Towards Online Pedagogy
Teachers' beliefs about learning and ICT
in instruction at Lahti Polytechnic
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the award of the degree of MA in
Education Studies of Loughborough University.
30 April 2001
Supervisor: Derek Blease
TOWARDS ONLINE PEDAGOGY. Teachers' beliefs about learning, and ICT in instruction at Lahti
Polytechnic. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree
of MA in Education Studies of Loughborough University.
The purpose of this study was to investigate teachers' ICT skills and beliefs
about learning at Lahti Polytechnic, Finland. An attempt was made to de-
termine what kind of support teachers need to learn to use ICT in instruc-
tion in the most purposeful way to enable high-level learning.
The population consisted of the permanent teaching staff of Lahti Polytech-
nic. A proportionate random sample was drawn from the staff of each fac-
ulty so that the final sample size was 65, approximately a third of the whole
population. The different faculties were represented in the sample in pro-
portion to their size. The data were collected using a questionnaire and in-
terviews. The questionnaire consisted of closed questions and one open-
ended questions. The questionnaire items that dealt with beliefs about
learning were based on two theories of learning; behaviourism and construc-
49 answered the questionnaires giving a response rate of 78%. 3 teachers
were interviewed about their online courses. The teachers who participated
in the survey seemed to have fairly good ICT skills. The findings also im-
plied that, although many teachers seemed to have traditional views of
learning, there were also those who had adopted a more student centred ap-
proach. It was concluded that teachers needed support in changing their
beliefs about learning. They also needed help to see the possibilities offered
by new technologies.
On the basis of the study it seems that the best way to proceed could be to
establish a working group of teachers who would experiment with new
teaching methods and ICT in instruction. This would provide examples of
how to enhance classroom teaching with the use of ICT and gradually result
in more teachers becoming confident in online pedagogy.
Key words: online pedagogy, ICT, constructivism, behaviourism,
Table of Contents
1 INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................................................. 1
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY ....................................................................................................... 1
1.2 NEW CHALLENGES IN EDUCATION ................................................................................................. 2
1.3 TEACHING PRACTICES AND THE THEORIES OF LEARNING .............................................................. 3
2 OBJECTIVES, LIMITATIONS AND THE APPROACH OF THE STUDY ............................. 4
3 POPULATION AND SAMPLING ................................................................................................... 6
4 BEHAVIOURISM AND CONSTRUCTIVISM .............................................................................. 7
4.1 BEHAVIOURISM AND SKINNER'S TECHNOLOGY OF TEACHING ....................................................... 7
4.1.1 Pedagogical implications of behaviourism ........................................................................ 10
4.2 CONSTRUCTIVISM ....................................................................................................................... 10
4.2.1 The Influence of Kant and Darwin ..................................................................................... 10
4.2.2 English and American constructivists ................................................................................ 11
4.2.3 Piaget ................................................................................................................................. 11
4.2.4 Vygotsky ............................................................................................................................. 12
4.2.5 Pedagogical implications of constructivism....................................................................... 13
5 TOWARDS ONLINE PEDAGOGY .............................................................................................. 15
5.1 TERMINOLOGY ............................................................................................................................ 15
5.2 COMPUTER AIDED INSTRUCTION ................................................................................................. 15
5.3 ICT IN INSTRUCTION ................................................................................................................... 16
5.3.1 Finnish experiences of ICT in instruction .......................................................................... 19
5.4 TEACHERS AS IT AND ICT USERS............................................................................................... 21
6 A SURVEY ON TEACHERS' BELIEFS ABOUT LEARNING AND ICT IN INSTRUCTION
AT LAHTI POLYTECHNIC.................................................................................................................. 23
6.1 METHODOLOGY .......................................................................................................................... 23
6.1.1 Questionnaire ..................................................................................................................... 24
6.2 RESULTS ..................................................................................................................................... 26
6.2.1 Questionnaire survey.......................................................................................................... 26
126.96.36.199 Teachers' computer know-how and the use of IT and ICT............................................. 26
188.8.131.52 Teachers' beliefs about learning ..................................................................................... 27
184.108.40.206 Teachers' need for support and training.......................................................................... 29
6.2.2 Interviews ........................................................................................................................... 30
6.3 DISCUSSION ................................................................................................................................ 32
6.3.1 The validity and reliability of the study .............................................................................. 36
6.3.2 Ethical concerns................................................................................................................. 38
7 GUIDELINES FOR SUPPORTING TEACHERS IN THEIR USE OF ICT IN
BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................................................... 43
APPENDICES .......................................................................................................................................... 47
The goal of education has traditionally been to teach the basic skills in pre-
cisely defined fields of science, and prepare students for specific jobs. Rou-
tine tasks remain, but in addition, there are pressures on education to teach
more concretely the skills demanded by the rapidly changing working life
and society. Recent developments in learning research have brought up new
ideas about learning environments that support high-level learning. At the
same time technology offers many opportunities for organising education
and learning environments in new and innovative ways.
