What Factors Support or Prevent Teachers from Using ICT in their Classrooms?
Margaret Cox, Christina Preston and Kate Cox
King's College London, MirandaNet Project University of Surrey
Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Sussex at Brighton, September 2-5 1999.
The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of a small project funded by the Teacher Training Agency and Oracle through the MirandaNet project, set up to investigate the factors which have contributed to the continuing use of ICT by experienced ICT and ICT teachers in their teaching. Evidence has been collected through a literature search, teacher questionnaires, teachers' reports and interviews. The factors which were found to be most important to these teachers in their teaching were: making the lessons more interesting, easier, more fun for them and their pupils, more diverse, more motivating for the pupils and more enjoyable. Additional more personal factors were improving presentation of materials, allowing greater access to computers for personal use, giving more power to the teacher in the school, giving the teacher more prestige, making the teachers' administration more efficient and providing professional support through the Internet.
This research project was set up to investigate the factors which motivate teachers to use ICT and to sustain their use of ICT in teaching. The aim of the project was to use the factors identified to inform the professional development requirements of practising teachers to enable them to use ICT appropriately in their teaching. The idea from the project came from the experience of two projects, MirandaNet, directed by Christina Preston, and the ICT and Motivation project, conducted by Margaret Cox to investigate the effects of ICT on the motivation of pupils. More details about the project is reported in Cox, Preston and Cox (1999).
The purpose of this paper is to present the findings of the literature review conducted by the project and the research results relating to the uptake of ICT in teaching obtained from a range of data collected through a survey of ICT and ICT teachers, records of MirandaNET members' uses of ICT.
2 Evidence from previous research
Over the past 25 years, alongside a series of national and local programmes for the development of ICT in education, there have been research studies of the uptake of ICT in education. These include studies of the effects of teacher training (Cox, Rhodes & Hall 1988), levels of resources (Cox, 1993), teachers' pedagogies and practices (Watson, 1993), and teachers attitudes (Woodrow, 1990). For detailed research papers on many of these aspects see Passey and Samways (1997). Many of these studies have shown that inspite of teacher training programmes, an increase in ICT resources and the requirements of national curricula there has been a disappointingly slow uptake of ICT in schools by the majority of teachers. Some of the reasons for this lack of more widespread uptake of ICT are discussed in more detail below.
2.1 Understanding the need for change
In a study of projects to promote educational changes in America, Canada and the UK, Fullan (1991) found that one of the most fundamental problems in education reform is that people do not have a clear and coherent sense of the reasons for educational change, what it is and how to proceed. Thus there is much faddism, superficiality, confusion, failure of a change programme, unwarranted and misdirected resistance and misunderstood reform. They maintain that teachers who resist change are not rejecting the need for change but they are often the people who are expected to lead developments when they lack the necessary education in the management of change and are given insufficient long term opportunities to make sense of the new technologies for themselves.
2.2 Questioning professional practice
There are many studies which have shown that teachers are "not given to questioning their professional practice" (Underwood, 1997). Once they have finished their initial training they do not expect to need much further training therefore do not take the initiative to improve their practice and learn new skills. Desforges (1995), in a literature review of the shift from novice to expert teachers, found that "many teachers are perfectly well satisfied with their practices and are unlikely to question prevailing educational processes" (Feiman-Nemser & Buchanan (1985) in Desforges (1995)). In order for teachers to make changes to their professional practice, according to Desforges "a considerable effort is necessary to create the possibilities of restructuring knowledge (about teaching and learning) in the face of experience............... In regard to old knowledge we can speculate that the impact of new experience (e.g. using ICT) will be severely attenuated if it is in conflict with teachers' basic ontological categories, e.g. their beliefs about the nature of their job or the nature of childhood". Therefore if teachers see no need to change or question their current professional practice they may not accept the use of ICT in their teaching
2.3 Pedagogical practice versus technical skills
Previous studies (Cox et al, 1988, Cox, 1994) have shown that until recently the majority of courses offered in the UK to train teachers in the uses of ICT have focused on the technical aspects of ICT with little training about the pedagogical practices required and how to incorporate ICT in the curriculum. In many ICT professional development courses, teachers are not often taught how to revise their pedagogical practices, how to replace other traditional lessons without depleting the curriculum coverage and so on. This means that after teachers had attended a course they still did not know how to use ICT for teaching pupils, They only knew how to run certain software packages and to fix the printer. There were many such courses offered all round the UK which had very little long term impact on the uptake of ICT in schools.
