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Teachers Dispositions

August 20th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

One of the most cited reasons for the limited success in introducing new pedagogies for the use of technology for teaching and learning – and indeed for the lack of technology use on education – is resistance by teachers. Various reasons are cited for this – most often it is their own lack of ability and confidence is using technology. however, much of the evidence for this appears to be anecdotal In the last few years there has been more systematic research under the banner of ‘teacher dispositions’.
In her study, In-service Initial Teacher Education in the Learning and Skills Sector in England: Integrating Course and Workplace Learning (2010) Bronwen Maxwell says “dispositions, which ‘develop and evolve through the experiences and interactions within the learner’s life course’ (Hodkinson and Hodkinson 2003), are influential in teacher learning (Hodkinson and Hodkinson 2005). They are largely held unconsciously and ‘are embodied, involving emotions and practice, as well as thoughts’. : She points out that teachers in the sector have different “prior experiences of education, life and work, begin teaching at different ages and stages in their careers, and hold differing beliefs about education and training, so bring differing dispositions to participation in their course and workplace.”
Maxwell (ibid) point to a well established research base evidencing the significance of prior knowledge, skills and dispositions towards work and career on engagement in workplace learning including for example Eraut (2007) and Hodkinson (2004) and a strong evidence base that “attests to the strength and resilience of school trainees’ beliefs, which together with prior experiences strongly influences their approaches to practice and their ITE course (Wideen et al. 1998).”
Haydon, (2008) why with the same ‘input’ in Initial Teacher Education courses, do some students make much more progress than others in their use of ICT? “Is it about teacher dispositions towards technology or learning styles and approaches?”
Haydyn suggests there is evidence of changing attitudes by teachers to the use of ICT in the UK Citing surveys that several years ago suggested negative attitudes and teacher resistance to ICT he says “more recently, research has suggested that the majority of teachers have positive views about the potential of ICT to improve teaching and learning outcomes; one of their main concerns was finding time to fully explore this potential (See, for instance, Haydn and Barton, 2006). (Haydon, 2008).”
One of the issues is why teachers appear to use for their personal use but less so for teaching and learning (OECD, 2009). This is born out by UK reports that teacher use ICT widely for lesson planning but far less so for teaching and learning (Twidle, Sorensen, Childs, Godwin, & Dussart, 2006).
The OECD (2009) report similar findings with new teachers in America, confident with the technology and using it for lesson preparation but less for teaching and learning than more experienced colleagues.
Twidle, Sorensen, Childs, Godwin, and Dussart (2008) found that student teachers in the UK feel relatively unprepared to use ICT for pedagogical practices and ascribe this to their lack of operational skills with computers.  One of the reasons for this was the students‘ lack of
But this is contradicted by Bétrancourt (2007) who claims that there is no correlation between student teachers‘ technological competencies and their pedagogical use of ICT. (OECD, 2010)
Vogel (2010) talks about the need for :engagement “conceived as motivation – enthusiasm, interest and ongoing commitment – on the part of an academic teacher to explore the potential of technologies in their practice.”
Vogel quotes Land (2001) who summarised these kinds of person-oriented approach as:

  • romantic (ecological humanist): concerned with personal development, growth and well-being of individual academics within the organisation
  • interpretive-hermeneutic: working towards new shared insights and practice through a dialectic approach of intelligent conversation
  • reflective practitioner: fostering a culture of self- or mutually critical reflection on the part of colleagues in order to achieve continuous improvement

Vogel says “good practice in e-learning is context-specific and impossible to define.” She is concerned that professional development practices have been driven by institutional and technological concerns. Instead she would prefer Argyis and Schon’s (1974) approach to overcoming the divide between espoused theories or beliefs and theories in use or practice:
“Educating students under the conditions that we are suggesting requires competent teachers at the forefront of their field – teachers who are secure enough to recognize and not be threatened by the lack of consensus about competent practice.”
Vogel refers to Browne (2008) who undertook a survey of technology enhanced elearning in Higher Education in the UK. They found that where there was “less extensive use of technology-enhanced learning tools than [the] institutional norm”, this was often because of the perceived irrelevance of TEL to the learning and teaching approach.
Interestingly, where there was more extensive use than the norm, this was primarily attributed to the presence of a champion, who could represent the value of TEL to colleagues..
One of the issues related to teachers disposition appears to be that of time. As long ago as 1998,  Conole and Oliver (1998) said that the demands of technology enhanced learning on time had already been recognised for many years.
Another issue may be the way in which technology is introduced into schools and colleges. Often this is through projects. However the Jisc funded Flourish project suggested that a ‘project’ is not necessarily the best method for introducing a change on this scale. “Staff perceptions of a project mean that they are cautious and unwilling to be the test case, especially when they are taking time to document their own development. There have to be tangible and immediate benefits to engaging in this new way of working.”

References to Follow

3 Responses to “Teachers Dispositions”

  1. many many thanks for this Graham

  2. sorry, forgot to close the a href tag 🙁 link still works though