1.1 Background to the study
The present study deals with the challenges in teaching and the use of new
technologies in instruction in Lahti Polytechnic. Polytechnics in Finland of-
fer the highest form of vocational education, which leads to bachelor's de-
grees in a variety of fields of study. Lahti Polytechnic was established in
1992, and presently has about 3500 students. There are seven faculties of-
fering degree programs from fine arts and design to business, health care,
technology, music and sports. The author of this paper is a member of the
staff at the Faculty of Technology.
In 1997 a self-evaluation report revealed that the most urgent problem to
solve in the Faculty of Technology was that of the failing students. The stu-
dents fail to finish their coursework, they fail tests, and do not graduate
within the set time limit, or they drop out altogether. The results of a small-
scale pilot study on the teachers' and students' perceptions of success and
failure indicated that the students were not altogether happy with what
they were getting in the way of teaching. This raised questions about the
quality of teaching and the role of the teacher.
The recent school effectiveness literature seems to address similar issues.
There is plenty of evidence to support the conclusion that apart from the
student ability factor, it is the classroom and what teachers do that matters
( Reynolds et al 1996, Reynolds and Stringfield 1999). The evidence leads to
the assumption that student outcomes could be improved by focusing on
In 1999 the faculty decided to introduce a web-based course management
tool, WebCT (Web Course Tools). WebCT was developed for academic use by
the University of British Columbia in Canada. It can be used to publish an
entire online course or merely to make supplemental materials available
online. WebCT provides real time online chat rooms as well as asynchronic
discussion forums, calendars, electronic homework pass-ins, automatic
online grading for quizzes and questions, plus many other similar features.
In addition, WebCT includes course management tools for the instructor.
In 1999 also a new online education project was started in the Faculty of
Technology. The project was partly funded by the European Social Fund,
and aimed at staff development of the local small and medium size compa-
nies via new technologies. From the faculty's point of view the aim was to
gain experience of using Information and Communication Technologies
(ICT) in instruction. The idea was to use this experience in basic under-
graduate training to enhance traditional classroom teaching. However, the
project fell through, partly because it was difficult to find enough local com-
panies to participate in the project, partly because the teachers were reluc-
tant to design and teach online courses.
According to Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) the reasons for teachers' reluctance
to experiment with ICT in instruction are usually lack of time, lack of com-
puter know-how, and lack of pedagogical support. All in all, the teachers at
the Faculty of Technology may have been reluctant to offer online courses,
because they simply did not know how to teach on the net. There was tech-
nical support available, but obviously that was not enough.
1.2 New challenges in education
The problems in the quality of teaching and the use of ICT in instruction go
beyond Lahti Polytechnic. Higher education seems to be in a period of tran-
sition that portends major changes to the process of professional education
in general. The whole concept of teaching is undergoing a change. This is
not only because of new educational technologies but because society is
changing. As the labour market becomes more and more unpredictable - old
jobs disappear and new opportunities are created - schools cannot prepare
student for specific jobs anymore.
What the school can offer is the theoretical basis that enables the student to
make innovative decisions in new situations. Rote solutions will not work
for the new complex problems. Therefore, the new role of education is to of-
fer students, not so many facts and figures, as experiences of cause and ef-
fect as they process contextual information. The school should be able to
train the students in the very skills they will need in the working life. Some
of the new professional qualifications are high professional skills, flexibility,
communication skills, teamwork skills, critical thinking skills and adapta-
bility, commitment to each task at hand as well as commitment to personal
growth, ability to learn and produce new ideas, technological capabilities,
awareness and appreciation of different cultures (Lasonen and Stenström
1995; Ruohotie 1996; Townsend et al 1999). These skills cannot be taught.
