Teachers and technology –  six key research findings

Written by: Fiona Aubrey-Smith | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Your teachers and your technology – what do you need to be thinking about next? Fiona Aubrey-Smith looks at the emerging findings from new research into teachers’ technology use during the pandemic

One of the unintended consequences of remote schooling during the coronavirus pandemic has been the leaps made with different uses of technologies. While much has been written about the different ways that different schools have used technologies, as a school leader you will have also seen a range of different approaches within your school.

One of the opportunities ahead now is to unpick the variance across your own team – to understand why different teachers do different things with the same technologies.

Importantly, you can then use this understanding to bring greater alignment between your school vision for technology and the realities of practice. This might be about increasing consistency within practice, or it might be about identifying and building upon the different strengths across your team.

In 2021, I will be publishing a study undertaken as part of my Doctorate which unpacks the relationship between a teacher’s pedagogical beliefs and the uses of technologies in their teaching and learning practices. The ultimate aim of this work will be converting the theory and findings into practical support materials for schools and trusts.

However, for now I would like to give you a quick glance at some of the headline findings. I consider below what they might mean in your school.

  • First, teachers who talk about their awareness of the importance of technology in children’s lives do not necessarily then incorporate technology meaningfully into their teaching practices. But this difference is not about their relationship with the technology itself. It is about what they believe teaching and learning should look like and what they perceive technology offers or threatens in relation to that.
  • Second, teachers’ use of technology amplifies their existing pedagogical beliefs. In other words, while our practices may change when we use technology, our pedagogical beliefs do not. This is important because language and behaviours adopted by the teacher and their learners may not change even when technology is used – which sometimes conflicts with the intentions of adopting the technology.
  • Third, using technologies can act as a catalyst for supporting children’s wider learning needs, but this stems from the teacher’s pedagogical beliefs not the technology. It is important for school leaders to be aware that schools will have staff with a range of different pedagogical beliefs, even within a culture which has one overarching school ethos.
  • Fourth, teachers working within the same school, supporting the same vision and ethos, and using the same classroom resources (including technologies) can have different pedagogical beliefs – even if it might not look that way on the surface. Therefore, teachers using what appears to be the same technologies in their teaching practices can be enacting very different pedagogical approaches. Therefore, technologies cannot be thought of objectively (transferrable across classes or lessons). Their use is socially constructed (class/lesson/teacher dependent). This is an important point to bear in mind when thinking about “rolling out projects” or “sharing best practice”.
  • Fifth, due to teachers enacting different pedagogical approaches, or framing their pedagogical beliefs differently, learners will experience learning differently even when engaging with the “same” technologies, processes or resources. Therefore, learners may not be experiencing in practice what the school vision intends them to experience. This is really important to consider when cascading policy or practice across a school or trust.
  • Sixth, most guidance around the use of technology in teaching practices emphasises the importance of focusing on “how” it is used. However, most guidance does not clearly define what “how” means and this inadvertently deviates attention back onto “what” is used. If you want to understand how technology use is experienced by teachers and learners, and what difference it is making you need to look at their behaviours, language and relationships, not the technology. The impact will be seen in how those involved conceive the idea of what it means to be a teacher or what it means to be a learner.

The research project from which these findings were drawn will be continuing in 2021, and if your school or trust would like to be involved, please do contact me (details below).

  • Fiona Aubrey-Smith is director of One Life Learning specialising in strategic education research and consultancy. She is also an associate lecturer at The Open University, a founding fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching and sits on the board of a number of multi academy and charitable trusts. Read her previous articles for Headteacher Update at http://bit.ly/2IPHfe4 and contact Fiona via fionaaubreysmith@googlemail.com

Further information & resources

  • Aubrey-Smith: An exploration of the relationship between teachers’ pedagogical stance and use of ICT in their classroom practice, EdD thesis, The Open University, 2021.
  • Headteacher Update: Back to School Guide: Education technology & remote education, September 2020: https://bit.ly/3m0LM15

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