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Project-Based Assessments In The Classroom Using Technology

Introduction

The core objective of this study is to develop a framework to incorporate project-based assessments in the classroom using technology. In the literature review section of the paper, numerous important issues were highlighted, as the focus is on the persistent use of various technological applications in the classroom. Education as a product and service reflects the transformation from a production-line approach to a service provision structure. Educators tend to provide a logical assessment of solidly established curriculum evaluation structures using ITSMF and ITIL principles. The present section emphasizes the discussion of suitable research design methods including data collection and data analysis methods. An important aspect which had been thoroughly considered is the concern to employ research methods that are consistent with the aims and objectives of the current study. Practical issues and procedures pertaining to research methodology are discussed, along with the academic principles underlining the specificity of the selected method.

Literature Review

Technology has become a ubiquitous concept because it is an inseparable part of human life. The number of schools that want to integrate technology into classroom learning has been increasing. It is clear that when technology is properly used in the classroom, this can assist students to acquire relevant skills and competencies that can help them succeed in the technological-based contemporary economy. Scholars in the field claim that integrating technology into the classroom implies something more than simply teaching basic computer skills and software programs in particular computer classes. Efficient technology integration into the classroom needs to take place across the curriculum in ways that can enhance the learning process. This process of integration should consider four essential aspects of learning such as active and regular engagement, enhancing group participation in various learning activities, ongoing interaction and feedback, and frequent consultation with experts in the field. Technology has definitely become an important part of the educational process, and educational technology experts are unanimous that technology should not be taught as a separate subject but rather as a powerful tool to promote student learning. Nevertheless, a substantial number of teachers lack a sufficient knowledge and experience with technology, which may impede the process of technology integration into the classroom. In order to succeed in incorporating relevant technological solutions into the classroom, these teachers should consider the option of extending their learning and training options so that they can acquire practical technological skills and expertise. Recommendations derived from literature on the subject indicate that emphasis is put on constructivism when it comes to technology integration into the classroom. The constructivist approach is perceived as an ultimate way to resolve certain educational problems. In fact, constructivism emerges as a specific theory of learning that focuses on the way in which one’s mind create knowledge, and thus a particular conceptual understanding of certain ideas occurs. However, educational goals and objectives are evolving as result of new social needs corresponding to the constant advances of technology. The earliest use of computers to aid teaching instruction was based on the work of Skinner, who promoted the use of computers to strengthen practice and the acquisition of essential skills among students. Skinner presented the assumption that the teacher plays an extremely important role to modify the behavior of students in a desirable direction through implementing the mechanism of positive reinforcement. Indeed, computers have been perceived as adequate resource tools to teach problem solving and critical thinking skills. Technology apparently demonstrates the advantage of giving a proper visual representation of higher-order concepts discussed in the classroom. In addition, technology integration into the classroom reflects in the use of different types of graphics and simulations that trigger students’ interest to explore such technological means of learning and apply them in practice. One of the most efficient uses of technology in the field of education is to adjust instruction to the individual learning needs and expectations of students. For instance, technology can provide adequate learning opportunities for students with special needs. Gifted students are provided with freedom and flexibility to work and maintain various research projects at their own pace.

Researchers argue that teachers in contemporary educational environment tend to integrate technology into the classroom in meaningful ways in the sense of supporting the respective curriculum rather than dominating it. It has been shown that the regular use of technology in education aims at creating a collaborative learning environment marked by the facilitating and learning roles of educators. Scholars outline essential pedagogical principles when it comes to technology integration into the classroom such as active learning, collaboration, mediation, and a relevant level of interactivity.

Active learning while implementing technology in the classroom means that students are adequately engaged in particular activities in the classroom. The use of technology for active learning makes students more focused and motivated to complete certain tasks. Furthermore, technology emerges as a proper mechanism for increasing the amount of human interaction between educators and students in the classroom. For instance, information and communication technology provides learners with a viable opportunity to acquire transferable skills and use distinct learning styles in the ongoing, flexible educational process. It appears that technology can change teaching practices to a huge extent simply because the classroom has become quite student-centered. Teaching roles have changed in a direction of becoming collaborative and facilitating.

From the perspective of students, technology can definitely make learning easier and more exciting. In this way, learners are provided with an opportunity to keep up with essential skills that are necessary for their professional future. It is important to point out that the future of learners is perceived in terms of advanced technology. Students are obviously entering a world in which most of the jobs will require competence in technology. In order to become successful in the highly competitive knowledge-based economy, learners should constantly update their occupational and technological skills.