2.4 Support from the whole school
Much research by Fullan (1991) and others has shown that the most effective way to bring about the adoption of an innovation in schools is to engage the whole school in a democratic process of planning change. This means that all the teachers are involved in the decision to adopt ICT in the school and are supportive of any individual teacher going on a course and willing to learn from their new knowledge and skills when they return. If the school, and particularly the head teacher, are not committed to adopting change and particularly ICT, then if one teacher goes on a course, the rest of the school sets up antibodies to any new ideas which the unfortunate teacher brings back into the school. The last thing the other teachers will then do is to change their practice.
2.5 Losing control of the learning
The majority of teachers first priority is to maintain order in the classroom and to have a controlled learning environment. Any suggestion of adopting very innovative teaching techniques such as using ICT is therefore seen as threatening this orderly pattern and therefore not desirable. There is a genuine fear amongst many teachers about ICT and scepticism of its value to their pupils
2.6 Inadequate resources
Even if the above problems are overcome there is often a difficulty for teachers who have had some training to be able to use ICT because there are insufficient ICT resources in the school or there is not enough time to review then and plan lessons incorporating their use.
In spite of the problems listed above and many others, some positive things have been learnt from previous experiences of different initiatives and training programmes. Where schools have had the backing of the head teacher and there is a long term policy for the school to integrate ICT into the teaching then they have been successful in gradually developing the use of ICT in different areas.
Projects in which individual teachers have been given portable computers to develop their own personal ICT skills have shown that teachers then start to use them in their teaching as well. (NCET, 1994)
Teachers who have gone on longer courses, spread over a year have had the time to practice in between sessions back in schools and have had the time to assimilate enough expertise and knowledge to be able to continue to use them within their curriculum. (Cox, Rhodes & Hall, 1988).
More recently, studies of teachers who belong to an Internet network of supporting teachers, such as the MirandaNet, have shown that the support enables them to use them in their teaching even if few other teachers in the school are doing so (Preston, 1999).
Lessons from the past have shown us that there are effective as well as ineffective strategies for providing professional development for teachers which will lead to their successful integration of ICT in their teaching. The next section discusses some of the specific skills which teachers need to have to make the best use of ICT in the classroom
3 Factors contributing to using ICT in the classroom
As a result of the literature review discussed above and in Cox, Preston and Cox (1999), there are a number of factors which have been identified which might influence and support teachers in using ICT in the classroom. In order to investigate these factors further in relation to teachers' ICT use we have used Ajzen's theories of attitudes and behaviour (Ajzen, 1988) and Weiner's review of motivation (Weiner, 1990), discussed more fully in the other BERA conference paper on motivation (Cox, Preston, and Cox, 1999). For the purpose of this paper we have considered a wider range of supporting or preventing factors, relating these to the theory of Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw (1989), discussed below.
Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw (1989) developed a theory of 'action relating to reasons' (Technology acceptance model) based on the work of Fishbein and Ajzen (in Davis et al, 1989) to investigate the reasons why some people use computers and their attitudes towards them. Their model, shown in Figure 1, links the perceived usefulness and ease of use with attitude towards using ICT and actual use (system use). They tested this model with 107 adult users, who had been using a managerial system for 14 weeks. They found that people's computer use was predicted by their intentions to use it and that perceived usefulness was also strongly linked to these intentions.
Figure 1 - Technology acceptance model (Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw, 1989)
Firstly we consider the factors influencing the uptake of ICT identified and discussed in section 2 in relation to this model
3.1 External variables
In Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw's model, the external variables represent the many influences on teachers which come from outside their sphere of control. These will include:
the requirements of a national curriculum or national guidelines;
requirements in England and Wales of the Teacher Training Agency's ICT skills of new teachers;
the new national opportunities fund for the training of teachers in the UK;
the changes in society with the rapid growth in the uses of the Internet and ICT in general;
school policies on using ICT;
opinions of colleagues;
responsibilities of the teacher;
pressure from parents and pupils;
the influence of the local education authority.
