Research Critique

The paper being reviewed is titled “How is the Training of IT Managed in Schools?” Initially this seemed like a good title for the report which suggests the report will discover how IT training is managed within an educational environment.

On page 62 of the report the author states “The main focus of this study will be the management of training employees to use the Information Technology in schools.” On this basis it would have been appropriate to discuss the different schools being observed and investigated for the case study; however the very next paragraph on page 62, under the sub heading of “Project aims and objectives” then states “The aim of this study is to investigate the management and training of Information Technology within Park Community School.” This seems to be a change of direction for the report. It is understood that often a small sample is required to test a theory and then attempt to generalize about the results and predict what may be the case in similar situations, but moving from the plural of schools to the singular school has altered the dynamic of the report.

The author then goes on to state that “As the author has been working at the school for 2 years now and another family member for 10 years it will be relatively easy to obtain the research.” Obviously this information is required to understand the opinion and point of view of the person writing the report; however this seems to influence the approach to the case study in an adverse way. The research which was conducted was centred on the one school, which was not the aim of the report based on the reports title. A better method would have been to approach a number of schools and the local authority to investigate the methods used for training and a sample of answers of several questionnaires from a variety of schools used to present the findings. I appreciate that this would have taken some extra time, but this should have been discussed in the report. On another note the researcher claims to have strict time limits to the research and then proceeds to talk about the difficulties of gathering the data, which is in contrast to the previous statement about it being relatively easy to obtain the research.

Primary research conducted for the report was in the form of questionnaires, interviews and observations. There are no structured examples of the questionnaires as evidence in the report, which makes it difficult to determine how good the process was and whether or not the researcher has managed to discuss the findings accurately within the report. The interview questions were included in the appendix but they seem very brief. The section of the report which does discuss the findings of the questionnaire highlights only the first three questions. Were these the only questions asked?

The secondary research which supports the report is comprehensive, and discusses the different books used to support the case study. A small number of quotes were used and have been cited correctly. The bibliography contains a full list of the material used to support the project and this was useful for checking the accuracy of the information contained in the report. The majority of the books and journals listed were reasonably up to date.

A section sub-titled Interviews within Chapter 4 Titled Results, the writer alludes to a discussion about the interviews and yet presents very little information. The section describes a software system used within the school but does not say which questions were asked how they were answered or give any analysis of the findings. Additionally an interview about “How IT training is managed in schools?” should have included a description of the equipment available and the views of the interviewee. To my knowledge none were recorded for review within the report. This would have helped present the findings and given the research more credibility.

Within the report there is a good discussion of observation techniques and the impression gained by the author during the observation and the experiences of actually using the equipment within the school for teaching. A comment about the lack of training is given yet later in the report the author acknowledges that training had been given by ICT employees. This section also goes on to describe in great detail all the equipment available for use within the school and it was found to be useful supporting material in the reading of the report.

A Methodology was discussed in the report but it caused confusion as the writer of the report clearly states “The methodology I am going to use will be DSDM.” This is not a common form of conducting research in this particular field as it is more suited to Software Development. DSDM stands for Dynamic Software Development Method, which is based on Agile development Methodology. A better approach would have been to state that a qualitative design to the research was going to be used. The use of the term DSDM just confuses the reader of the report. In addition on page 83 the further confusion exists as the researcher claims that quantitative research uses questionnaires, whereas this method of research is qualitative. Quantitative data could have been formed from the qualitative research by coding the responses to the questionnaire but no evidence of this exists within the section.

Arguments used within the report for change management are sound however they do not directly concern how the training of IT is managed in schools. It is understood that new developments in IT hardware and software have meant changes have affected the school’s administration and the use of IT within the learning environment, but a lengthy discussion of change management was not appropriate in this instance. Had a recent change taken place the concepts may have been of more use but in this instance the IT that was in use within the school had been in place for some time. The only new (2 years or more) change had been the Management Information System use for administration by teachers and the office staff.

Background information such as the discussion about ITiS (Information Technology in Schools) an initiative developed by the Department for Education and Science was used well to support the need recognized within in the report in terms of further education and training of teachers and staff in the use of IT within the school. It points out the fact that grants are available for training and other support is available for schools. Good points were made and the supporting literature was used effectively.

A sub heading “Comparing research data to secondary data” is used in chapter 5 page 95, but there does not appear to be any discussion of the comparison in this section. However what is included is a further discussion about ITiS and the use of a Management Information System for administration purposes within the school. Therefore the sub-heading for this section is either incorrect or the author lost their direction.

