An Appraisal of the Content Knowledge of Primary Teacher Trainers’ of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Student Teachers’ Academic Achievement In ICT

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Published on International Journal of Informatics, Technology & Computers
Publication Date: July 4, 2019

Maureen Lum Akumsi
Faculty of Education, University of Buea
Cameroon, West Africa

Journal Full Text PDF: An Appraisal of the Content Knowledge of Primary Teacher Trainers’ of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Student Teachers’ Academic Achievement In ICT (Studied In The South-West Region Of Cameroon).

This study sought to find out the extent to which Primary Teacher Trainers’ Content knowledge of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) influences Student teachers’ Academic Achievement in ICT. A sample comprising of 268 student teachers and 10 teacher trainers in ICT selected from three Government teacher training colleges in Fako and Meme Divisions of the South West Region of Cameroon was used in this study. The data collected by use of questionnaire items, observation check list and interview guide were analyzed using frequency percentages, Spearman’s Rho and Chi-square tests. Findings revealed that there is a significant strong and positive correlation between primary teacher trainers’ knowledge of ICT content and student teachers’ examination scores in ICT. It was thus concluded that the ICT content knowledge of ICT teacher trainers is an indicator of student teachers’ academic achievement in ICT. This thus calls for the need for in-service training to equip teacher trainers with the knowledge they need to be able to effectively teach ICT.

Keyword: Appraisal, Primary Teacher Trainers’ content knowledge, Student Teachers’ Academic Achievement, Information and Communication technology (ICT), South-West Region of Cameroon.

Information and communication technology (ICT) provides innovative tools for restructuring the teaching and learning process so as to adequately prepare students for 21st century skills; Haji, Moluayonge & Park (2017). In order to be capable of adequately preparing student teachers, teacher trainers who teach ICT need to have a command of the subject matter or ICT content. UNESCO (2002) stipulates that, to be able to effectively harness the power of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve learning, teachers must have the knowledge and skills required to be able to use the new digital tools and resources effectively so as to help all students achieve high academic standards. Effective teachers thus ought to have a command of the subject matter or content to be taught. In addition to being knowledgeable in the subject matter, an effective teacher should also be able to select the subject matter according to the level and other characteristics of the learners.
UNESCO (1998) World Education Report, on Teachers and Teaching in a changing world, stipulates that, for education to reap the full benefits of ICTs in learning, it is essential that both pre-service and in-service teachers have basic ICT competencies. Telewa (2008), points out that, teacher effectiveness can only be guaranteed when the teacher trainer possesses the needed skills, knowledge, instructional resources, attitudes and dispositions towards the pedagogy of ICT. Telewa (2008) however regrets the fact that teachers with little or no knowledge are assigned to teach ICT in some teacher training Colleges.
Teacher quality appears to be a priority area in education policy. For example, the Federal ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act of 2001, stipulates the need for every state to put a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Similarly, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, Sec. 1119) defines a highly qualified teacher as someone who holds at least a bachelor’s degree, is a state certified/ licensed teacher, and has demonstrated competence in the academic area in which he or she teaches.
Feiman- Nemser (2001:1015) opines that “what students learn depend on what teachers teach; and what and how teachers teach depends on the knowledge, skills and commitments they bring to their teaching” (p.1015). Similarly, Hattie (2003) states that “it is what teachers know, do and care about which is very powerful in the learning equation” (p.2). Content knowledge could thus be considered as strong determinant of teacher effectiveness.

Despite the great importance of ICT in the acquisition of knowledge worldwide, in Cameroon there are problems which seem to be inhibiting its effective teaching at all levels of education including the Primary Teacher Training Colleges. A majority of teachers, who were trained in the 1990s and backward, do not have knowledge and skills in the field of ICT (Aina 2013). Yet some of such teachers are posted to teach ICT in Teacher Training Colleges in Cameroon. Furthermore, most primary government teacher trainers are graduates from the department of Sciences of Education, at the General Higher Teacher Training Colleges. ICT is not amongst the disciplines taught to student teachers under this department while on training, thus no provision is made for the preparation of would-be teachers towards the teaching of ICT as a subject. Yet on the field, graduates from this department are assigned to teach it despite the fact that they have not been exposed to any formal training on it. It is thus common to find teachers grappling with the teaching of this discipline. Such teachers; who were not exposed to ICT education during training might not have acquired adequate ICT content knowledge and knowledge of how to appropriately use ICT instructional materials in the teaching learning process thus rendering the teaching of ICT abstract and at the jeopardy of the student teachers (Onyejekwe 2006). The lack of trained teachers for ICT seems to compromise the quality of ICT taught in teacher training colleges in Cameroon. It is thus based on this back drop that this study seeks to investigate the extent to which primary teacher trainers’ ICT content knowledge influences student teachers’ academic achievement in ICT.