They must be learnt.
When today's teachers went to school themselves, teachers used to teach. In
other words, they did their best to transmit the knowledge they possessed to
the students. In the light of the new professional qualifications required by
the working life the transmission of knowledge does not seem to be enough.
Now the teachers are expected to change from “the sage on the stage” to “a
guide on the side”. The teachers should be able to design and manage learn-
ing processes where the students construct their own knowledge networks
1.3 Teaching practices and the theories of learning
Teaching practices tend to follow the prevailing theories of learning and the
epistemological views that are dominant at the time. Until quite recently
the dominant approach has been behaviourism. Behaviourist teaching
methods focus on shaping behaviour through drill and practice. Knowledge
is seen as a fixed entity outside the learner. The teacher is the mediator who
transmits parts of that knowledge to the students. Effective ways of trans-
mitting knowledge have been developed since the introduction of behaviour-
There seems to be a wide consensus over the benefits of the constructive
theory of learning in the light of the new professional qualifications. The
kind of stability, which is inherent in behaviourism, is now seen to have
been truer about society in the 1960's and 70's. (Farrington 1999, Lehtinen
1997, Prawat 1990, Rauste von-Wright and von Wright 1994, Scardamalia
et al 1994, Sinko and Lehtinen 1999) Constructivism emphasises social in-
teraction and the learner's active role in learning. Knowledge is not some-
thing external, but it is created in the learner's mind, and is therefore al-
ways, to some extent, subjective.
Constructivism is often connected to the new technologies in teaching and
learning as well. The information and communication networks seem to of-
fer possibilities to the kind of social interaction free from the boundaries of
time and place that is regarded as essential in learning. However, there is
ample evidence in the current online courses of the fact that ICT can also be
used according to the behaviouristic views about learning; namely to trans-
mit knowledge in the form materials, video recorded lectures, and drills de-
livered through the Internet.
2 Objectives, limitations
and the approach of the study
The concern in the Faculty of Technology was 1) the quality of teaching, and
2) the teachers' reluctance to use ICT in instruction. As regards teaching, a
question was raised, whether current teaching methods met the require-
ments of the information society and the working life. Also, the introduction
of the online courseware (WebCT) had failed to attract the teachers' interest
as a new tool to enhance or change their classroom teaching.
There was also a danger that under pressure of introducing online elements
to their teaching, teachers might simply transfer their lectures into an elec-
tronic form, or resort to the kind of drill and practice that seemed familiar,
without seeing the new possibilities offered by the new technologies.
According to Prawat (1990) the only way to change education is to change
the teachers' beliefs about learning. The objective of the study was to inves-
tigate 1) what the teachers' beliefs about learning are, and 2) what kind of
support and training teachers need in their use of ICT as a means of creat-
ing learning environments that promote high-level learning. The aim was
also to suggest guidelines for a future in-house teacher-training program.
The first assumption was that teachers need computer know-how in order to
teach online. The second assumption was that teaching is always based on
some theory of learning. The theory may be subconscious and date back to
the teacher's own study experiences, or it can be the result of conscious re-
flection and the study of learning research. Whatever the case, it is this the-
ory, this belief about how learning takes place, which determines the
teacher's teaching approach (Prawat 1990, Rauste von-Wright and von
Wright 1994). The introduction of new tools will not alone change the way
In sum, the problem of the study could be stated in the form of four ques-
tions as follows:
- What is the teachers' computer know-how?
- What beliefs about learning do the teachers have?
- How do the teachers use ICT in instruction now?
- What kind of training and support do the teachers need?
The theoretical basis of the study was the constructivist theory of learning.
However, it was also assumed that many of the teachers would hold behav-
iouristic views about learning. As ICT applications seem to offer the possi-
bility to implement both theories in instruction, an attempt was made to
look at both behaviouristic and constructivist approaches in order to better
recognise and understand their manifestations in teaching in general, and
in online teaching in particular. Due to the limited scope of the study only
these two theories of learning were included.
The purpose of the literature review was 1) to provide evidence on how the
teachers' epistemological views and beliefs about learning influence their
course planning, whether for a physical or a virtual classroom, 2) to give
good practice examples of ICT in instruction, and 3) to gain insight into the
nature and extent of the training and support that teachers need in order to
fully benefit from the use of ICT in instruction.