Although these have been identified as very important by a number of research studies, in leading teachers to understand the need for change and to question their professional practice, discussed earlier, only a few could be investigated within the scope of this project. The main focus of our research is on how teachers perceive ICT's contribution to teaching and learning, and whether this is in conflict with their pedagogical and epistemological beliefs. These factors come within Davis et al's perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use components.
3.2 Perceived ease of use
From previous studies there are a number of factors which have been identified which relate to the perceived ease of use of ICT, which in our case is for experienced practising ICT/IT users. The Impact project (Watson, 1993) and other studies identified a wide range of skills and competencies which teachers felt they needed in order to find ICT easy to use. Some of these are given in Table 1 below.
Table 1 - Positive and negative factors influencing perceived ease of use
|Positive factors||Negative factors|
|regular use and experience of ICT outside the classroom||difficulties in using software/hardware|
|ownership of a computer||need more technical support|
|confidence in using ICT||not enough time to use ICT|
|easy to control the class||is too expensive to use regularly|
|easy to think of new lesson ideas||insufficient access to the resources|
|can get help and advice from colleagues||restricts the content of the lessons|
3.3 Perceived usefulness
If teachers see no need to question or change their professional practice then according to studies discussed in section 2.2, they are unlikely to adopt the use of ICT. However, if they perceive ICT to be useful to them, their teaching and their pupils' learning, then according to the empirical evidence of previous studies (see also Cox, Preston and Cox, 1999) they are more likely to have a positive attitude to the use of ICT in the classroom. In our review of the literature we identified a number of factors which will contribute to teachers' perceived usefulness of ICT. Some of these factors are given in Table 2 below.
Table 2 - Positive and negative factors influencing perceived usefulness
|Positive factors||Negative factors|
|makes my lessons more interesting||makes my lessons more difficult|
|makes my lessons more diverse||makes my lessons less fun|
|has improved the presentation of materials for my lessons||reduces pupils' motivation|
|gives me more prestige||impairs pupils' learning|
|makes my administration more efficient||restricts the content of the lessons|
|gives me more confidence||is not enjoyable|
|makes the lessons more fun||takes up too much time|
|enhances my career prospects||is counter-productive due to insufficient technical resources|
|help[s me to discuss teaching ideas|
Teachers' attitudes to many of these factors will depend upon how easy they perceive using ICT to be on a personal level as well as for teaching in the classroom.
According to Davis et al's technology acceptance model shown in Figure 1, the more positive the responses to the above factors of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use, then the more positive the attitudes of teachers will be to the use of ICT and the more likely they will be to use ICT in their teaching. One major aim of our research project was to investigate the reliability of this model using experienced ICT teachers, and to find out which of the factors were considered to be important to the sample of teachers.
4 The Study
Informal research by the MirandaNet project began in 1992 with the collection of the reports from the MirandaNet members. This was followed by the commissioned study which began in May 1998. The research is now in the final stage of analysis and reporting. For a more detailed description of all the research objectives, see Cox, Preston and Cox (1999).
The focus of this paper is on the investigation into the factors which contributed to the perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use discussed in section 2. The project methodology is discussed briefly below. A more detailed description is given in the paper on motivation (Cox, Preston and Cox, 1999).
4.1 Research methodology
In order to investigate the factors which influence the uptake of ICT, a range of methods were used to collect evidence from practising teachers.
Stage 1 Literature Search and Examination of MirandaNet Data
Stage 1 involved:
the analysis of a range of paper based and electronically based evidence collected from members of MirandaNet since 1992.
an on-going literature review of other research publications and practical accounts of the motivation of teachers to use ICT and other relevant factors about teachers' uptake of ICT in their teaching.
Stage 2 Questionnaire survey
A questionnaire was designed to collect evidence from teachers and other educators about their ICT experiences, expertise and use in teaching, their attitudes to the value of ICT for teaching and learning, the training they had received and, when relevant, their reasons for being a member of an association. The main sections in the questionnaire are shown in Table 3 below. The complete questionnaire will be provided in the final report of the project.