Implementing a Data Collection Plan

When quantitative researchers choose random probability sampling, there are no specific regulations for the establishment of sample sizes in the process of adopting the qualitative method. Sample size slightly depends on the contemplation of the researcher linked to the objective of the study, the convenience and the reliability of the selected cases or events and, last but not least, on the accessible time and resources. There are different theories linked with quantitative and qualitative research methods regarding sample size, perceived as a proper exchange between extent and intensity.

Quantitative tools restrict responses to prearranged categories by means of identical questions. Therefore, quantitative researchers are capable to determine the responses of many participants and this manner may advance data and capacity. On the opposite side, qualitative researchers usually authorize the investigation of only a few selected cases or events, but in great depth and with concentration to detail and framework, which may lead to improving the depth of the research. Whereas the quantitative method may not ensure adequate depth, the width or number of individuals that might be selected or examined in qualitative research is restricted.

The adoption of both primary and secondary data is believed to expand the feasibility of the research itself. The advantage of this method is that it would be possible to establish a link between the real world’s first-hand information and the different theories and literature, which is already present on the research topic. This would not only make the research study more evidence-based but also more critically oriented in a particular direction. The primary data would be collected from conducting personal interviews with the identified sample of participants. The rationale for conducting those personal interviews is that the interviewer may have a chance to develop new variables in new questions on the basis of responses from the interviewees. This would give a direct insight on the strategies used by the professors from the respective education community.

Purposeful Sampling

Purposeful sampling, as utilized in the present qualitative research, is a practice toward sampling intended at diversifying the perspectives of individuals in relation to the explored issue. Once an ITIL based framework model had been established, the researcher decided to carry out 20 interviews with higher education experts (male and female with minimum 15 years of professional academic experience) from various countries to include their judgment on the proposed structure (the following are the countries the researcher planned to target: Australia, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, France, and United States).

Purposeful sampling approach is a phrase utilized to describe the “tactical and determined collection of information-rich cases”, with the objective of guaranteeing that the chosen sample provides the essential depth, but at the same time accomplishes the objective of a preferably high level of width. Still, the precise type and number of the chosen cases depend on the research objectives and other aspects previously discussed.

The chosen cases or events will be reviewed according to the objectives of the study and to their significance in responding to the research questions on the topic under examination. In the following, the sampling process as implemented in this particular research on higher education will be explained in detail. This process is highly structured to correspond to the goals outlined for the present study. There are five characteristics that could be recognized as the most important in the sampling process: (1) time frame, (2) financial capability, (3) geographic location, (4) a broad number of interviewers, and (5) adequate access to university or academic information. The time frame for carrying out in-depth interviews was roughly identified as 1-2 months, with a sufficient budget available. Research was geographically ideal and targeted the following countries: Australia, Sweden, UAE, France and United States. It has been pointed out that only one interviewer was required to carry out all expert interviews, though there were three representatives from non-English speaking countries. Thus, it would be preferable to include interpreters in order to report academic or university-related information.

Initially, a theory of homogenous sampling was implemented. The inspiration of homogenous sampling is to concentrate on a particular set of similar events, as this approach decreases differences and simplifies examination. The fundamental idea was to carry out interviews on the proposed framework with a number of higher education professors working in the mentioned countries. The idea of transnational view was of particular significance since the objective was to concentrate on academic views, which could not be identified that easily through interviews with local professors. The researcher ultimately made a decision to select professors who possess an extensive expertise, experience and knowledge and thus have a certain proficiency in the field of higher education.

Since the higher education sector, e.g. in the context of curriculum evaluation framework, is known for arranging diverse implementation measures, professors with 25-year professional academic experience were contacted for the conduct of the interviews. This strategy was also based on the hypothesis that ideas related to such a framework might be superior and more complicated with an extensive size of research typically included. As a result, considering the objective of the study and the research questions mentioned before, the researcher decided to concentrate on research of the curriculum evaluation framework in higher education.

With the help of the first interview, it might have become evident for the researcher to fully discover the experience under examination, particularly the higher education part of the curriculum evaluation framework as well as the issues related to technology incorporation in the classroom. In this context, in order to get a two-way point of view of the facts, higher education professors, particularly from the five mentioned countries, were incorporated in the sample. All the chosen participants have extensive experience with the adoption of a curriculum evaluation framework in the field of higher education.

Analyzing Data

The model of quantitative vs. qualitative research technique can be traced back to the theoretical perceptions, as the technique is based on positivism and interpretivism, correspondingly. Positivism, the source of quantitative research, emphasizes on objective validity or aspects of the real world, which exists autonomously of individual views or opinions. To support research on this approach means utilizing “theoretical-deductive” judgments, progressing from specific hypotheses to facts with the aim of describing the “real world views”. Interpretivism, on the opposite side, emphasizes a hypothesis, which will always belong to the specific background and conditions where and under which it was established. This technique, the source of qualitative research, does not strive for international laws, as it has been indicated that participants' understanding and their experiences is what matters and shapes validity. With these different theoretical techniques in mind, the alternative norms for guaranteeing the quality of a qualitative research will be discussed below.