Finally, based on the constructivist theory of learning as well as experience
gained from prior research and the present study, guidelines for a future in-
house teacher training and support program for the teaching staff of Lahti
Polytechnic were formulated.
3 Population and sampling
The population under study was the permanent teaching staff of Lahti Poly-
technic. Although the study originally followed from the experiences in the
Faculty of Technology, it was felt that a study based on a larger population
might be more useful in the development of teaching in the whole polytech-
nic. Originally the idea was to include in the study all of the staff in the
Faculty of Technology and the Faculty of Social and Health Care to accom-
plish enough heterogeneity in the population, and still be able to manage
the collection of data in a rather limited time. The Faculty of Technology
represents hard technologies and consists of mainly male staff, whereas the
Faculty of Social and Health Care represents softer values and has mainly
female staff. However, after consideration it was decided to draw a sample
from the whole permanent teaching staff of Lahti Polytechnic. Including
only the two very different faculties might have yielded results unrepresen-
tative of the total population.
Finally, a proportionate stratified random sample was drawn from the
whole population, the 194 permanent teachers in the polytechnic. The
stratified sampling method was chosen because the population was natu-
rally divided into more or less homogenous groups, the seven faculties. The
aim was to ensure that the sample would contain teachers from every fac-
ulty, not only from the bigger faculties. The different faculties were consid-
ered as relatively homogenous groups, because each faculty tends to have its
own organisational and educational culture. This seemed the most simple
and effective way to make the sample as representative as possible. Divid-
ing the teachers into groups according to what they teach would have guar-
anteed even more homogenous groups, but that would also have required a
great amount of extra work in finding out their teaching subjects. The time
available for the study was a limitation.
A random sample was drawn from the staff of each faculty so that the final
sample size was 65, approximately a third of the whole population. A third
of the staff of each faculty was randomly selected to the study. This way, it
was felt, each faculty was represented in proportion to its size, the final
sample including more teachers from bigger faculties.
4 Behaviourism and constructivism
There are two traditions in the development of the theories of learning.
They originate from as far back as the ancient Greece, from two opposing
epistemological positions, empiricism and rationalism. The basic difference
between the two lies in the perception of the source of knowledge and the
relation between experience and organisation of the mind. The empiricists
saw the source of knowledge as something external to people. People could,
however, learn about this knowledge through sensory experience, although
some knowledge was derived from reflection regarding the relations among
experience. The rationalists, on the other hand, considered reason the prime
source of knowledge. Thus knowledge was something internal in people. The
rationalists saw the sensory data as chaos that was interpreted according to
certain classes of innate perceptual assumptions. Behaviouristic theories of
learning focused on the study of human behaviour and were built on the
empiricist idea of knowledge. The transmission of knowledge as effectively
as possible became a central issue in teaching. The rationalist conception
led to the development of cognitive theories of learning, which study human
psychological processes. The so-called constructivist theory of learning was
built on cognitive psychology. The central idea in constructivism is that
knowledge cannot be transferred from the teacher to the learners, but it is
the learners themselves who construct the knowledge based on what they
already know. What is important to remember, however, is that the two
paradigms of learning developed almost side by side, and that both of them
are still very much current practice. Constructivism may be winning ground
at the moment among scientists, but in school curricula and teachers' beliefs
behaviourism still lives strong. From the students' perspective in schools
today the difference between the two views of learning could perhaps
slightly exaggerating be summarised as either "being taught" or "having to
4.1 Behaviourism and Skinner's technology of teaching
Behaviourism as a school of psychology is usually thought of as originating
with John B. Watson. In 1913 he announced his behaviouristic position and
became its spokesman for several years. Watson took inspiration from Pav-
lov's theory of the conditioned reflex so much so that he became to regard it
as central to learning.
