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Contextual complexities shaping primary teachers' pedagogical practices with digital technologies: An interpretive phenomenological study in the Maldivian ESL context

Literature on digital technology (DT) integration has revealed a range of complexities around DT use for teaching and learning. Previous research suggests that frequent DT use does not necessarily lead to the pedagogically purposeful use of DTs for student learning. However, the literature overlooks the impact the various contextual and subject content factors may have when exploring teachers’ technological pedagogical practices. This thesis examines teachers’ practices with DTs in relation to the subject content and multilevel context within which teachers’ practices are situated. My study’s context is that of primary education in Maldivian urban and rural schools, with a specific focus on how teachers use DTs in teaching English as a second language (ESL). I also examine the influence of national, school, classroom, and teacher-level factors at play on the participant primary teacher group. The research questions guiding my study are: 1. What impacts do DT use have on ESL pedagogical practices of primary teachers in two Maldivian schools? 2. What contextual factors affect teaching and learning English with and through DTs in two Maldivian schools, and do they differ across schools? 3. What interplay of factors influence Maldivian primary teachers’ DT use in their English lessons? Adopting an interpretive phenomenological research design meant I could capture the lived experience of nine (four urban and five rural) primary teachers in two Maldivian schools over 8 months. Data collected through lesson observations, postobservation conversations, lesson plans, semistructured interviews, mini surveys and field notes helped in understanding their practices, beliefs, and attitudes about using DTs in ESL lessons. Additionally, other data collected from mini surveys and postobservation conversations with students of the participant teachers, plus interview data and school documents that principals and IT staff provided, helped my understanding of the multilevel contextual factors that influenced teachers’ DT use for teaching and learning. The findings indicate that an important reason for using DTs was as an attention grabber, perhaps as a set induction, video explanations, form-focused instruction (FFI), and exam-format listening. These findings were examined in relation to the SAMR model to ascertain the pedagogical level of DT use teachers usually applied. The findings also point to the national, school, and classroom factors affecting primary teachers’ practices with DTs in ESL lessons, and these are addressed fully in the Discussion and Conclusion chapters. At the national level, the two factors that have a potential influence on teachers’ DTs use include the development and promulgation of a national educational ICT policy and teacher education, the focus of which needs to move from developing teachers’ technological knowledge to pedagogical applications of tools. While technology leadership and DT-based professional learning and development were factors at the school level, access to DTs and technical support were classroom-level factors that significantly influenced participant teachers’ decisions around DT use. Apart from these external factors, internal or teacher-level factors such as teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and existing pedagogical practices shaped their practices with DTs when teaching English. This study has contributed to the literature by identifying primary teachers’ ESL pedagogical practices with DTs. For one thing, it fills a significant gap in TPACK research which often considers TPACK to be subject-independent. My research, therefore, contributes by showing the connection between technology, pedagogy, and subject-specific content (English language). Another contribution is the use of classroom observation data to capture teachers’ DT use, as DT integration literature predominantly uses self-reported data. My research also contributes to a TPACK-in-Context framework (Figure 2.4) adapted from the TPACK framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) to provide a contextually situated understanding of primary teachers’ DT use in ESL lessons. Additionally, the NVivo-enhanced Spiral QDA process (Figure 3.7) I adapted from Seidel’s (1998) qualitative data analysis (QDA) model contributes to understanding the nonlinear, recursive, and iterative nature of the qualitative data analysis process. Finally, my illustration of the complex interplay of factors affecting the pedagogical use of DTs (Figure 5.2) contributes to the understanding of the relationships between TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), TAM (Davis, 1989), and SAMR (Puentedura, 2012), three dominant models/frameworks in DT literature.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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