The following is a summary/reflection upon “Making better connections: Models of teacher professional development for the integration of information and communication technology into classroom practice“. A report funded by the Australian Federal Department of Education written by a range of folk, including a few names I recognise.

The following quote from page 23 of the report gives a good summary of its purpose

Stated briefly, the goal of this Report is to answer the question, ‘How can the professional development of teachers and educational leaders facilitate the integration of new technologies into classroom practice?’. More specifically, it asks ‘What models of teacher professional development exist, in Australia and around the world, to support the integration of information and communication technologies into classroom practice?’ and ‘What advice does the current research literature provide about which of these models are most effective for this purpose?’.

I’ve come to the report via the set text for the course I’ll be teaching. I’m interested in the report for what insight it might reveal for the course and in particular the PSTN project.

Misc. considerations

The following is an ad hoc list of considerations and implications reading this report generated for me, things for me to consider. The list includes:

  • What’s the connection between Communities of Practice (CoP) and PSTN?
    CoP have been a big thing in education over recent years, even Universities have tried to set up CoPs for academics to improve their teaching. This report looks at some of the CoP literature. Including the need for shared purpose. I wonder if PSTN is different from CoP? I wonder if PSTN can learn anything from the CoP work?
  • Yet Another Dead Website/Support Network.
    Oh dear, the second phase of this project was “the subsequent development of a support network”. I wonder how that went. I’m guessing it’s dead, but will have to ask around. I do wonder how PSTN avoids this problem of being yet another artificial website/support network that goes away once the project is dead. Or is this even a problem, the circle of life and all that.

    This project seems supportive, perhaps even connected to EdNA. Which I believe is now dead.

  • If Pre-Service Teachers (PSTs) continue to have exposure to ICTs in training but limited classroom use, then
    • Can/should teacher education aim to provide some level of experience?
    • Can the PSTN project, by broadening a PSTs network, enable greater levels of classroom use?
      Based on the proposition that at least one contributing factor to limited classroom use is that PSTs get paired up with mentor teachers that are somewhat leery of ICT integration.
  • Can the PSTN project help bridge the identified disconnect between pre-service teaching and continuing professional development? (chapter 5)
  • But will it bridge the gap not through top-down collaboration between schools and universities, but rather through the formation of bottom-up networks between people in both systems? Or, will it only work when it becomes officially recognised by both systems and consequently becomes one form of collaboration?
  • How does USQ evaluate the effectiveness of its teacher education programs? How do we evaluate the effectiveness of the ICT and pedagogy course?
  • If “a lack of linkages” is one of the principal barriers then can the PSTN project and its foundation in social networking/mentoring provide those linkages?
  • The “lack of linkages” identified in the report is between pre-service and in-service. The PSTN project is arguably trying to bridge that gap.
  • Funding – in terms of not having the money to keep up with technological change – is listed as one of the principal barriers. Is the increasing (but by no means complete) ubiquity of technology, especially in terms of mobile device, making this go away or at the very least change the nature of this barrier?
    i.e. increasingly there is no longer the need for institutions to provide all of the technology, increasingly the students and teachers have it.
  • The report seems to suggest that limited conceptions held by stakeholders around “pedagogy, curriculum and the profession” are barriers for PD. It seems obvious that different individuals come with different conceptions, the aim of PD is encourage and enable growth (and not necessarily towards a single accepted point, though that seems to be enshrined in certificates and standards). Which seems to suggest a challenge for the PSTN project is helping students engage in social networks that are in the right “zone”.
  • Online communities need to be linked with school-based teacher inquiry.
    This is a recommendation. I’d imagine the type of folk likely to volunteer as mentors for PSTN are also likely to be already engaged in such inquiry. I’d imagine that the student teachers that benefit from PSTN are doing similar.
  • lack of coordination is the greatest barrier to the effective use of ICTs for teaching and learning in schools.
    Mmmm, I’m reluctant to accept this, though it probably depends on definition of coordination. Attempts at coordination and alignment within a problem area that is complex doesn’t seem likely to be likely to happen. But who’s right? Is coordination the saviour? What are the alternatives?
  • The difficulty of finding mentors.
    On p. 17 the report talks about the problem Universities have with finding and paying for mentor teachers for practical placements for student teachers. As some within PSTN have observed this will be one of the barriers for the PSTN project. A question is whether the nature of Twitter etc. will reduce this somewhat, at least with smaller numbers. I can see potential problems in scaling, especially after a few years… Could PSTN become self-sustaining with previous mentees becoming mentors?
  • PSTN would fall into what the report calls the “messy” end of professional development. p. 18 of the report references research that suggests that while such approaches are “messy” they are also more effective, but because they are messy, they don’t fit well within “the system”.
    A challenge for PSTN to be aware of.
  • Systematically change the system, or the system will always suck.
    There is a reference to research/literature to suggest that PD needs to be integrated with comprehensive/systematic processes that are solving all the other problems teachers are having. While this is to be applauded it does tend to create the situation where people sit waiting for everything to happen, when it never will.