The strength of the behaviourist theory of learning is its clarity and simplic-
ity. Thorndike established the basic principles of learning in 1898, which he
considered to be the same with animals and man; the stimulus - response
bonds are formed through reinforcement, and all complex behaviour can be
understood if reduced to simple units of behaviour. Learning is mastering
the basics first and gradually building the hierarchy of the whole from the
bottom to the top. This is called vertical transfer. The second type of trans-
fer is called lateral transfer. The term implies that it is possible for learners
to apply what has been learnt in one setting to other similar settings. The
knowledge thus learnt is like a set of tools, which can be taken to a new
situation and used there successfully provided that the two situations have
some common elements. (Bower & Hilgard 1981,Rauste von-Wright and von
B.F. Skinner is perhaps the most well known behaviourist. In his The Tech-
nology of Teaching (1968) he discusses at length the importance and differ-
ent forms of reinforcement. It is interesting that Skinner also mentions "the
good will and affection of the teacher" (Skinner 1968, p. 20) as one of the
reinforcers to be used if all other fails instead of turning to the use of aver-
sive stimulation. His technical approach to teaching has attracted so much
attention that the more humane side of his theory seems to have been for-
Skinner developed his teaching machines mainly for the purpose of rein-
forcement. He did not think a teacher could provide adequate individual
feedback and reinforcement. Therefore, mechanical help was needed. The
basic principle in learning with the help of teaching machines was that the
subject matter being learnt was divided into small logically advancing steps,
which led to the mastery of the whole. The machine was able to give imme-
diate feedback, and the students could proceed at their own pace.
Using a teaching machine necessitated the programming of the taught sub-
ject. First the terminal behaviour had to be defined. Then the subject was
reduced to a hierarchy of small steps, and the required behaviour for each
step was defined. The program consisted of stimulus-response activities,
where immediate feedback was provided for each response. The programs
were designed to minimise wrong answers and aversive feedback.
It was in the late 1960s that Keller, too, developed his Personalised System
of Instruction (PSI), later known as The Keller Plan. The basic principle was
the same as in Skinner's teaching technology model. The taught material
was clearly described, divided into units, and the students were able to pace
themselves as they endeavoured to master each unit before proceeding to
the next one. However, instead of machines, carefully selected proctors
would check the answers and also provide individual instruction if neces-
sary. Still in 1986 in the Handbook of Research on Teaching, Brophy and
Good (1986) declare the Keller Plan to be the most effective teaching method
so far, proven by numerous studies to test it.
Skinner (1968) rejected the simple trial and error learning as ineffective, as
well as exercising rational powers to learn. He saw these two methods as a
"sink-or-swim" technique, where students were only reinforced for the suc-
cessful outcome. He called for reinforcing the precurrent behaviour that
would teach students the right swimming movements before they would be
thrown into the water. Precurrent reinforcing was rewarding before the stu-
dent had a chance to make a mistake, shaping behaviour. Aversive rein-
forcement was avoided as much as possible and correct responses increased.
This way, he argued, thinking could also be taught. Thinking for Skinner
was nothing more than behaviour. Thinking could be shaped like any behav-
iour through direct teaching. Talking about hidden mental processes did not
explain learning. Learning to solve problems, for example, was a result of
direct overt teaching of different problem solving techniques. Some of the
reinforced precurrent behaviour evidently became covert so that the thinker
himself might not have been able to tell what he was doing to come to a cer-
tain conclusion. All the same, it had first been learnt at an overt level.
Skinner described reinforcement that was contingent upon the responses as
primes and prompts that gradually vanished allowing the student to learn
to respond without them. An example of primed behaviour was imitation.
However, Skinner warned against the misuse of priming. The teacher
should not accept the desired behaviour as a goal, if there was not enough
evidence that the student could produce the same behaviour without the
prime. For example, the student had not learnt if he merely echoed the be-
haviour of the lecturer, or parroted back the lecture.
Although Skinner emphasised the students' active role in responding to the
stimuli, the students were all the same recipients of teaching. Perhaps not
altogether passive, but certainly not actively making decisions about what
they needed to learn. This concept of "being taught" directly was for Skinner
the foundation of effective learning. This method is safe, logical and seems
to make sense. Why not tell the students what they should learn? Why not
lecture them about matters that are known? Many agree with Skinner's
view that " Some recent reforms have swung to the other extreme: in mak-
ing sure that the student learns how to think, they neglect the transmission
of knowledge of what is known" (Skinner 1968. p.116).
