1. a. Research topic.
The impetus for pedagogical change in the English classroom stems from out rapidly changing world as observed by Bull and Anstey (2010), ‘literacy teaching and learning should respond to the rapid changes in literacy arising from increasing globalization, technology and social diversity.’ This transforming social, cultural and technological landscape necessarily influences the responsibilities of the secondary English teacher in Australia and brings with it a set of new challenges. Three of these challenges are the purposeful integration of digital technologies into the classroom, the nature of assessment and the necessity to teach multiliteracies. The challenges may be successfully overcome by the reshaping of traditional teacher-centred pedagogy to a more student-centred and inquiry based pedagogy in the Australian secondary English classroom. In fact, this impetus towards pedagogical change is reflected in the federal government’s Digital Education Revolution (DER) and (surprisingly for some) the new Australian Curriculum: English.
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. Moreover 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. 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).
Another challenge faced by English teachers is the nature of assessment. Often the primary assessment in English is summative despite the research evidence that formative or assessment for learning practices have ‘more impact on learning than any other general factor’ (Petty, 2006). The Rationale of English Stage 4/5 Syllabus and Australian Curriculum: English rationale both advocate assessment for learning practices by stipulating that the responsibility of English teachers is to help students to become reflective, independent, and creative learners through the use of planning scaffolds and peer and self-assessment activities.
The final challenge facing English teachers today is the necessity to teach multiliteracies. Traditionally English in Australia has been viewed as a teacher-centred discipline with a heavy focus on linguistic literacy – reading and writing. However the introduction of multimodal and multimedia texts into the curriculum reshapes our understanding of subject English. English teachers are now responsible for the teaching of multiliteracies, inviting another challenge for teachers because ‘literacy must address the impact of new communication technologies, and the texts delivered by them.’ (Bull and Anstey, 2010) Meeting the demands of changing literacy needs, curriculum changes and the federal 1-1 initiative forces teachers to reconsider their pedagogy. One alternative pedagogy that may provide teachers with a scaffold to integrate digital technologies and multiliteracies into the English classroom is ‘project based learning’ (PBL).
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 ‘involves completing complex tasks that typically result in a realistic product, event to presentation to an audience.’ (Barron and Darling-Hammond, 2008).
This study aims to explore how technology usage, assessment for learning practices and the teaching of multiliteracies in the English classroom change when project-based pedagogies are used. This researcher posits that project based learning will provide teachers with the impetus and framework to successfully and purposefully integrate digital technologies, assessment for learning (feedback) and mutltiliteracties in the secondary English classroom.
‘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 class 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 teacher case studies and eight 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
- types of literacies explicitly taught in the English classroom
- types of literacies/literate practices used in the English classroom
- types and frequency of traditional/multimodal/hybrid texts experienced 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 what types of pedagogies are used in the secondary English classroom
- the collection of data for the case studies will include a combination of the following: online questionnaire, 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. This data will be collected using the same methods (questionnaire, observation, interviews, content analysis) pre and post PBL intervention.
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 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 be members of the NSW English Teachers Association. A random selection of the 2000 members will be emailed a link to the online questionnaire. It is not anticipated that all recipients will complete the questionnaire.
- The case study samples (two teachers and four students from each class) 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 based on the survey data. Ideally the participants for the teacher case studies will be from similar SES, a balance of male and female teachers with similar teaching experience. The student case studies will be drawn using a random sampling method using a random number generator. This should ensure a – 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 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=10 (n1 = 2 n2 = 8) N= number of participants. In this study the participants will include two secondary English teachers and four students from each teacher’s class.
- The strength of the random 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. This survey aims to give the researcher a general picture of: teaching 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. The strength of this sampling method derives from its use of a combination of random and purposive sampling methods.
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 digital technology usage, assessment for learning practices and the teaching of multiliteracies when project-based pedagogies are introduced into 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 level of ‘change’ in technology usage, assessment for learning practices and the teaching of multiliteracies.
