The Role of Teacher Epistemology in Integrating Student-Centered Instructional Software: A Case Study in Social Studies Education
Type of DegreeDissertation
Leadership and Technology
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This qualitative study was designed to examine the role of history teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning on their use of student-centered instructional software (Decision Point!) in an instructional unit, factors that inhibited or facilitated particular uses of the software, the type of role the software played in the unit, as well as teacher attitudes about use of the software. The study involved five high school social studies teachers and their students. Teachers completed the Schommer Epistemological Questionnaire (EQ) prior to the study as a means of determining general beliefs about the nature of knowledge. Beliefs were measured on a continuum from more naïve (or objectivist) to more sophisticated (or constructivist). Additional data were collected during interviews with teachers and students, classroom observations, and example lesson plans and other classroom materials. Case study methods were used to analyze the data both within and across cases. Two of the teachers, those on opposite ends of the epistemological continuum, carried out a Decision Point!-supported instructional unit that predominantly matched their espoused beliefs and observed teaching style. The other three teachers exhibited more traditional, transmission-oriented practices during the instructional unit, although all three reported more constructivist beliefs on the Schommer EQ. A number of factors were identified that conflicted with or took precedent over teachers’ beliefs in regard to decisions about their teaching practice. External factors as well as established teaching practice held more influence over the teachers’ implementation strategies. Findings also included a list of barriers to effectively integrate instructional technology: unwillingness to change established teaching practice, the influence of state standards and standardized tests, limited access to computer resources, lack of knowledge about effective implementation methods, time constraints, and the lack of computer skills. Factors were also identified that either promoted or would influence the use of instructional software: perceived learning benefits for students, quality software/resources (if available), support from administrators, and the age or skill level of students. This study illustrated some of the obstacles related to integrating student-centered instructional software in social studies classes. A number of implications for teachers, schools, and designers of instructional software are discussed.