Dissertation Proposal Abstract

Jon Margerum-Leys

School of Education

February 24, 1999

Tentative dissertation title: "Acquiring, using, and sharing educational technology knowledge by student teachers and cooperating teachers"

Two overlapping trends in the American educational environment have given rise to this study: The need for two million new teachers in the next decade and the upsurge in technology use in schools.

Those who enter the field of teaching in the coming decade will have had different teacher preparation and background experiences than the practicing teachers they join. Their teacher preparation will embrace constructivist theories of teaching and learning, emphasizing reform-oriented educational strategies. Many incoming teachers, by dint of the time period in which they have grown up, will also have greater educational technology skills and knowledge as compared to the norm for currently practicing teachers.

Meanwhile, educational technology use is becoming an integral part of teaching and learning at an ever-increasing number of American schools . While there is evidence that computer use is associated with increased academic achievement , teacher preparation remains a key to successful educational technology implementation .

A goal of teacher preparation in educational technology use is increasing teachers' knowledge of educational technology. Knowledge in this context has often been limited to content knowledge of computer hardware and software affordances. Knowledge of educational technology use in teaching and learning may be more complex, including knowledge of pedagogical strategies for teaching with computers, assessment methods for student products created with the aid of technology, awareness of student capabilities and common obstacles, and other factors yet unknown.

To examine what new and experienced teachers know about technology use for teaching and learning, how they use knowledge of technology use in their practice, and how knowledge is shared, I propose to study pairs of student teachers and cooperating teachers as they use educational technology in their teaching.

Questions for Study

An overarching question for this study is "How is knowledge about teaching with technology acquired, used, and shared by pairs of student teachers and cooperating teachers?" In crafting an answer, I will focus on three subquestions: "What do participants know about using educational technology for teaching and learning?", "Within the classroom environment, how do participants learn about educational technology use?", and "What is the link between knowledge and practice?"


To investigate these questions, I propose to create a descriptive multiple embedded case study. Results of the study will be reported in the form of a cross-case analysis, supported by written cases at the individual participant and student teacher/cooperating teacher pair levels. The sections below give an overview of the research setting, participants, sources of data, data collection procedures, proposed analysis, and study time line. The overall design uses guidelines provided by Yin .


Research will be conducted at Monroe Middle School, a middle school located in a working-class suburb of a large industrial city in the Midwest. As a school in a lower-income area with technology funded through grants, Monroe is typical of many schools in America .


Participants are three pairs of teachers, each consisting of a student teacher and his or her cooperating teacher. These participants were selected based on their field placement at Monroe Middle School, their willingness to participate in the study, and my initial perception that they were effective teachers.

Sources of Data

Data will be collected from interviews with the participants, ongoing conversations throughout the data collection period, classroom observations, and observations of participants' instructional planning sessions.

Data Collection Procedures

A data collection protocol will be developed iteratively during the first phase of the dissertation study. Primary data collection will take place over a ten week period lasting approximately from March 15 to June 15, 1999. During that time period, I will observe classroom teaching and instructional planning sessions, collecting data through the use of extensive field notes. As a focus for conversations, some classroom sessions will be videotaped, with excerpts from the videotape serving to guide reflection. Two rounds of semi-structured interviews will be conducted, audiotaped, and transcribed.

Proposed Analysis

As an embedded case study, there are two units of analysis to be examined. At the finer grain of analysis, case studies will be written for each participant. In turn, these cases will inform the larger unit of analysis, the pairs of one student teacher and his or her cooperating teacher. The three larger cases will be compared to create a cross case analysis, which will form the main portion of the results.

To reduce and analyze the data itself, I propose to use Chi's verbal analysis coding. This method, which I have used in previous research , allows a researcher to formalize his impressions of a data set, yielding quantitative findings about the frequency of occurrences as well as a qualitative picture created by using selections from the data in the results. Data management will be facilitated through the use of QSR NUDIST, a special-purpose qualitative data analysis tool.


Through the creation of a descriptive multiple embedded case study, I hope to produce a rich description of teacher knowledge of educational technology within the setting of Monroe Middle School and these teachers' classrooms. This description will help me to answer questions of what teachers know about educational technology, how they learn within a classroom setting, and how their knowledge is linked to their practice. As American education deals with the need for large numbers of new teachers, combined with a surge in the use of educational technology, I hope that this work will in some small way inform how new teachers are prepared, as well as how practicing teachers develop.



Chi, M. T. (1997). Quantifying qualitative analyses of verbal data: A practical guide. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6(3), 271-315.

Glennan, T. K., & Melmed, A. (1996). Fostering the use of educational technology: Elements of a national strategy. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

Margerum-Leys, J., & Marx, R. (1999, August). English teacher education students' beliefs about technology. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, CA.

Office of Technology Assessment. (1995). Teachers and technology Washington, DC: United States Congress.

Wenglinsky, H. (1998). Does it compute? The relationship between educational technology and student achievement in mathematics. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Willis, J., & Mehlinger, H. D. (1996). Information technology and teacher education. In J. Sikula (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (Second ed., pp. 978-1029). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Yin, R. K. (1984/1989). Case study research: Design and methods. (Revised ed.). (Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol. 5). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.