Skinner was well aware of the criticism against his theory of learning. His
theory had been oversimplified by his critics so that teaching only seemed to
be a matter of proceeding in small steps. Skinner pointed out that apart
from the appropriate size of the step, the sequencing of the steps was as im-
portant. He argued that even though students often advanced in a linear
fashion, they were, in fact, learning multidimensional things. Sequencing at
its best was forming a network or a tree of the different parts of the subject
so that the student was properly prepared before he advanced to the next
step. To the criticism of not providing the students with an overall view of
the subject matter, he answered, "An overall view is something the student
is to learn; it is not something he is to pick up by wandering rather aim-
lessly about in unprogrammed material." (Skinner 1968, p. 224)
4.1.1 Pedagogical implications of behaviourism
Skinner's teaching technology is still very much alive in today's schools.
Most curricula still reflect the step-by-step teaching of the subjects. The sub-
jects themselves are steps towards certain competencies defined by authori-
ties or teachers. These competencies in turn make up, for example, an engi-
neer's qualifications. The terminal behaviour has thus been defined, "What
does an engineer need to be able to do?" This behaviour has been reduced to
different subjects and assignments for the students to master before they
are expected to see the "big picture" and make all the parts that they have
been taught work together.
This kind of curriculum is relatively stable. Every year different students go
through the same steps. Somebody else has decided what they should be
able to do to graduate. This may lead to superficial learning techniques by
the students; the correct responses and marks become more important than
the learning process itself, or understanding.
Teachers possess the knowledge, and decide how much of that knowledge
students need to learn. They then arrange the knowledge into small hierar-
chical steps that logically lead towards the goal. They use drill and practice
to activate the students and give feedback to reinforce learning. Finally,
they measure in a test how much of the taught knowledge the students mas-
ter. The behaviourist view of knowledge is fixed. Knowledge is a bulk out-
side the students’ minds until the teacher manages to transmit some of it
into the minds of his or her students. Effective teaching methods play an
important role in the transmission of knowledge. In the same way, the be-
haviourist view of the students is fixed. The students remain basically the
same, although they may gain a certain amount of knowledge. The knowl-
edge they learn is like an extra toolkit to be used when necessary. In the
behaviouristic model the teacher does a major part of the work that, accord-
ing to the constructivist theory, the students should do themselves in order
4.2.1 The Influence of Kant and Darwin
Kant , a German philosopher, wanted to find a solution to the conflict be-
tween empiricism and rationalism. According to Kant's epistemology,
knowledge was created as a combination of the two earlier views. Kant sug-
gested that the raw sense data was actually interpreted according to certain
forms. This framework of thought relationships makes sense of the sensory
chaos and refines it into knowledge. (Bower & Hilgard 1981, Rauste von-
Wright and von Wright 1994)
Kant's a priori forms can be seen as the first attempt towards the cognitive
theory of the organisation of the mind, the schemas that we use to construct
new knowledge. Kant considered his classes permanent, whereas the cur-
rent view sees the cognitive structures as developing and changing. In fact,
learning is believed to be exactly that; a change in one's cognitive struc-
Darwin's theory of the evolution of species with its mechanism of natural
selection and the survival of the fittest had a great impact on the develop-
ment of constructivism. Man, too, survived in the struggle of life through his
actions. Learning was a way to survive in a challenging environment. In the
late 1800's and early 1900's Dewey, Mead, and James all emphasised the
importance of activities in learning. According to James, it was important to
understand the function of human behaviour, the goal of certain type of ac-
tivity. Learning was basically solving the problems that prevented reaching
the goal. (Schellenberg 1978, Rauste von-Wright and von Wright 1994)
4.2.2 English and American constructivists
As a philosopher Dewey wanted to combine theory and practice. In his ap-
proach to education he emphasised the importance of connecting subject
matter knowledge with the learner's present life experiences. He criticised
strongly the separation of body and mind in teaching. He suggested that
new situations activated expectations and hypotheses based on prior knowl-
edge. In their attempts to solve problems learners test their prior assump-
tions. They reflect on the course of action they have taken, as well as the
results of their actions. Prior assumptions are then reconstructed according
to this reflection process. This led Dewey to focus on three aspects of learn-
ing that he considered essential: Firstly, learners should have a genuine
situation of experience with an activity that they are interested in. Sec-
ondly, a genuine problem should develop within this situation, for which
learners can discover a solution. Thirdly, learners should be active in
searching for information. (Dewey 1916/1944, 1929) Dewey's emphasis on
the educational value of activities has had a significant impact on teaching
methods. It is, however, important to bear in mind that according to Dewey,
additional experiences had to contribute to the growth of subject matter
knowledge. Activities for activities' own sake or for their enjoyment value do
not promote learning. Instead, ideas should be the starting point in lesson
planning, and activities should be chosen so that they fit in. With so much
emphasis on activating the students, some educationalists fear that teach-
ers may equate activity with learning and think, "student interest and in-
volvement in the classroom is both a necessary and sufficient condition for
worthwhile learning." (Prawat 1990, p.24)
Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist is considered to be a pioneer of
the constructive theory of learning. He studied mental structures and the
development of thinking processes. Piaget's main argument was that knowl-
edge is construed inside one's mind in a social interaction with other people
and the physical environment. Knowledge exists as schemas in the mind.