Table 3 - Main sections of the ICT in education questionnaire
|Title of section||Type of information requested||
Number of items
|Personal information||name, age, teaching commitments, subjects taught||
|Personal use of computers||ownership, type of computer, ICT skills, ICT uses, Internet uses||
|Use of computers in school/institution||number of years used, types of use, use in teaching, Web sites valued||
|Using ICT in your teaching||value and difficulties of using ICT, advantages and disadvantages of using ICT||
|Using the Internet in your teaching||number of staff with email addresses, useful Web sites, Internet services, NGFL issues, purpose of using the Internet||
|Professional development||Types of courses attended, membership of professional associations, benefits of inservice training, types of training received and its location, contribution to the professional development of others||
|Using ICT for administration||types of ICT use, responsibility for task||
|Professional association information||purpose of membership, length of membership, perceived value of service provided||
|Total number of items||
The sample who were sent the questionnaire consisted of:
15 members of MirandaNet, with an extra 2 each to give to their colleagues (total 45);
15 members of The National Association of Co-ordinators and IT Teachers (ACITT), with an extra 2 each to give to their colleagues (total 45);
15 members of Teachernet UK with an extra 2 each to give to their colleagues (total 45).
Two further stages involved designing a framework for the professional development of teachers (Stage 3) and a focus group meeting (Stage 4) to consider the issues revealed during stages 1, 2 and 3 of the project and to obtain further feedback on these issues and our analysis from practising teachers.
4.2 Research evaluation strategies
The research evaluation strategies involved:
(a) Qualitative analyses of the MirandaNet data and evidence from the literature;
(b) Design, pilot evaluation and modification of the questionnaire. (The design of the questionnaire was reviewed by 10 peers from four different associations and was revised in the light of their feedback).
(c) Quantitative analysis of the questionnaire;
(c) Evaluation of the framework and recommendations for dissemination
The focus group of 20 teachers and other educators, many of whom also responded to the questionnaire, was used to review the results and contribute to more detailed explanations relating to the specific responses to the questionnaire and other data.
Results relevant to this paper, focusing on the teachers' perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness are presented here in three subsections. The first consists of the variables describing the sample. The second subsection presents the results relevant to factors associated with perceived ease of use. The third consists of the relevant factors about perceived usefulness. The data from the questionnaire has been analysed using SPSS and EXCEL Further results about specific factors regarding the motivation of teachers are discussed in Cox, Preston and Cox (1999). The interpretation of the uptake of ICT results are discussed in Section 6.
5.1 Description of the questionnaire sample
Questionnaires were returned by 82 educators, 60.7% of the total of 135 questionnaires that were sent. Table 4 and Figure 2 show the proportion of male and female respondents and the distribution of ages respectively.
Table 4 - Biological sex of the respondents
The mean age of the respondents was 42 years, which shows that, for our sample of experienced ICT users, the majority were in the middle aged bracket. This is contrary to some previous research findings reported in the literature that ICT is mostly conducted by newly qualified and younger teachers, although since many of the secondary school respondents held senior positions in their own departments, i.e. as IT/ICT co-ordinator, it is not unexpected that they would have several years' teaching experience already and therefore be older than the majority of newly qualified teachers.
Figure 2 - Age distribution of sample
There were many more males than females in the sample, which could be due to there being more male IT teachers and co-ordinators nationally. The detailed reasons for this can be investigated at a later stage.
The majority of the sample were not members of the professional organisations that were targeted for this project. 37 respondents were from the three associations, namely MirandaNet, ACITT, and TeacherNet, whereas the remaining 45 were their colleagues. The distribution of the groups of the respondents is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 4 below shows the distribution of the phases in which the respondents teach. The majority were teachers in secondary schools with just over a quarter from primary schools. A very small minority stated that they teach in the 6th form or were involved in cross phase work. Some of the respondents were teacher educators or held other positions outside of schools. Figure 5 shows the job distribution of the respondents, indicating that the largest group were IT teachers or co-ordinators, with 20% being other class teachers, and approximately 20% being managers. The remainder (under 10%) were in a range of other educational positions, such as librarians, special needs teachers and IT technicians.
