Learning about problem based lear...
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2009, 25(1), 101-116 Learning about problem based learning: Student teachers integrating technology, pedagogy and content knowledge Hyo-Jeong So Nanyang Technological University Bosung Kim University of Missouri What should constitute knowledge bases that we expect our future teachers to gain related to pedagogically sound technology integration? Employing the Shulman���s teacher knowledge base as a theoretical lens, this study examined the complexity of pre-service teachers��� technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) in the context of integrating problem based learning (PBL) and information and communications technology (ICT). Ninety-seven pre-service teachers in this study engaged in a collaborative lesson design project where they applied pedagogical knowledge about PBL to design a technology integrated lesson in their subject area of teaching. Data were collected from two sources: survey and lesson design artifacts. Data analyses revealed that while participants had theoretical understandings of pedagogical knowledge about PBL, their lesson designs showed a mismatch among technology tools, content representations, and pedagogical strategies, indicating conflicts in translating pedagogical content knowledge into designing pedagogically sound, technology integrated lessons. The areas that students perceived to be particularly challenging and difficult include: a) generating authentic and ill-structured problems for a chosen content topic, b) finding and integrating ICT tools and resources relevant for the target students and learning activities, and c) designing tasks with a balance between teacher guidance and student independence. The present study suggests the potential of two explanations for such difficulties: lack of intimate connection among beliefs, knowledge, and actions, and insufficient repertoires for teaching with technology for problem based learning. Introduction As new advanced technologies have come to our classrooms, there is increased interest in the essential roles and qualities of teacher knowledge bases necessary for successful technology integration. However, it has been suggested that many teacher education programs have not been preparing teacher candidates adequately to integrate technology, and many teachers in schools are reluctant to use technology for teaching and learning (Fishman & Davis, 2006 Moursund & Bielefeldt, 1999 Willis & Mehlinger, 1996 Zhao, Pugh & Sheldon, 2002). One of reasons for this phenomenon is that student teachers have very little knowledge about effective technology integration, even after completing courses about instructional technology (Hew & Brush, 2007 Vannatta & Beyerbach, 2000). Although technology courses have offered a variety of technological tools and provided opportunities to learn and practice technical skills, it has been pointed out that mere exposure to a number of technical tools does not necessarily mean that pre-service teachers can develop abilities to
102 Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2009, 25(1) design successful, technology integrated lessons. Conversely, focusing solely on pedagogical issues without teaching foundational technical knowledge and skills may lead to difficulties in designing and delivering technology integrated instruction (Mehlinger & Powers, 2002). Taken together, these observations may indicate that there is a need to understand how teacher education programs could be designed and implemented to provide pre-services teachers with a balance between pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge. In the present study, employing the Shulman���s teacher knowledge base (1986) as a theoretical lens, we consider that one possible explanation for the lack of technology integration is related to technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK). Teachers may have difficulty understanding the complex relationships between technology, pedagogy and content, because these are often taught in isolation in most teacher education programs. Our attempt to address this TPCK issue was to engage preservice teachers in a lesson design project in which they applied pedagogical content knowledge to problem based learning (pedagogy) and technological knowledge of various ICT tools (technology), to create a subject specific lesson package (content). This paper reports on students��� perceptions of TPCK and cognitive difficulties as revealed in lesson design artifacts, design, and personal reflections. Theoretical background Knowledge base for teaching What constitutes knowledge bases that we expect our future teachers to gain in teacher education programs? Historically, teachers��� knowledge bases have focused on two forms of knowledge: content knowledge (what to teach) and pedagogical knowledge (how to teach). To teach biology, for instance, one should have content knowledge on several subject topics covered in a biology curriculum and pedagogical knowledge on theories and methods related to learning, assessment, and classroom management. About two decades ago, Shulman (1986, 1987) criticised traditional teacher education for treating content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge as separated domains of teacher knowledge bases. He argued that different subjects have different content structures, so that teachers should have an in depth understanding of how content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge are inter-related. For this reason, Shulman (1986) proposed a third form of teacher knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), defined as knowledge related to ���the way of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others��� an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult��� (p.9). In addition to PCK, he proposed six broad types of knowledge as the teachers��� knowledge base: content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge, curriculum knowledge, general knowledge of learners and their characteristics, general knowledge of educational contexts (e.g. classroom, school, communities, cultures, etc). Shulman���s framework for teacher knowledge highlights the importance of the complex interrelationship between teachers��� knowledge about both content and pedagogy, and the need for teachers to learn about variable ways of representing subject matter. Technology integration The theoretical notion of PCK is highly relevant in discussing teachers��� knowledge about technology integration. Although Shulman (1986) did not specifically include
So and Kim 103 technological knowledge in his framework, technology can play a critical role in representing a certain subject matter to be more comprehensible and concrete, helping students correct their misconceptions on certain topics, providing cognitive and metacognitive scaffoldings, and ultimately improving learning outcomes. Indeed, several researchers have reported positive effects of technology integrated interventions on student achievement in mathematics, science, and other subject areas (e.g., Barab, Thomas, Dodge, Carteaux & Tuzun, 2005 Barak & Dori, 2005 Barron et al., 1998 Bottino & Robotti, 2007 Linn, Clark & Slotta, 2003 Roschelle, Kaput & Stroup, 2000 Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994 van Aalst & Chan, 2007 White & Frederiksen, 1998). For instance, White and Frederiksen (1998) developed a computer enhanced science curriculum named the ThinkerTools Inquiry Curriculum, grounded on the sound pedagogy of inquiry learning and reflective assessment. The ThinkerTools curriculum improved students��� science learning and metacognitive thinking strategies successfully. In another study, Barak and Dori (2005) demonstrated that well-designed project based learning supported by ICT tools (i.e. computerised molecular modeling software packages and the Web) could significantly enhance students��� ability to traverse chemistry understanding levels and their understanding of chemical concepts, theories, and the structure of molecules. This ICT based project enabled students to visually construct complex molecular models and supported them to inquire into scientific phenomena and chemistry theories using the Web. Recently, van Aalst and Chan (2007) showed that collaborative inquiry processes using Knowledge Forum, a networked environment for knowledge building, could be effective for students when appropriate levels of scaffolding about portfolio assessment are provided to guide them. These examples of technology research conducted in school contexts clearly suggest that successful technology integration goes beyond simply adding a technology component into subject matter content. Instead, when technology is well integrated into curricular and assessment based on a full consideration of inter- relationships among content, pedagogy, and technology, we can expect positive effects of technology integrated lessons on student learning outcomes. While it is encouraging to see that several previous studies have demonstrated positive effects of technology integrated lessons, as mentioned earlier, many teachers are still reluctant to use technology for teaching and learning (Ertmer, 2005 Hew & Brush, 2007). According to Pierson (2001), technology integration practices are related to individual teachers��� levels of teaching expertise, their definition of technology integration, and pedagogical expertise. This finding supports the connection among teachers��� personal beliefs about teaching and learning, pedagogical knowledge, and technology integration. Pierson reported that teachers who effectively integrated technology showed good understandings of unique characteristics of various types of technologies, and were able to draw content, pedagogical, and technological knowledge all together. Furthermore, it has been suggested that knowing how to use technology for personal use is different from knowing how to use technology for instructional purposes. For instance, Keating and Evans (2001) reported that although student teachers had high confidence with technology for personal use, it did not necessarily mean that they were capable of using technology as a teacher. Most student teachers in their study had an add on technology model, described as the ���three computers in the back of the room��� (p.1), rather than an integrated technology model, meaning constructive ways of