    An alternative perspective is that the system will always suck. Especially if the world is ever-changing. Since the system will always suck, the people within it are always battling against it. Rather than wait forlornly for the perfect system, PSTN aims to give student teachers the leg up to get started battling effectively against the system. Hopefully to better prepare them for when the system doesn’t suck.

  • Need to read more on this. (p. 19)

    There is a positive correlation between teacher professionalism (teacher as learner, teacher as researcher) and improved student learning outcomes (Coughlin & Lemke 1999; Davis 1999; Delannoy 2000; Groundwater-Smith 1998; Smith 1999).

  • Some literature/findings directly related to PSTN. (p. 20)

    In summary, it is noted at this point that professional learning communities are: easy to set up but difficult to sustain (Lieberman 2000); need particular conditions if they are to operate effectively (Hough & Paine 1997; Grossman 2000); work best at the local level (site-based communities); and are less likely to succeed when dispersed and virtual (Schlager 2000).

  • PSTN as symptom of increasing tendency for teachers/student teachers to be digital residents.
    On p. 22 there are references to support claims that PD around ICT integration should be “ongoing, intensive, and an integral part of a teacher’s regular work day”. i.e. for teacher ICT integration etc hasn’t been part of what they do, but as technology becomes more accepted, teachers are increasingly digital residents. Early PSTN participants are likely to be digital residents – technology and using technology is already part of their everyday life. If PSTN can help achieve this with student teachers, then I wonder if more than half the battle is won.

Some PSTN quotes

The following is a list of quotes that might be useful for PSTN

The very nature of the teaching profession as being practice ‘behind closed doors’ mitigates against moves to school-based collaborative teacher development

(p. 3) – PSTN aims to open up some of those doors/connect with folk that are already opening it up.

What’s in it

The report aims to examine teacher development via both pre-service teacher education and professional development.

Going by the executive summary

  • Metrics for measuring effectiveness of PD and pre-service models.
    Will be interesting to see how these can be applied to both PSTN and the course.
  • A map of PD and pre-service models.
  • List of barriers and critical success factors for ICT integration.
  • Recommendations for the future.

This is done via a number of chapters

  1. Definitions, background and methodology.
  2. Overview of teacher development.
  3. The framework for teacher PD and ICT integration.
    Identifies four types of ICT related activity.
  4. Models of pre-service teacher education.
    Draws on lit review and survey to argue that in Australia pre-service teachers do a lot with ICTs in their training but get limited experience using it in the classroom. i.e. there is a difference between what is learned in their training and what is possible in practice.
  5. Models of continuing PD.
    There is an apparent disconnect between pre-service training and continuing PD which brings difficulties raising the need for collaboration between school and university sectors.
  6. Measuring the effectiveness of teacher learning for ICT integration.
    Measuring this is hard. Consequently few do it. But the majority recognise the need.
  7. Barriers and critical success factors for teacher learning.
    Barriers: funding (linked to inability to keep up with technological change), time and a lack of linkages. Scarcity of time identified as the greatest challenge. Linkages is generally seen as between pre-service training and in-service PD.
  8. Advice and recommendations.
    • Teaching as practiced behind closed doors is a barrier to school-based collaborative teacher development.
    • Online communities and PD do not offer quick fixes for the complexities….rather they should be part of an attempt to sustain teacher inquiry and extending networks beyond school/district.
    • An 20 odd recommendations grouped in various ways, including, but not limited to
      • a national set of ICT standards (boo, hiss)
      • a national set of institutional and programme capabilities
      • a couple around ensuring faculties of education and their staff are preaching the ICT integration word.
      • funnily enough room in pre-service training for students to development, plan, implement and evaluate the use of ICTs in their teaching.
      • various partnerships.
      • I found this one strange, relic of an earlier age? regulatory processes to allow limited online teaching as valid parts of professional experience programmes
      • …many more…

Effective professional development

The recommendations reference CERI (1998) as suggesting effective PD needs to:

  • involve concrete tasks around learning and development.
  • based on inquiry, reflection and experimentation that are participant-driven.
  • involve sharing of knowledge with support from both inside and outside of setting.
  • connected to/derived from teachers’ work.
  • Sustained, ongoing and intensive etc. around specific problems of practice.
  • and some bits about integration and comprehensive (which I’m not so sure about).

Chapter 1

Some overview of current situation, changing nature of society due to ICTs etc…(some of this isn’t too bad). Describes what has been done, including talking about the now dead EdNA.

At the very least there is mention of the need for “a radical re-appraisal of its fundmental goals and modes of operation”.