Figure 3 - Distribution of the groups of the respondents
Figure 4 - Distribution of respondents by education sector
5.2 Teachers' perceptions about perceived ease of use
Data presented here relates to the factors given in Table 1, regular use and experience, ownership of a computer, confidence in using ICT. The results are presented in three sections, personal home use, administrative use and use in the classroom
Personal home use
Figure 6 shows the most frequent uses of ICT at home being word-processing, and Table 5 below shows that at least 76% of the teachers
performed a range of IT basic tasks, such as formatting disks and file management at home.
Figure 6 - the forms of ICT use made most frequently at home
Table 5 - ICT tasks performed by teachers at home
No. of respondents
% of responses
% of cases
|connecting to external devices||
|using help facilities||
|creating sub directories||
Only three people did not have access to a computer at home with over 75% having Email at home, shown in Figure 7 below.
Similar data were collected from a range of factors relating to the personal
use of ICT, indicating that the large majority of the teachers perceived that they had no difficulties with using software and hardware and that they were confident in using ICT for their personal requirements.
Teachers were asked a range of questions about using ICT for correspondence, time-tabling, preparing worksheets, pupils records and assessing pupils. The majority of the respondents use ICT for many of this tasks with little evidence of any difficulties in this use. Most of the respondents agreed that it made their administration more efficient
A list of all the questions relating to the teachers' opinions about how easy it was to use ICT in the classroom are provided in Appendix A. The results are also correlated with each other and with the teachers' extent of ICT use. These results show that many of the factors reported in previous studies as deterring teachers from using ICT and given in Table 1, were not found to be prominent amongst our sample of experienced ICT and IT teachers. Some of these results are given in more detail below.
Figure 8 - Responses relating to the extent to which using ICT makes it difficult to control the class
Figure 8 shows that the majority of the sample disagreed that using ICT in a lessons made the class more difficult to control. Similar findings were obtained for other ease of use factors, with less agreement in some cases:
ICT makes the lesson more difficult for me - majority disagreed
ICT makes preparing the lessons more difficult - majority disagreed, but with a significant minority agreeing;
Hardware and software problems often disrupt lessons - majority agreed;
Using ICT in teaching is expensive - majority agreed.
There were specific aspects still perceived as inadequate, for example Figure 9 shows that over 65% of the respondents would like more ICT resources for their teaching.
Figure 9 - Distribution of teachers wanting more resources
Although some of the responses given above indicate that there are some negative influences on the teachers' perceived ease of use of ICT, they all reported regular use in their personal life and in their teaching. The results below show the teachers perceptions of the usefulness of ICT in their teaching.
5.3 Perceived usefulness of ICT in teaching
Analysis of the full list of factors relating to class use shown in Appendix A reveals a very positive attitude amongst the majority of the teachers to using ICT in their teaching. The majority (85%) agreed that using ICT made their lessons more interesting, and 90% thought that ICT made their lessons more enjoyable.
Figure 10- Responses relating to the extent to which IT was considered to make lessons more interesting
Figure 11- Responses relating to the extent to which using IT in teaching was considered to be unenjoyable
The responses to other perceived usefulness factors include:
makes lessons more fun - 75% agreed
lesson more diverse - 95% agreed
improves presentation of materials 95% agreed
and for negative factors:
makes lessons more difficult 65% disagreed
reduces pupils' motivation 70% disagreed
impairs pupils learning 95% disagreed
Figure 12- Responses relating to the extent to which using IT in teaching enhances their career prospects
Data were also collected about the teachers' perceptions relating to other benefits of using ICT. Figure 12 above shows that s significant minority of respondents believed that using ICT enhanced their career prospects.
Additional factors included:
ICT gives me more power in school
About 1/3 said they agreed/strongly agreed with this, although further analysis of this result is needed since many of the respondents were already heads of departments or deputy heads of schools
ICT gives me more prestige
Again a substantial minority agreed with this
Using ICT in teaching has given me more confidence using computers
Using ICT in teaching has given me greater awareness of its uses
again many agreed.
Substantial data was collected about the effects of previous training and the types of training the teachers had experienced. We also collected data on the teachers' plans for extending their uses of ICT to the national grid for learning, as shown in Figure 13, and the value of the Internet for a range of supporting uses of ICT in their teaching, an example of which is given in Figure 14. Figures 13 and 14 show that even though the teachers in the sample were already using ICT extensively in their teaching and still wished for further resources, they still intended to make further uses of ICT in the future.
