This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Schools, teachers, and students are increasingly able to access and apply assistive technology to enhance inclusion within mainstream classrooms. The assistive technology may take the form of simple, easy-to-use, low-tech devices, or they may encompass more sophisticated, highly complicated devices that require training and greater levels of support to manage. To ensure that a classroom is truly inclusive, the teacher and other professionals involved in supporting children with disabilities and using assistive technology require appropriate knowledge and skills to bring potential to reality. The knowledge concerning what is available in the field of assistive technology is merely the starting point. Inclusive educators also require expertise in selecting devices and services, including the student in decision making, implementing the assistive technology within an inclusive setting, and assessing the effectiveness of the assistive technology to meet the needs of the student and the classroom.
There are many successful examples of assistive technology being successfully embedded into the practices of inclusive settings, but there is still some way to go to ensure this is a seamless approach and one that is universally informed by practice. While legislation can go some way toward mandating the use of assistive technology, teachers and schools are really at the forefront of implementation. There are many benefits and difficulties associated with adopting assistive technology to support students with disabilities, particularly in developing countries. While the challenges may be great, the potential for assistive technology to impact significantly on the educational, social, and recreational outcomes for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms is immense.
Harrison Hao Yang and Jason MacLeod
Practices of blended learning are being wholeheartedly accepted and implemented into the mainstream processes of educational delivery throughout the world. This trend follows a large body of research that suggests blended learning approaches can be more effective than both traditional face-to-face instruction and entirely computer-mediated instructional approaches. However, in teacher education there are two important factors that influence the outcomes of blended learning; first, the articulation of differences between instructional approaches, and second, the understanding of key pedagogical strategies that support student success. Research on blended learning in teacher education should include both preservice and in-service teacher participants. Preservice teachers are individuals operating in the preparation and training stages, prior to assuming full responsibility of a professional teaching role. In-service teachers are individuals practicing as teachers that are typically still toward completion of their early career induction training to the profession.
Both historical utilization and future research trends are evident through a critical analysis of the last three decades of highly cited scholarship on blended learning in teacher education. Historical utilization trends show an emergence of online and blended learning approaches, which reached nearly 30% of postsecondary education students in 2016. Future research trends include evidence-based practices, preparing for active learning classrooms, building capacity for practical training, collaborative teaching opportunities, leveraging blended learning to improve education equity, and cultivating mixed reality blended learning environments. Researchers, practitioners, administrators, and policymakers should continue to stay informed on this topic and continuously find ways to improve the application of blended learning in teacher education.
Initial teacher education is increasingly happening online, both formally and informally, within networks that are commercial, institutional, governmental, and research-driven. These networks make use of the capabilities of the internet and related technology to better support teachers. The scholarship of teacher learning within online networks can be divided into four main strands: network design, outcomes from network participation, agency within the network of networks, and critical perspectives on online networks of teachers.
Online networks are designed environments, and there are design decisions involved in developing different types of teacher network. Research into networked learning provides a common language for talking about these networks that allows for articulation of transferable design principles and comparison between networks.
Some studies of networks of teachers are conducted with a focus upon the forms of social support that teachers provide for each other. These studies look to understand the role of online networks within the profession, and to contribute to growing and testing the base of theoretical knowledge about how teachers can be better supported through online networks.
There is a growing strand of literature that focuses upon how teacher agency can be developed so that each teacher can take advantage of a world in which online networks are prevalent and can use them to flourish within the profession. Teachers can learn to develop their own professional learning network that makes use of existing online networks.
While there is much optimism about the potential of online learning networks to support teachers and serve the profession, there are also perspectives that are critical of the widespread embrace of online networks by teachers and the way in which this development is changing the profession.