1.2 Research Question/ Hypotheses
This study set out to answer the following question: To what extent does primary teacher trainers’ ICT Content Knowledge influence student teachers’ examination scores in ICT?
The following research hypothesis was formulated to guide the study:
Ho: There is no significant relationship between primary Teacher Trainers’ ICT content knowledge and student teachers’ examination scores in ICT.
Mihra and Koehler (2007) define content knowledge (CK) as the knowledge about the subject matter to be learnt and taught. Similarly, Cochan, King, and DeRuiter (1991) differentiated between a teacher and content knowledge specialists by stating that the difference that exists between teachers and other professionals such as biologists, scientists and educational researchers does not necessarily lie in the quality or quantity of their subject matter knowledge, but rather on how that knowledge is organized and used. Teachers’ lack of a comprehensive base of CK can be prohibitive to Students’ understanding of lessons taught and hence detrimental to the academic achievements of the students. This is due to the fact that when students are opened to receiving incorrect information from their teachers they can develop misconceptions about the subject matter (National Research Council, 2000; Pfundt, & Duit, 2000)
According to the glossary of Education reform (2016), content Knowledge refers to the body of knowledge that teachers teach hence what the students are expected to learn in a given subject area. In order for teachers to be effective, they need to acquire and be able to demonstrate command of subject matter or content to be taught, as well as command of theoretical and pedagogic knowledge about learning and human behavior. Teachers thus need to be highly knowledgeable in the subject, and should be able to select the subject matter taking into consideration the class size, level, age and other characteristics of the learners. (Anthony and Walshaw (2007).
Teacher content knowledge is an important factor that determines how effective teachers of ICT and those of all other disciplines at all levels of education are, in the accomplishment of their tasks. Talking about the importance of teachers’ knowledge in the teaching of mathematics, Anthony and Walshaw (2007) point out that what teachers do in classrooms is very much dependent on what they know and believe about Mathematics and what they understand about the teaching and learning of Mathematics. Similarly, Walshaw (2012) points out that teachers with limited subject matter knowledge have been shown to focus on a narrow conceptual field rather than on forging wider connections between the facts, concepts, structures and teaching of Mathematics.
Still as concerns the influence of teachers’ knowledge on the teaching of mathematics, Ball and Bass (2000) point out that teachers’ content knowledge is critical for effective teaching. They add that pedagogical content knowledge influences the connections teachers make between aspects of mathematical knowledge, the interaction between the teacher and the students, as well as the teacher’s professional reflections within the classroom. They conclude by stating that a sound content and pedagogical knowledge provide the resources for an on-the-spot synthesis of actions, thinking, theories and principles within classroom episodes, hence may enhance student achievement. Similarly, a sound content and pedagogical knowledge may enable teacher trainers to teach ICT concepts more efficiently, thus will likely lead to an increase in the level of attainment of lesson objectives by teachers.

Theoretically, this study utilizes Shulman’s (1986, 1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) theory and Koehler & Mishra’s (2006) theory of Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK).