Figure 13- Responses relating to the extent to which teachers plan to use the NGFL in the future for their teaching
Figure 14 Responses relating to the extent to which teachers value the Internet for discussing teaching ideas
It seems foolish to attempt to work on ICT development in isolation when with a little communication, ideas can be shared, discussed and refined
(Design and Technology and co-ordinator of staff ICT training)
The review of the previous literature has revealed a range of issues relating to the uptake of ICT in teaching, including specific factors to do with teachers' perceptions about the value and use of ICT in their teaching. Davis, Bagozzi and Warshaw's model shows that ease of use and perceived usefulness can have a positive influence on teachers' use of ICT. Our results have shown that the teachers who are already regular users of ICT have confidence in using ICT, perceive it to be useful for their personal work and for their teaching and plan to extend their use further in the future.
The factors which were found to be most important to these teachers in their teaching were: making the lessons more interesting, easier, more fun for them and their pupils, more diverse, more motivating for the pupils and more enjoyable. Additional more personal factors were improving presentation of materials, allowing greater access to computers for personal use, giving more power to the teacher in the school, giving the teacher more prestige, making the teachers' administration more efficient and providing professional support through the Internet.
These findings have implications for training other teachers to become regular users since as was discussed in section 2, many of the professional development courses focus on teachers acquiring basic IT skills. Our research has shown that the perceived usefulness factors are probably equally important to teachers, therefore professional courses should increase the training of teachers in the pedagogical issues if teachers are to be convinced of the value of using ICT in their teaching.
The project team would like to acknowledge the support for this study from the Teacher Training Agency, who funded most of the work, Oracle who funded the focus group and other meetings, conference presentations and teachers' on-line communications, MirandaNet who initiated the project and whose members provided valuable information about their uses of Information and Communications Technologies, members of The National Association of Co-ordinators and IT Teachers (ACITT), Teachernet UK, and the Learning Circuit who responded to the questionnaire survey and attended the focus group meeting.
Ajzen, I (1988) Attitudes, personality and behavior. Open University
Bliss, J., Chandra, PAJ., & Cox, M.J. (1986)The Introduction of Computers into a School. Advances in Computer Assisted Learning. Pergamon
Cox, M. J, Rhodes, V. & Hall, J. (1988) The use of Computer Assisted Learning in primary schools: some factors affecting the uptake. Computers and Education Vol 12(1). pp. 173-178.
Cox, M.J, (1993) Information Technology Resourcing and Use in Watson, D.M. (Ed.) Impact - An evaluation of the Impact of the Information Technology on Children's Achievements in Primary and Secondary Schools. King's College London
Cox, M.J. (1994) An overview of the Problems and Issues associated with the Uptake of Computers in the United Kingdom Education Institutions.. in Visions for Teaching and Learning. Educomp'94 Proceedings. Malaysian Council for Computers in Education. June pp 233 - 247.
Cox, M.J., Preston, C., & Cox, K. (1999) What Motivates Teachers to use ICT?. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference. Brighton. September
Davis, F.d, Bagozzi, R.P & Warshaw, P.R. (1989) User acceptance of computer technology: a comparison of two theoretical models. Management Science. Vol 35(8). 982-1003
Desforges, C. (1995) (British Journal of Teacher Education? BERJ?
Fullan (1991) The new meaning of Educational Change. Cassell. London
NCET (1994) Portable Computers in Action. National Council For Educational Technology. Coventry. UK
Passey, D. & Samways, B. (Eds. ) (1997) Information Technology Supporting Change through Teacher Education. IFIP . Chapman & Hall. London
Underwood, J. (1997). Breaking the cycle of ignorance: information technology and the professional development of teachers. in Passey, D. & Samways, B. (Eds.) Information Technology. supporting change through teacher education. Chapman & Hall. pp 155 - 160.
Watson, D.M. (Ed.) (1993) IMPACT - An evaluation of the IMPACT of the Information Technology on Children's Achievements in Primary and Secondary Schools. King's College London
Weiner, B (1990) The History of Motivational Research. Journal of Educational Psychology Vol. 82. (4) 616-627
Woodrow, J. (1990) Locus of Control and student teacher computer attitudes. Computers Educ. Vol. 14. No. 4 pp 421-432