Alternative norms for evaluating data quality: There are different sets of norms related to evaluating data quality, since they have significance for this study: (1) traditional scientific research standards, and (2) social building and constructivist standards. Traditional scientific norms are based on the theoretical approach of positivism, the foundation of quantitative techniques. This means that when implementing those norms to a qualitative research, the researcher is required to be as unbiased as possible, and implement methodical data collection standards, as well as strive for connecting justifications and generalizability through hypothesis analysis. The objective is to explain facts as accurately and correctly as possible in order to present findings on how the “current setting” is. Traditionally, the standard of research studies has been assessed based on internal and external validity and reliability.

Internal validity points out to the level to which a hypothesis conclusions are decidedly drawn from its grounds; external validity explains the level to which the research findings in one setting can be implemented in a setting diverse from the first; reliability finally is the level to which another researcher could illustrate the same recommendations from the same explanations. These standards are important for researchers implementing traditional scientific standards. As to the general conclusion or external validity of information, it is believed that induction (as implemented in quantitative method) is never fully validated reasonably since inductive recommendations are always based on certain grounds. As a result, a boost in sample size might be helpful for the research, but the specific advantages refer to the enhanced reliability of the sampling process and not to the enhanced generalization of a sample population.

For this rationale, statistical generalizability barely corresponds to a general model for all types of generalizability. Since the objective of this research was not to statistically measure educational data, but to enhance understanding of specific facts, traditional methodical research standards do not offer an adequate structure for the conclusion of the quality of this research. More appropriate for the nature of this research are social constructivist research standards (as described in the next part) that refer to internal and external validity as well as to reliability. Social building and constructivist standards, from an interpretivist perception, identify that the external environment is a building – be it a social, political, or emotional one. Researchers supporting this approach are rather concerned with expanding their understanding of specific incidents within a particular background than in the formation of hypotheses and general conclusions.

Social constructivist authors have developed a number of variables for the design of qualitative studies: Integrity, as corresponding to internal validity, is the level to which the multiple certainties of the people under examination are precisely reported; Transferability, equivalent to external validity, is the capacity of one sign of the fact to a second sign of the fact in a different environment; Reliability, as an analogue to dependability, identifies that two explanations of the same fact will never be matching; and ultimately Conformability, similar to impartiality and objectivity in quantitative research, indicates that information should correspond to a logical set of recommendations, and should be non-biased and reflect accommodating renderings of practical reality. Based on the research, it can be concluded that qualitative research needs to concentrate on legitimacy, e.g. evading biased questions and reactions, or utilizing participants to confirm particular views related to the field of higher education.

As explained earlier, this study identifies the different formations of reality and as a result the different views of participants regarding a certain fact. Social constructivist research and standards therefore represent an appropriate structure for this research. The next section will illustrate how quality was guaranteed in this study, according to social constructivist standards, with a special focus on integrity and reliability. The process of guaranteeing quality points out to rigorous methods as the most essential factor on which the integrity of research depends. The utilization of rigorous techniques refers to the use of methodical data collection during fieldwork, and concludes with methodical analysis strategies of the information gathered. The conclusion includes integrity in data analysis in terms of producing and examining alternative justifications of the fact studied.

Reporting Findings and Implications for Practice

NVivo is an effective software application used for the analysis of qualitative data obtained from interviews with participants. Data sources in NVivo are identified as research or project based materials, as they simply refer to flexible research settings and typed memos capturing the thoughts of the researcher on the explored problem of adopting a service oriented framework in higher education. It is important to categorize the sources used for the study, such as internals, externals and memos. The possibility for teamwork are limitless in case the data will be analyzed with NVivo software. A distinct approach to be utilized in this case is to assign unique user profiles especially upon the initial launch of the respective software. Team members are expected to work on various data sources, with the idea to bring unique perspectives when applied to the use of the same sources of information. The contributions of all contributors are important to explore in order to expand the insights into the research process. Another significant part of the data analysis process on NVivo refers to importing relevant documents. The creation of a new project in NVivo requires that the files should be imported in order to be properly analyzed. There are specific requirements to follow in the process of importing documents, and it should be considered in order to conduct all stages of the data analysis accordingly. Moreover, the data analysis process is related to working with nodes and coding of essential data. In fact, nodes represent specific codes assigned to themes and ideas about the data that will be included in the present project. The other important step is to create node hierarchies, as the common idea is to move from general to more specific topics related to the service oriented framework that will be implemented in higher education.

 
 

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