5. Data collection
a. What data collection methods will I use?
Questionnaire: online questionnaire sent to NSW English Teacher Association members. This will allow for a picture of the population from which the case studies will be drawn. This method will allow for representativeness which will help me argue for generalisability of results. Participants will be asked between 15 and 20 questions taking no more than 15 minutes to complete.
Interview: I will interview each case study (teachers and students) pre and post intervention. Interviews will include 6-10 questions and last one hour in length.
Observation: I will observe each case study (teacher and students) pre and post intervention. Observation will focus on three things for the teacher:
- use of technology
- use of feedback
- range of literate practices used
For students obserbation will focus on:
- use of technology
- reception/expectation of feedback
- range of literate practices used
Observations will be approximately two class periods.
Content analysis/secondary: I will look at a variety of educational documents and artifacts used by each teacher including programs, lesson plans, student work samples and teaching resources. I will look at student work for the student case studies. I will analyse these documents pre and post intervention.
b. What is it I will concentrate on in the data collection process? What concepts will I operationalise?
‘change’ –I would concentrate on if/how much time was spent in class and in planning targeting each concept below
‘digital technology usage’: type of technology used, how often technology is used, duration if technology used, purpose of technology
‘assessment of learning practices’: amount of feedback given during class, mode of feedback delivery, type of feedback given (verbal, whole class, individual student, physical – ticks on page, written comment, positive or negative feedback, quality of feedback), teacher and students’ discussion of feedback, types of assessment used in and out of class
‘teaching of multiliteracies’: types of texts incorporated into each lesson, explicit literacies taught, types of literacy practices used, lesson materials
c. What is the nature if the data collection process (unstructured, semi-structured, structured)?
Questionnaire: structured as all questions will be pre-written and piloted
Observation: structured and semi-structured as the researcher will use an observation schedule (structured) but allow for brief supporting field notes as well (semi-structured).
Interview: semi-structured as the questions and probes will be pre-written however the researched may alter questions and/or probes to gain further details or (re)focus participant more on ideas central to study.
Content analysis: structured as the researcher will use coding dimensions (outlined below).
d. What is the role of the researcher? (participatory/non-participant/blind)
The researcher will be semi-participatory for the observations and interviews in regards to using question probes to develop questions and data based on participant answers. The researcher will be a non-participant in the questionnaire and content analysis.
e. What is my research site?
The research sites will be two Australian high schools, most likely public schools in the Sydney region.
f. How will I access the research site and build rapport with participants?
I will seek approval for the study from the relevant stake-holders, specifically the Department of Education and Communities and the school principal. The rapport will be built with participants via warm, generic conversation about the weather or hot beverages. My clothing will be appropriate for the setting – smart casual.
g. What will be my interview, observation schedule or questionnaire content?
i. types and duration of technology used in the English classroom
ii. purpose and effectiveness of technology used in the English classroom
iii. teacher and student responses to technology used in the English classroom
iv. access to/availability/reliability of technology used in the English classroom
v. types of assessment strategies used in the English classroom
vi. types and delivery of feedback used in the English classroom
vii. types of literacies explicitly taught in the English classroom
viii. types of literacies/literate practices used in the English classroom ix. types and frequency of traditional/multimodal/hybrid texts experienced in the English classroom
h. What methods of recording data will be used?
Data recording will take a variety of forms.
The questionnaire is online so data will be stored in the survey tool, most likely www.surveymonkey.com. The data for the observation will be recorded on the observation schedule (a collection of ticked boxes) as well as brief unstructured written observation notes. The data for the interviews will be recorded by audio recording device and transcribed. The content analysis data will be recorded using frequency and manifest coding. This coding would look for:
1. Types and amount of technology used or referred to in documents.
2. Teacher, peer or self feedback in the form of ticks, crosses, stars, stickers, stamps and written comments.
3. Types of literacies used or referred to in documents.