The Risk log for the case study was incomplete in the copy that was received. Obviously it is difficult to comment but the parts that were present discussed the ethical approach that was required for working within the school and also recorded incidents where the researcher came in to contact with children whilst conducting the research. The discussion by the author of important facts pertaining to Child Safety and the Data Protection Act were relevant and useful as a means of explaining some of the strict controls required when carrying out this type of study.

A reflective section was included within the report and this section actually proved to be some of the better work done by the author. They recognized that improvements could be made to the research that was carried out and possible advances in technology could bring about new changes and the need for further research, once these changes had been made.

The conclusion given in the report was negative,” saying not much training had been given”, and goes on to criticize the lack of training provided, surely that is the responsibility of the school manager, who was not interviewed in this case study. Also the researcher states that they did not have any access to the training records for the staff and teachers in the school, so how can a judgement be made without all the facts. Speculation about whether training had been provided is irrelevant, the mechanisms are in place to provide training and the fact that the author had not received this training should not have influenced the findings within the report. It is important to identify who has received and elected to take advantage of training schemes run during the school term in the form of INSET days and other training initiatives used for the continued development of educators and their support teams. Another point that is raised is the lack of training for the equipment in the section titled “Using the equipment” on page 91 the writer seems confused,” there has been no training of the equipment but it has been used when teaching. The basics were taught by ICT employees showing how to use the equipment before teaching” This statement makes very little sense, either no training had been provided or limited training had been provided. It is difficult to determine what the author meant.

In conclusion the report contains some interesting facts and does provoke a desire to read further into the subject area. However more could have been done to give a balanced view of how IT training is managed in schools. The report presents a biased view of one school based in Hampshire and does not attempt to compare the findings with other schools in the same county or Local Education Authority. If this was the intention of the author then the title for the report is flawed and should have read “How IT training is managed in Park Community School”. More effort could have been made to ensure that the sub headings in the report were accurate and the sections actually contain the material that the heading alludes to.

As stated earlier the secondary data described within the report was accurate and enlightening, however this did not improve the quality of the report which contains a lot of repetition between sections of a similar headings in different chapters.

The main message in the report is the lack of training for the use of IT in schools and the fact the researcher feels that they could have received better training in the use of the equipment in the school. However realistically, no matter how much training is provided, this does not ensure competence, but the increased use and adoption of these technologies to assist in the education of pupils can increase the abilities of the teacher and support staff.

Research Methods as a Core Module

As a second year undergraduate I have benefitted from this module. It has given me a toolbox to assist me with my final year research and other skills to take forward into my career as an educator. I have also discovered that group work can be beneficial to the learning experience; however I think this method would benefit from a more formal structure.

By this I mean that some sort of contract be drawn up and agreed between members of a group, so that no group member is under any illusion of the responsibility to his or her colleagues and the level of commitment required to complete a group task. This could also be carried forward to a more strict agreement, where aside from the deadlines posed by tutors for hand in dates, a group would agree a draft date where all work must be posted to a group blog or similar so that it can be assessed by the peer group and edited accordingly. This type of project management would be similar to a formal working environment, so that the effort of all members of the group was equal. Rather than one member leaving things to the last-minute and the other members feeling obliged to perform extra work, just in case the lazy one (for want of a better description) fails to deliver any content. Despite various emails and group meetings where the project and content is discussed a review by the tutor of the content at a fixed point with some type of feedback would offer some support to working group to apply pressure to the failing colleague. As all this is happening inside a learning environment for the purpose of education I feel the tutor should take a firmer approach to members of a group who fail to meet the requirements of the contract drawn up between the group members at the outset. It is not reasonable for members of a group to lose marks due to the lack of effort by one party.

The use of a blog for creative thinking and learning has been useful. It has given me the opportunity to express my feelings and record my reflections at various times. I am glad there has been no format imposed at this stage and having the freedom to write as I like has been cathartic. It has allowed me to challenge my own perceptions of situations and share with an audience, who by their own choice read my material.

Having the opportunity to read others work via the learning journal in the Victory E-Learning environment has been useful too, but I would have liked more comments from the lecturers or suitably qualified members of the faculty, as this would have perhaps prompted more effort and improve the level of understanding and the quality of the work written. I am not saying I want a scoring system in place but I feel every post to the learning journal should have a type of read receipt from the lecturer or person reviewing the work, so that the student would at least know when their work had been read. A small comment either positive or negative would also incite reflection from the student, thereby improving future postings. Also I think that postings in the learning journal could be limited for viewing until you have posted your version for the particular week. The reason for this is, I feel that other students can benefit from looking at completed work, which means that they are not necessarily using their own skills to produce work and merely re-wording content from other students. This may be difficult to achieve with the current system that is in use at Portsmouth University. I have no problem having a chat box or drop box for peer advice and questions but the actual posting of completed work should be private until every student is working on the same level or weeks activities.