Transformative effects of technology in learning and teaching in first year university science courses
Millar, Mark William
The first part of this study describes the synthesis of a research framework (known as the Transformation Framework) via the analysis of existing literature on technology-related transformation in learning and teaching. The Framework identified five Foundations that were desirable for any implementation of technology in an educational setting and also described three broad types of transformation that might be expected to occur (Institutional, Material and Behavioural). The remainder of the thesis contains a description of the application of the Framework to three science courses in the College of Science and Engineering at a large Scottish university at a point in time when they were attempting to initiate some transformation in learning and teaching, at least in part through the introduction of new technologies. The Framework was used to construct a series of specific interview questions that were designed to illuminate each possible area of transformation. Interviews were then conducted with the Undergraduate Deans who were responsible for the overall initiative of which these courses formed a part and the organisers of each of the three courses (Courses A, B and C). The interview questions were then used to construct an online survey that was used to poll the lecturers and teaching assistants involved in the delivery of each course. Finally, anonymised course marks were obtained for the three courses covering the years before, during and after the innovations were introduced. Using the Framework as a reference, the data sources were then analysed, primarily using NVivo (qualitative data) and SPSS (quantitative data), in order to identify where there may have been transformation perceived or observed, and the evidence supporting the existence of any such transformation was evaluated. Any identified transformations were then analysed further to ascertain any specific contribution that technology may have had to such change. The results provided broad support for the notion that the transformations that may occur are highly context-dependent, and are often influenced by the Foundations that are in place at the time. Course A could be described as “innovation-ready” and as such there was evidence to suggest that the technologies used had several Institutional, Material and Behavioural transformative effects. Course B was more cautious and perhaps less prepared, and yet some Institutional, Material and Behavioural transformations were observed, largely in those areas that were well attended at the Foundation stage. The Course C implementation was done at short notice, and hence with little preparation and as such was very low-key and only limited Material and Behavioural transformations were evident as a result. The research as described above highlights the fact that transformation is far more likely to occur if the proper Foundations have been put in place first, and the technology forms part of an implementation that is well thought-out by the organisers, well supported by the powers-that-be and well accepted by all those who will engage with it. The Framework itself has proved to be a useful and robust guide for this kind of study and it should have value in many different contexts in the future. Applications include not only the evaluation of existing implementations of technology in the classroom but also the planning and preparation of such implementations, informing both the design of a particular course and the choice of technology to achieve specific results.