2.1.1 Shulman’s (1986, 1987) Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) theory
The notion of Pedagogic Content Knowledge was first introduced in the field of education by Lee Shulman in 1986. Schulman (1986) identified a special domain of teacher knowledge, which he referred to as pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Shulman (1986) opined that for meaningful learning to occur, teachers must possess knowledge of subject matter or content. PCK represents the unique nature of teachers’ knowledge of content and pedagogy. Shulman 1986 as cited in De Miranda 2008), describes PCK as the knowledge that comprises of three knowledge bases which come together to inform teacher practice, namely, subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of context.
This Theorist distinguished between content as it is studied and learned in disciplinary settings and pedagogical knowledge needed for teaching a subject. A central contribution of the work of Shulman and his colleagues was to reframe the study of teacher knowledge in ways that included direct attention to the role of content in teaching. This was a radical departure from research of the day, which focused almost exclusively on general aspects of teaching such as classroom management, time allocation, or planning.
Shulman (1985) points out that teachers should not treat subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge as being mutually exclusive. He stipulates that teacher Education programs should strive at combining the two knowledge fields. This thus implies that to be effective in teaching ICT, teacher trainers ought to have a good mastery of the content (subject matter) to be taught, as well as a good knowledge of the teaching methods or strategies to use in teaching in order to meet up with the expected outcomes of lessons taught. This dynamic integration of knowledge of content, students, pedagogy, and educational contexts is PCK, which constitutes the unique professional knowledge of teachers. PCK plays an important role in the teaching learning process during classroom instructions since it has to do with teachers’ competence in delivering lessons, and their mastery of the subject matter or content (Marzita 2014).
A full grasp of PCK may facilitate effective teaching of ICT by teacher trainers thus may enhance student teachers’ academic achievement in ICT. Marzita (2014) points out that education needs more real and practical instruction. This Arthur adds that just as teachers have misconceptions of subject matter, so too teachers may teach wrong concepts to students; thus Shulman (1987) PCK theory can help reduce teachers’ misconceptions. PCK involves blending of content and pedagogy in order to better understand how particular topics, problems or issues are organized, represented and adapted to both the diverse interests and levels of learners’ abilities (Shulman 1987). This theorist adds that to be effective, teachers must be capable of transforming the knowledge to be taught to the students in a manner that will be easily understood. For actual teaching, teachers should not only skillfully demonstrate their knowledge, but should also be capable of guiding the students to understand and make meaning of the content (Hansen 1995). This thus shows the importance of PCK in the delivery of instruction in any classroom.
Shulman and Grossman (1988) divided knowledge into two components; substantive knowledge that has to do with key facts, concepts and principles and explanatory frameworks in a discipline, and the syntactic knowledge which deals with the rules of evidence and proof within a discipline. Shulman, cited in Marzita (2014), defines PCK as teachers’ interpretations of subject matter knowledge in the contexts of facilitating the students’ learning. Students can only respond and interact freely with their teachers in class during the teaching learning process if they are confident with their understanding of subject matter taught. Through the students’ response, teachers can be able to identify their errors and misconceptions immediately. To be successful, teachers thus need to have a good mastery or understanding of the subject they teach. This thus implies that teacher trainers’ understanding of subject matter or content of ICT may influence student teachers’ learning of ICT.
Shulman (1986) states that the transformation of subject matter knowledge (SMK) is a significant focus in teacher education. In support of this view, other researchers and educators (Graeber 1999; Leinhardt, Putnam, Stein & Baxter, 1991) have equally stressed the need for teachers to alleviate their misconceptions about their subject matter. Lack of PCK negatively influences both the teachers’ effective teaching and the learning process of students. In order to effectively carry out their duties of enhancing students’ achievement, teachers should thus be free of misconceptions and errors. This can only be realized if the teachers are apt in their PCK. For “there is a close relationship with what a teacher knows, how she knows it and what she can do in the context of an instruction” (Marzita 2014:6). Shulman’s (1986, 1987) theory thus has a bearing to this study because for ICT teacher trainers to be effective they must have a sound knowledge of content (subject matter) and a good knowledge of pedagogy. This is due to the fact that both the teachers’ subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge are crucial to good teaching and students’ understanding (Reynolds, 1992).

2.1.2 Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge Model (Koehler & Mishra 2006).
Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that facilitates an understanding of the kinds of knowledge needed by the teacher for effective pedagogical practice in a technology-enhanced learning environment. Koehler and Mishra (2006) added technology as a modeling to Lee Shruman’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) construct ( Archambault and Crippen, 2009). This framework thus builds on Lee Shulman’s (1986, 1987) construct of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) to include Technology Knowledge (TK). Koehler and Mishra described this framework for teacher knowledge for technological integration called Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK). Koehler and Mishra (2006) believe that the development of TPACK by teachers is critical to effective teaching with technology. The TPACK framework for teacher knowledge is thus a complex interaction of three bodies of knowledge, namely content, Pedagogy and Technology. These three bodies of knowledge interact both theoretically and in practice to produce the kind of flexible knowledge needed to successfully integrate technology use into teaching.

