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Innovative Teaching and Learning Research
Studying Changing Teaching Practices and Students' 21C Competencies
by Maria Langworthy

Clear evidence of progress in teaching and student learning based on ICT investments in schools has been scarce and inconsistent worldwide. A new international project called Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research seeks to address this challenge. ITL Research is sponsored by Microsoft’s Partners in Learning, and investigates and measures teachers’ adoption of innovative classroom teaching practices and the degree to which those practices provide students with learning experiences that promote the skills they will need to live and work in the 21st Century.

SRI International and Langworthy Research are the international coordinators for ITL Research, which began in Finland, Russia, Indonesia and Senegal in 2009, and will expand to 3 or more countries (potentially including England) in 2010. Overall, this ambitious project aims to provide education policy evidence on what works in integrating technology into teaching and learning to achieve clear student learning outcomes. The long term goal of the project is also to develop a set of research methods and tools that will be contributed to the public domain, allowing more consistent evaluation of progress on effectively integrating ICT into teaching and learning.

The project is guided by outside advisors from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UNESCO, the World Bank, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and other organisations. Teams of national researchers from universities, think tanks and other institutions will conduct the research in each country. In addition, the project has government partners in each country, generally with the national ministry of education or equivalent organisation.  ITL Research is partnering with the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills project which focuses on identifying 21st Century skills, and developing ways to teach and measure them by providing new methods of assessing students.

The multiyear research program makes use of parallel case studies for deep investigation of the national and school-level factors that shape teaching practices within particular country contexts. It also looks across the cases to provide education stakeholders with a rich set of information on how effective teaching and learning takes place when technology is present in the classroom. In the minds of many education leaders and researchers, the important research issue is how ICT can most effectively increase student learning.  ITL Research investigates this beginning with teacher practices and how teachers incorporate ICT into their teaching and learning.

The global research questions that ITL Research addresses include:

  1. To what extent do innovative teaching practices contribute to 21st Century learning outcomes?
  2. What school-level conditions contribute to increases in innovative teaching practices?
  3. How are national or regional program supports associated with increases in innovative teaching practices?

ITL Research focuses on understanding and measuring innovative teaching practices that provide students with learning experiences that promote 21st-century competencies. Innovative teaching practices in the ITL model are characterised by student-centred pedagogy, learning opportunities that transcend the school walls, and the integration of appropriate ICT into teaching and learning. Each of the practices and elements in the ITL Research logic model below are defined and described in more detail in the ITL Research Design document available on the project’s website.

ITL Logic Model

Figure 1: The ITL Logic Model

The project uses a mixed methods approach, including school leader and teacher surveys, direct classroom observations, interviews, focus groups and a unique research method called ‘Learning Activities and Student Work’. This latter method collects teaching assignments and the corresponding student work and has a team of trained coders assess each artifact according to a set of competencies associated with working in the 21st Century, such as problem solving and innovation, collaboration, knowledge-building, use of ICT, self-regulation and skilled communication. The mixed method approach allows for triangulation of findings obtained through different instruments and with different audiences (educators, school leaders, students). ITL thus collects both self-reported and directly observed data.

Methodologies, data and reports are open to researchers around the world, and will be free and publicly available each year. Results and reports from the pilot year of the project are expected in summer of 2010, with annual results in the years to come.

Francesc Pedró, senior analyst for OECD’s New Millennium Learners project and advisor to the ITL Research project said this about ITL Research: “Education policy-makers in countries around the world have invested heavily in ICT  over the last decades, and they want to see significant impact on student learning. ITL Research is designed to examine exactly this issue of what factors most contribute to the effective integration of technology into teaching and learning, combining a systemic approach with a careful insight into daily practices.”

Maria Langworthy
Program Director of ITL Research
Langworthy Research

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