When worlds collide: ICTs, English teachers and high-stakes assessment
Phil Coogan, The University of Auckland , New Zealand
The University of Auckland . Awarded
The aim of this thesis is to ascertain the degree to which high-stakes assessment for qualifications, such as New Zealand's National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), act as a barrier to secondary English teachers' use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) with their students. Although the focus is on high-stakes assessment for qualifications, other factors, which might also facilitate or hinder English teachers' use of ICTs, such as professional development and infrastructural, technical and access issues, are also considered.
The literature review summarises the factors which tend to constrain or encourage teachers' use of ICTs, with a special focus on the considerable constraint placed on secondary teachers by their role in preparing and assessing students for high-stakes qualifications. The literature review also highlights the lack of convincing research into the impact on learning of ICTs but reveals that, in the subject English, there is some evidence of a positive impact when appropriate ICTs are used by well trained teachers in appropriate contexts.
Key NCEA foundation and implementation documents and publicity, achievement standards and assessment activities were analysed to ascertain the degree of official endorsement for the use of ICTs in secondary schools and English programmes in particular. To gauge the perceptions of New Zealand English teachers about the constraints and encouragers of ICTs in their teaching, all NCEA level one English teachers were surveyed. This was followed by face-to-face and online focus groups in which trends revealed in the survey were explored.
Document analysis revealed considerable official optimism that the flexibility and internal assessment of the NCEA would enable teachers to make greater use of ICTs. The achievement standards and supporting assessment activities however, tend to situate ICTs at the margins of English programmes as optional extras which, if used at all, tend to support current practice. The focus groups confirmed survey findings that, although English teachers are significant users of ICTs in their personal and professional lives, although they believe in the educational advantages of ICTs and although they work in schools and departments which support the classroom use of ICTs, they face significant constraints which prevent them making as much use of ICTs as they would like in their teaching. Most significant among these constraints is pressure of course coverage and lack of class time (largely attributable to the need to prepare students for high-stakes assessments). Other constraints include lack of adequate access to ICTs and technical support, and lack of appropriate professional development and time to learn about ICTs.
Based on the literature review and research findings, recommendations are provided for schools, policy makers and researchers. Key among these is the need to acknowledge the profound influence of high-stakes qualifications on secondary schools and teachers and evolve such qualifications to encourage and enable desired innovations. It is recommended that ICTs could be infused into English and eventually, inter-disciplinary programmes, through the creation of innovative, ICT infused achievement standards which could be combined into flexibly structured courses which better meet the needs of twenty first century students. Also recommended are approaches which enable greater access to ICTs for English teachers and methods of professional development which have proved effective with adult learners.
Coogan, P. When worlds collide: ICTs, English teachers and high-stakes assessment. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Auckland.
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