FIG 1: Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) Model Venn diagram. (Source: Koehler & Mishra 2009:63)

The TPACK Model represented in Figure 1 above is a useful model for educators as it helps them to be able to use digital tools and strategies to support teaching and learning. Mishra and Koehler (2006) designed this model around the idea that content (what a teacher teaches) and Pedagogy (how he teaches it) ought to serve the basis for any technology that he plans to use in his classroom to enhance learning. The circles in the TPACK diagram above represent Content knowledge (CK), Pedagogical knowledge (PK) and Technological Knowledge (TK). The areas where the three kinds of knowledge overlap are explained by Mishra and Koehler 2006 as follows:
Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) is the knowledge that teachers have about their content (subject matter) and the knowledge that they have about how to teach that specific content. This specialized knowledge facilitates teachers’ use of the most effective methods for teaching specific content. Technological Content Knowledge (TCK) refers to the set of skills which teachers acquire to help them identify the best technologies they can use so as to support their students as they learn content. Technological Pedagogic Knowledge (TPK) refers to the kind of skills developed by teachers, which helps them to identify the best technology to support a particular pedagogical approach. For example teachers may assign students to work in collaborative groups if they need to share tools like computers; or communicate what they have learned in a multimodal presentation using power point.

Contrarily to the views of James Colemann 1966, cited in Whitehurst (2002), that differences in teachers did not matter, recent studies have shown that the teacher is the single most important school related factor in Student achievement. Teacher content or subject knowledge is widely believed to have an influence on teacher effectiveness and may consequently affect student teachers’ achievement. Available evidences from researches reveal that teachers’ intellectual resources significantly affects students’ learning experiences ( Odumosu, Olusesan & Abel (2016). Researches findings also show that students record the most gains when assigned effective teachers in terms of content knowledge (Ogar, 2006). Such findings have led many researchers to assert that the lack of content knowledge by teachers hugely contributes to the performance gap which exists among students. The primary purpose of teaching at all levels of education is to bring about a fundamental change in the behavior of the learner (Tebabal & Kahssay, 2011). In order to achieve this, it is necessary that Teacher trainers who teach ICT should have the knowledge and a high level of understanding of ICT concepts. Many studies equally support the notion that teachers who taught the subjects that they had previously studied in depth are particularly more effective that those who taught subjects that they had not studied previously (Olisama, Odumosu & Egbo 2011). It is based on this finding that Odumosu & Olisama (2018) conclude that there is a high correlation between students’ content knowledge and students’ performance in Mathematics in general and algebra in particular.
Ishola & Udofi (2017, cited in Odumosa & Olisama 2018), report that a number of research findings show that students’ academic performance is more heavily influenced by the teacher quality with regard to content knowledge and pedagogic knowledge than by the students’ priors academic records or school a student attends.
Subject matter knowledge by teachers of any subject is important in teaching as evidenced by the findings of Odumosu and Olisama (2018). They carried out a study to investigate the effects of teachers’ content knowledge on students’ achievement in algebra. The sample of this study comprised of 421 senior secondary school students drawn from 12 senior secondary schools in Lagos using random sampling technique; and 12 teachers selected using purposive and proportional sampling techniques. The research instruments used in collecting data for this study comprised of teachers’ content knowledge tests in algebra, an observational schedule of teachers’ pedagogy knowledge and students’ achievement test in algebra. Data collected was analyzed by use of covariance (ANOVA). Findings obtained from this study revealed that there is a significant effect of mathematic teachers’ content knowledge on students’ academic achievement in algebra.
Bonney, Amoah, Micah, Ahiamenyo, and Lemaire (2015) carried out a study to investigate the relationship between teachers’ quality and students’ academic performance in Sekondi Takaradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA). The study targeted junior high school teachers and pupils in the Metropolis. They used the descriptive Survey design to conduct the study on five randomly selected educational circuits in the metropolis. The stratified and systematic sampling techniques were used to sample the 500 participants used in the study. The instrument used for data collection was the questionnaire and data collected was analyzed using Pearson Moment Correlation, ANOVA, Means, Percentages and standard deviations. The findings of this study showed that there was a positive but low relationship between teachers’ knowledge in subject matter and pupils’ performance in the 2012 Basic Education Certificate Examination ( BECE) r=0.109*. These findings thus imply that the higher the teachers content knowledge in a subject area, the higher the pupils, performance.
Wenglinsky (2000) conducted a study to find out the relationship between indicators of teacher effectiveness and the performance of 8th graders. He examined approximately 15,000 scores obtained by 8th grade students in Mathematics and Science. The findings revealed that students whose teachers had college majors or minors in either Mathematics or Science scored 39% higher than those whose teachers lacked such preparation. Similarly, Monk (1994), as cited in Darling Hammonds (2000) using data collected from 2,829 students in a longitudinal survey study of American youths; found out that teachers’ subject matter preparation, as measured by coursework in the subject area field, is positively related to student achievement in Mathematics and science. This thus implies that teacher education background is crucial to the students’ performance in a given subject area.