Erica Sharplin, Garth Stahl, and Ben Kehrwald
Teaching in the early 21st century is subject to a high degree of scrutiny around effectiveness and competence. It has been argued that teachers effect student learning most positively when they take ownership of their own craft. Coaching models provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to do just that, specifically, to engage in purposeful learning activities, receive and provide feedback, and reflect on and discuss their practice.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there are differences between coaching and mentoring. The National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching defines mentoring as a structured process for supporting professional learners through career transitions, whereas coaching enables the development of a specific aspect of practice and the embedding of specialist knowledge. Coaching for in-service teaching has been accepted practice since the early 1980s, but its adoption in pre-service teacher education is relatively new. As research on the potential of coaching has developed, interest in it continues to gain momentum in higher education. Pre-service teaching coaching models often incorporate training in coaching and/or instructional techniques, behaviors and technology, feedback and reflection. Also, models usually follow a cycle comprised of pre-conference, observation and post-conference, although technological innovations are seeing a shift from deferred (asynchronous) feedback to immediate (synchronous) feedback, which is arguably more effective. To date, coaching in pre-service education has been non-evaluative. Generally, pre-service teachers value the results of coaching, which include rapid skill development, the promotion of reflective practice, growth in self-confidence and improved student learning. However, the time-consuming nature of coaching, particularly with synchronous models, is a barrier to adoption.
David Kaufman and Alice Ireland
Simulations provide opportunities to extend and enhance the practice, feedback, and assessment provided during teacher education. A simulation is a simplified but accurate, valid, and dynamic model of reality. A simulation allows users to encounter problem situations, test decisions and actions, experience the results, and modify behavior cost-effectively and without risking harm. Simulations may or may not be implemented using digital technologies but increasingly take advantage of them to provide more realism, flexibility, access, and detailed feedback. Simulations have many advantages for learning and practice, including the ability to repeat scenarios with specific learning objectives, practice for longer periods than are available in real life, use trial and error, experience rare or risky situations, and measure outcomes with validated scoring systems. For skills development, a simulation’s outcome measures, combined with debriefing and reflection, serve as feedback for a formative assessment cycle of repeated performance practice and improvement.
Simulations are becoming more common in preservice teacher education for skills such as lesson planning and implementation, classroom management, ethical practice, and teaching students with varying learning needs. Preservice teachers can move from theory into action, with more practice time and variety than would be available in limited live practicum sessions and without negatively affecting vulnerable students. While simulations are widely accepted in medical and health education, examples in teacher education have often been research prototypes used in experimental settings. These prototypes and newer commercial examples demonstrate the potential of simulations as a tool for both preservice and in-service teacher education. However, cost, simulation limitations, and lack of rigorous evidence as to their effectiveness has slowed their widespread adoption.
Margaret L. Niess
The 21st-century explosion and decisive impact of digital media on education has highlighted the need for rethinking the required teacher knowledge for guiding students in taking advantage of improved technological affordances. The reformed teacher knowledge, called technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK or TPACK), is knowledge reflecting a dynamic equilibrium for the interaction of technology, pedagogy, and content. The intersection of these three knowledge domains reveals four additional subsets: technological pedagogical knowledge, technological content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and technological pedagogical content knowledge. The summation of these domains resides within the intellectual, social, and cultural contexts of education, to reveal the knowledge known as TPCK/TPACK. Teacher educators, researchers, and scholars have been and continue to be challenged with identifying appropriate experiences and programs for assessing and developing this teacher knowledge for integrating digital technologies as learning tools in reformed educational environments. Two questions guide this review of the literature surrounding the active, international scholarship and research toward understanding the nature of TPCK/TPACK and guiding the development of teachers’ TPCK/TPACK. The response to the first question describes the nature of this teacher knowledge for the digital age and how it differs from prior descriptions of teachers’ knowledge. The response to the second question explores the research and scholarship unveiling how this knowledge is developed and assessed at the pre-service and in-service teacher levels. From this scholarly work, three distinct views on the nature of TPCK/TPACK are proposed to explain various approaches in how this teacher knowledge is both developed and assessed in pre-service and in-service preparation programs. The integrated, heterogeneous vision recognizes the distinctness of the multiple subsets in the model and calls for specific preparation in each of the domains as key to developing the teacher knowledge for the digital age. The transformative, homogeneous vision considers the knowledge as a whole, composed through the integration of the multiple subset. Through the educational processes, the multiple subsets are rearranged, merged, organized, integrated and assimilated in such a way that none are any longer individually discernible. The third vision, called the distinctive vision, acknowledges the critical nature of the primary domains of pedagogy, content and technology and proposes the value of preparing teachers in each of these distinct domains. Supporting teachers for gaining the TPCK/TPACK-based knowledge, the preparation must respond to changes in content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. These cumulative scholarly efforts provide a launchpad for future research focused on developing teachers’ knowledge for teaching in the digital age.