposefully integrate digital technologies, feedback and assessment for learning in the secondary English classroom.
This study aims to explore how technology use in the English classroom changes when project-based pedagogies are used. The technology that teachers and students bring into the English classroom should be meaningfully integrated into learning activities. It has been suggested that a greater understanding of the influence project based learning has on the use of technology in the classroom is needed. (Ravitz, 2010) Some have claimed that project-based pedagogies avoid the ‘doing for the sake of doing’ (Barron, 1998) approach to technology usage as it ensures that students are ‘doing with understanding’ (Barron, 1998).
‘There is almost certainly a mutually reinforcing relationship wherein technology helps teachers implement PBL but PBL also helps teachers integrate technology by providing reasons for its use’. (Ravitz, 2010)
b. What research strategy will I employ?
This study will use a mixed method research strategy to address the research question. A survey of English teachers in the form of an online questionnaire will ask questions about their usage and implementation of technology in their classroom, how often – if at all – they include student-centred, project-based pedagogies in their classroom and what types of assessment are used. This survey will include both closed and open-ended questions. The population for the study will be secondary English teachers within New South Wales with a wide demographic including teachers from government, independent and Catholic schools – all members of the NSW English Teacher Association. The study will include two teacher case studies drawn from two different teaching contexts (government, independent and Catholic schools and/or different SES) who are implementing project-based pedagogies and ICT in their classrooms. Drawn from these two classes there will be two student case studies.
Factors that will be the focus of each case study include:
- types and duration of technology used in the English classroom
- purpose and effectiveness of technology used in the English classroom
- teacher and student responses to technology used in the English classroom
- access to/availability/reliability of technology used in the English classroom
- types of assessment strategies used in the English classroom
- types and delivery of feedback used in the English classroom
I will use a mixed-method data collection, including:
- the quantitative data from the questionnaire will provide information on the usage of technology in the secondary English classroom, the pedagogies adopted when using technology, the types of assessment and feedback strategies used and how often project-based pedagogies are used in the secondary English classroom
- the collection of data for the case studies will include a combination of the following: interviews with teachers, field notes from observation of teachers in classroom and staffroom, interviews with students, examination of a variety of educational documents and artifacts used by each teacher including programs, lesson plans, student work samples and teaching resources
What sampling method will I employ?
- The population for this study is teachers and students of secondary English in Australia. The sample of this population will be drawn using a mixed sampling method – purposive sampling and cluster sampling.
- The case study samples (two teachers and four students) will be drawn using a non-probability sampling method – purposive sampling. This sampling method will allow me to select specific cases of interest from the population – that being one teacher and two of his/her students using ICT in the classroom and one teachers and two of his/her students using ICT and PBL in the classroom.
- The survey sample will attempt to be representative of the population. This sample will be drawn using a probability sampling method – cluster sampling. The sample will by a naturally occurring cluster because all will be members of the NSW English Teachers Association. A random selection of members will be emailed the online questionnaire. It is not anticipated that all recipients will complete the questionnaire.
- The number of teachers in the survey will depend on the number of responses to the online questionnaire. Ideally there N = 200 teachers.
- Case study: N=6 (n1 = 2 n2 = 4)
- The strength of the cluster sampling method for this study is that it only selects members who are secondary English teachers. The weakness is that the population members are only from NSW – a small proportion of the total population – and do not represent the total population of secondary English teachers in Australia. These teachers are also all members of an association and this could result in cluster effects such as similar teaching approaches, access to similar resources and ideas about English teaching, a greater willingness to use technology in the classroom than the average English teacher in Australia. This will impact the validity of the data and its representativeness. However, this study does not aim to be representative of the entire population. This survey aims to give the researcher a general picture of: project-based pedagogies, ICT and assessment for learning usage in the Australian secondary English classroom.
- The strength of the purposive sampling is that it will ensure the participants are teachers and students who are actively using project-based pedagogies in the classroom. This will allow the researcher to observe and measure how the relationship between project-based pedagogies and the use of ICT for assessment for learning. The weakness of this approach is that it is not a representative sample of the population – Australian secondary English teachers. However these case studies do not aim to be representative of the entire population. The case studies aim to be a description of a particular pedagogy in practice and its impact on assessment and ICT usage.
2. a. Key concepts for my topic.
- Project-based pedagogies – critical components of this model include ‘(a) a driving question or problem and (b) the production of one or more artifacts as representations of learning’ (Grant, 2009)
- Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)– in the 21st century classroom ICT refers to a combination of fixed (televisions, IWBs, computer lab) and mobile technologies (ipads, ipods, mobile phones) as well as the software and web-based tools teachers and students access.
- Assessment for learning -
3. Research questions.
What changes are made to ICT usage and assessment for learning practices when project-based pedagogies are introduced into the Australian secondary English classroom?
In what ways does the implementation of project-based pedagogies (and its inherent assessment for learning practices) change the use of information and communication technologies in the Australian secondary English classrooms?
Can project-based learning assist the implementation of ICT for the purpose of assessment for learning in Australian secondary English classrooms?
What are the relationships between project-based pedagogy and information and communication technology usage in the Australian secondary English classroom?
- 4. Independent and dependent variables.
Independent variables include the project-based pedagogies, teacher interest/competence/experience, students, classroom and school context, gender, SES and access to technologies. Dependent variable is technology usage and assessment for learning. (Can I only have one dependent variable? But what if I have two questions?)