Exploring teachers’ technological, pedagogical and content knowledge in higher education: A mental resource perspective

Shaista Bibi

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

The complex nature of the relationships between teachers’ intentions of how to teach and their actions in classrooms - in terms of why variations occur - is usually seen as an important issue. This study involved the investigation of university teachers’ technology integration decisions through exploring their Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK). The study employed the mental resource perspective as a theoretical basis to view university teachers’ TPACK. In order to consider why teachers’ practices within classrooms are sometimes different to their ideas at the time of planning, this study examined teachers’ planning and teaching decisions in relation to the context, investigating the role context plays in teachers’ thinking about task designs and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use.

The research questions asked:

  1. What kinds of mental resources do teachers activate when explaining their decisions to integrate ICT in their teaching across planning and teaching contexts?;
  2. How do teachers frame situations to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their teaching when planning collaboratively?; and
  3. Which knowledge bases do teachers draw upon and how across planning and teaching contexts when making decisions to teach through ICT?

In order to address these research questions, a case study methodology comprising eight individual cases and one group case was employed. Data were collected while teachers were planning their courses and while they were teaching in classrooms using ‘think aloud’ observations, epistemic interviews, and classroom observations. The analysis of the data was conducted using verbal data and discourse analysis techniques. The results showed the context sensitive nature of teachers’ thinking. It was found that the way teachers think, draw upon knowledge, and make decisions to integrate ICT varies from context to context. Contexts that teachers take into account when they make decisions play a significant role in understanding the way teachers think and act.

This study makes a significant contribution to knowledge, methodology and practice and contributes to knowledge by exploring teachers’ knowledge in the contexts of planning and teaching. This is achieved by introducing new ways (the use of a mental resource theoretical perspective) that investigate teachers’ knowledge and their thinking and also by introducing new knowledge bases (TECK, TLCK, TDK, PDK, PRK, TRK, TPRK, PECK, RLCK, PLCK and PCuK) that underpin teachers’ decisions to integrate technology into their teaching. The study offers practical implications for teachers’ professional development programs by identifying various contexts that direct the way teachers make decisions that include past experience, institutional requirements, discipline, the purpose of using technology, student characteristics and peer roles. The study also contributes to the methodologies for studying teacher knowledge by developing data analysis techniques for exploring teachers’ mental resources and framing in real life teaching situations with ICT.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Lina Markauskaite