Doing 'what works': a substantive grounded theory of teacher perceptions and uses of technology in a Korean university general English department

Webster, Thomas E. (2011) Doing 'what works': a substantive grounded theory of teacher perceptions and uses of technology in a Korean university general English department. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate what teachers experience as they considered the use of technology in their Korean university English classes. It was a qualitative study which attempted to provide a grounded explanation of the complexities that led teachers to begin adopting technology in their teaching or, in some cases, to reject it outright. This case study involved the general English program of a major women‘s university in Seoul, Republic of Korea (where the researcher currently works as a faculty member).

This study assumes the perspectives of teachers and viewed the complicated decision and implementation process through their thoughts and actions. It was believed that only through the perspectives of teachers could the messy business of implementation be properly understood and explained. A grounded theory of investigation therefore underpinned a mixed-techniques approach. The impetus for this method was reached after a close reading of diffusion of innovations theory by Everett Rogers (2003) and therefore similarities to and differences from this theory are likewise considered where appropriate and in conclusion.

Data for the study were collected through three main techniques: semi-structured interviews, a survey questionnaire, and classroom observations. An iterative, grounded method of analysis was used for all three techniques, aided by the application of both qualitative and quantitative software programs (Atlas.ti 5.0 and SPSS 16.0 respectively). The study first employed thirteen semi-structured interviews to identify phenomena and concepts which were further explored in a subsequent survey questionnaire (along with some aspects of Rogers‘ [2003] theory), which was administered to all full-time and part-time instructors (16 and 34 respectively) in the General English Department at Park University (a pseudonym). Information from both sources helped to select theoretically a set of five teachers to participate in classroom observations and follow-up interviews to explore developing categories and their properties, aspects, and dimensions. Furthermore, teachers participating in all four strands of the study were consulted throughout the research in order to clarify and/or verify concepts and perceptions.

Results from the study are organized under a substantive theory entitled ―what works‖. This expression is not to be confused with the term as associated with evidenced-based research (EBR), although certain similarities can be found. This theory of ―what works‖ explains the complex interactions that transpire both in and out of the classroom as teachers attempt to balance adaptation to changes with personal and administrative goals. Concepts of roles and responsibilities as well as self-efficacy, image, satisfaction, and sociability all interweave to reinforce ―teacher psychodynamics‖ which formed the basis for decision making. It was found that within this system teachers‘ professional uses of technology were influenced by personality factors, previous learning experiences, teaching beliefs, and beliefs about technology. However, the decision to use any resource (technological or otherwise) was found to be dependent on what worked. Teachers were interested (to varying degrees) in ideas about the benefits of technology; however, in the final analysis, they employed it only if it consistently worked for them in the classroom. As one teacher explained, ―As a teacher, you‘re never done…so you can only do what works‖. A final element in this process was the willingness or aptitude of teachers as lifelong learners given that teaching with technology involves continuous renewal and adaptation.

Further implications indicate a general disconnect between contemporary educational practices and the learning needs of a majority of students. It is posited that the use of technology in education exacerbates this disconnect, leading to inconsistencies in application and a limitation of potential benefits both for technology and for education in general. Final recommendations suggest the need for debate on the reconciliation between longstanding educational beliefs and practices and the current and future needs of students.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Education (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Supervisors: Son, Jeong-Bae; Danaher, Patrick
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2011 06:39
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2016 01:50
Uncontrolled Keywords: technology; Korean; Korea; university; English classes
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing
13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390405 Educational technology and computing
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education

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