Chapter 2


  • some references and a brief summary of the history of teacher education in Australia.
  • teacher standards.
  • The importance of professional experience in teacher education and some of the problems in providing it.
  • The importance of partnerships, including universities becoming full partners in school reform.
  • Current approaches to professional development
    • ..”system-level resource allocation tend to favour a training model over alternative models that the literature argues or demonstrates are more effective in the long term”…and goes on to argue that “messy” models are more effective, but difficult to account for
    • new pedagogies don’t work is modelled in non-specific and decontextualised ways.
    • a lot of stuff on PD and ICT integration

Chapter 3

Aim of this chapter is to

establish a framework that provides a more substantial approach to goal-setting and programme evaluation

  • Revisit the four reasons/purposes for ICT integration. Talk about difficulty faced when attempting latter reasons, especially perceptions of parents, government etc.
  • Mention literature covering each of the four goals of ICT integration.

Chapter 4

Outline various approaches to pre-service teacher education, especially around ICT integration, and report on literature around +/- of the approaches. Including looking at some international projects.

Results of an Australian survey presented.

Repeat the problems identified earlier

However, the surveys also reported that a great deal of difficulty was encountered in presenting student teachers with valid and meaningful examples of ICT classroom use as part of their school experience. In the survey, course coordinators commented upon the large difference between what was learned about classroom applications of ICT in the university setting and what was practised in field placements. Such comments reflect the learn on campus, practice in field placement approach to student teacher learning.

Chapter 5

  • Uses literature to classify 5 processes used by individual teachers for PD.
  • Project developed a systemic model of PD programs.
  • Discussion of PD from various nations.
  • Discussion of strategies used for PD
    • Sponsorship programmes for self-directed, formal, PD
    • School-based programs.
    • Single even programs.
    • Serial courses
    • Curriculum development or teaching projects.
    • Professional learning communities.
      Somewhat related to PSTN, but more the CoP area.
    • Sustained inquiry through teacher research projects.
      The least common approach in Oz. Some useful quotes

      The research literature continually affirms that teachers learn best by focusing their attention on their own practices, trying new techniques, getting feedback, and observing and talking with fellow teachers in a supportive school environment (CERI 1998; Lewis 1998; Miller 1998; NFIE 1996). Teacher inquiry is an extended form of this type of ‘reflective practice’ in that it involves teachers in investigating questions immediately relevant to their practice, honours teachers’ knowledge, and involves teachers in ‘within-school’ or ‘outside-school’ networks that provide new ideas and support (Check 1998, p. 17). Check (1998) argued that teachers have found that small working groups and larger networks are essential aspects of teacher inquiry

      This seems to be approaching the PSTN sweet spot

  • PD infrastructure: central and regional based support services; lighthouse schools; provision of hardware for teachers; recognition and certification of skills and prior learning.

Chapter 6 – Measuring effectiveness

  • Difficult for pre-service education to measure outcomes after students enter schools.
  • Mention how it is done.
  • Describe various international projects.
  • Similar for PD.

Chapter 7 – Barriers and critical success factors

  • Absence of conditions for “effective, ongoing professional development built into the daily working lives of teachers”. Specified as: time; flexibility; remuneration and recognition; sustained staff development, link between technology and educational objectives; intellectual and professional stimulation; clear systemic message. And: timely support.
  • FUnding.
  • Time.
  • Links between PST and education systems.

Chapter 8 – Advice and recommendations

Interesting quote (p. 79)

. Furthermore, the degree of complexity and the required time for lasting development to occur will always make the systemic implementation of effective practice difficult.

Interesting because at the same time the suggestion is that systemic change is almost a requirement to bring about change.

There is also the argument that online communities/professional development is not enough. Instead it must be an integral part of “the sustained school-based teacher inquiry approach where their special contribution is to support and extend the local networks by offering connections and resources from outside the school or district”.

Another big point

The final important understanding to come from the literature and the consultations is the pressing need for significant collaboration and coordination between pre-service teacher education, continuing professional development and systemic and school reform. The lack of coordination is the greatest barrier to the effective use of ICTs for teaching and learning in schools.

The specific recommendations are repeated.

References to get

Email for communication between student teachers and university mentors. Not quite PSTN, but approaching the ball park.

Le Cornu, R. & White, B. (2000). E-mail supervision in the practicum: What do students teachers think? Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Cardiff University, 7–10 September, 2000.

Teacher professionalism and student outcomes
(Coughlin & Lemke 1999; Davis 1999; Delannoy 2000; Groundwater-Smith 1998; Smith 1999).

The role and difficulties of communities: In summary, easy to set up but difficult to sustain (Lieberman 2000); need particular conditions if they are to operate effectively (Hough & Paine 1997; Grossman 2000); work best at the local level (site-based communities); and are less likely to succeed when dispersed and virtual (Schlager 2000).

Schlager, M.S., Fusco, J. & Schank, P. (2000). Evolution of an On-line Education Community of Practice. In K.A. Renninger & W. Shumar. (Eds). Building Virtual Communities: Learning and Change in Cyberspace. New York: Cambridge University Press