Integrating technology in tertiary level English Language programmes: Case studies of Moodle learning environments
Ramanair, J. (2014). Integrating technology in tertiary level English Language programmes: Case studies of Moodle learning environments (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8849
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8849
While the potential of technology to enhance language pedagogy has been realised in some English language learning environments, there are contexts in which its use has failed to achieve its promise. Teachers’ use of technology has also often been described as uneven or limited with the tendency of technology to be used on the periphery or on an ‘ad hoc’ basis. These gaps have provided the basis for this doctoral level study to investigate the integration of Moodle into English language programmes offered at two tertiary institutions in New Zealand. This study adopted the concept of “normalisation” (Bax, 2000, 2003) as the research perspective. The conceptual framework for the research was developed based on five areas that explored teacher learning and thinking, and how these processes interacted with the complexities in the educational environment. The framework consists of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), sociocultural theory as applied to teacher learning, Activity Theory, language pedagogy, and the challenges of integrating technology in the context of tertiary-level English language classrooms. The research followed a qualitative case study design. The English language programme was planned as the boundary for each case. Data collection involved the use of semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and work-together sessions, which were conducted at the two case study sites. The main participants included teachers, with participation from students and other key informants. Data were collected over a period of twelve weeks in case study site one and eighteen weeks at site two. All data were thematically analysed using an inductive approach. The findings from each case study were reported based on three categories in the Activity Theory framework: the object of the activity (its purpose), division of labour, and rules. The analysis of the findings in case study site one revealed one purpose (object) for using Moodle in the tertiary level English language programme, which was to use text-based, asynchronous activities to prepare the students to speak in the classroom and develop their speaking skills. However, at case study site two, two purposes (objects) for Moodle use were identified. These were to use text-based, asynchronous activities to prepare the students to speak in the classroom to develop their speaking skills and to provide them with a bank of text-based resources for language learning. This unanticipated finding challenged the notion of the language programme as the boundary for a case and resulted in each purpose (object) functioning instead as a boundary for a case study. The result was that the single case study at site two was analysed and is reported as two case studies. The findings also revealed how the teachers interacted with their students and the relationships between the teachers (division of labour). The teachers experienced tensions within the existing practices and policies (rules) at each case study site. Three key themes emerged from the findings. The first was that the teachers lacked a valid and clear conceptualisation of the purpose (object) for using Moodle. This theme illustrates the importance of a language syllabus, teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for effective language pedagogy, and task-based language learning. The second theme concerned the teachers’ conceptualisation of the role of technology in realising the purpose (improvement of speaking competence and availability of resources for language learning). The role of Moodle in scaffolding students’ learning to realise the object and the misconception that teaching in the online environment is the same as teaching in the face-to-face in the classroom are discussed. The third theme related to the individual teacher in the context of a learning community, especially the teacher’s responsiveness to innovation and the uptake of opportunities for professional learning. This research suggests three important factors that should be explicitly considered when integrating technology into tertiary English language programmes: teacher development, the language syllabus, and the learning community. All of these factors relate, are interconnected, and need to be considered in order for technology to be normalised in English language programmes and for the potential of technology to be realised in practice.
University of Waikato
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