How the use of information and communication technology enables school teachers to generate educational outcomes: case of South Africa

Doctoral Thesis


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Problem Statement: ICT is said to improve educational efficiencies and aids in addressing educational shortcomings in the developing world context. Although ICT holds the potential to greatly improve teaching, why and how ICT has the probability of transforming teaching, for actors and within the developing world context remains uncertain. The potential impact of these tools may be affected by contextual and socio-cultural factors. Socio-cultural factors may have a negative consequence on students' learning and can increase educational inequalities, especially in developing countries. The challenge is that existing research does not clearly explain how educational outcomes are generated through the use of ICT within the social-cultural context of teachers. Purpose of the research: The objective of this study was to examine how educational outcomes are generated through the use of ICT in a developing world context, at a micro-level – an individual. The aim was to investigate how the use of ICT enables opportunities for school teachers to generate educational outcomes. Research approach: The study adopted an interpretive approach using a qualitative method. The study adopted a case study method. The study drew on the Capability Approach (CA) as supplemented by individual differences conceptual framework and taxonomy of ICT affordances as a theoretical lens to explain why and how ICT affects teaching, for whom and in what context. The study analysed the patterns between opportunities determined by affordances, individual differences that affect how ICT is used and educational outcomes. The study used a purposive sampling method to select seven schools. From the seven schools, fifteen teachers, seven principals, seven ICT coordinators or personnel in charge of ICT, and two heads of e-Learning in Western Cape education districts. Data was obtained through background documents, semistructured interviews and direct observations of teachers. Key findings: ICT enabled teachers to generate three outcomes: (i) teaching capability outcomes that led to improvements in content delivery, communication, and lesson preparation relating directly to teaching, (ii) basic human capability outcomes led to the needs of the teachers regarding their well-being being met (iii) communication capability outcomes led to teaching communities consisting of teachers that share resources and expertise. Individual differences of teachers, personal data (such as age, ICT skills training, education and level of expertise in the subject taught), social factors (rules and policies), shaping and influencing factors (such as personality type and role model) and environmental context (such as habits, customs, beliefs and cultural values) determined how teachers used ICT to enable capabilities. Various factors (such as infrastructure, learner engagement and excitement as well as ICT skills training) affected the choice of teachers to act on the opportunities afforded by ICT to generate educational outcomes. The value of the study: The study makes three contributions. First, the research suggests theoretical propositions for explaining how the use of ICT enables teachers to produce educational outcomes. The study developed a conceptual framework by integrating Amartya Sen's CA, individual differences conceptual framework and taxonomy of affordance to explain how educational outcomes are generated through the use of ICT in the developing world context. The study found the ICT artefact, features, supportive function (such as training and support) and affordances enabled opportunities, the teachers acted on these opportunities to generate efficiencies in teaching, their well-being and the broader educational community within the context of individual differences. Second, the study provides recommendations for planners and implementers to address issues on the actual realisation of ICT benefits by creating effective strategies that aim at improving implementation of ICT in schools. These strategies should look at the opportunities generated from ICT and how teachers use these opportunities to achieve educational outcomes. Additionally, recommendations were provided for e-Learning coordinators who wish to deploy ICT and integrate it into schools' curricula to equip teachers with all the components of TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge). Additionally, e-Learning coordinators should provide a space for teachers to experiment, highlighting existing practices and providing support to achieve their personal goals, which are part of their value system. Third, empirical evidence and theory in this thesis contribute to the knowledge of ICT in education assessments by offering a better explanation of the capability outcomes in ICT in the education field.