Learning could happen through assimilation or accommodation. In assimila-
tion the new information assimilates with the old schemas within the exist-
ing knowledge framework. In accommodation the new information changes
the existing framework. The learner understands the world in a new way.
Based on his experiments and studies Piaget concluded that a child's think-
ing developed in stages. A child could not learn anything new if he was not
ready to learn it. (Rauste von-Wright and von Wright 1994, Piaget 1987)
The weakness in Piaget's theory has proved to be its independence of con-
text. Thinking seemed to develop according to certain developmental laws.
The idea that the hierarchy of the mental structures involves qualitative
change in thinking when a child develops seems to suggest that learning
naturally happens from the simple to the more complicated. This is not far
from the behaviourist notion of step-by-step learning, climbing the ladder
until you see the big picture. The implications that this view has on teach-
ing are, on one hand, that the subject matter be organised to correspond to
the developmental stage of the learner. On the other hand, Piaget's theory
implies that simple facts and skills that do not require much thinking
should be taught first before the learner can be presented with situations
that require higher order thinking skills and problem-solving. According to
Rauste von-Wright and von Wright (1994) there is neither scientific evi-
dence nor experience to support this part of Piaget's theory. Rauste von-
Wright and von Wright argue that thinking and problem solving are not
based on mastering the basics, but are essential in all kinds of learning even
in acquiring the most rudimentary knowledge and skills. Rauste von-Wright
and von Wright also question the validity of the developmental stages. She
suggests that the stages seem to be universal only if the population in the
study comes from a similar cultural background, and if language has played
a key role in measuring the thinking abilities. The bigger the cultural vari-
ety in the population and the smaller the influence of language in the study,
the more learning seems to produce individual differences in thinking proc-
esses. The developmental similarities seem to lose importance.
However, the notion of the learners' active role in constructing their own
knowledge structures remains at the heart of the constructive theory of
Vygotsky criticised theories that claimed that adult intellectual functions
were products of maturation only. According to Vygotsky, social interaction
is the basis of all higher psychological functions. Every function appears on
two levels. First between people, and then inside the person. This applies
equally to voluntary attention, logical memory and the formation of con-
cepts. Gradually the child internalises the regulation of these functions. The
internalisation takes place with the help of language, "thought becomes ver-
bal and speech rational." (Vygotsky 1978, p. 128)
A central concept in Vygotsky's pedagogical thinking was the concept of the
zone of proximal development. It is the distance between what the learner
can do independently and what he could do with the right kind of support
and guidance. Because Vygotsky viewed learning as a social process, he em-
phasised the varied roles that language could play in instruction. "The mere
exposure of students to new materials through oral lectures neither allows
for adult guidance nor collaboration with peers". (Vygotsky 1978, p. 131) In
his theory teaching should advance development, not lag behind it.
Both Piaget and Vygotsky stressed the importance of social interaction in
learning, but they saw it slightly differently. According to Piaget, learning
happens as a result of a conflict between the learner's own understanding of
the problem and that of other learners. The conflict is the driving force that
makes the learner reconstruct his or her own knowledge network. Vygotsky
emphasises socially formed cognitive structures, which are then recon-
structed internally. The knowledge is in a way built together, whereas in
Piaget's view every individual constructs his or her own knowledge as a re-
sult of discussions with other people.
4.2.5 Pedagogical implications of constructivism
According to the constructivist theory of learning, knowledge cannot be
transmitted from the teacher’s mind to the students’ minds. Nor does the
information in books or on web pages turn into knowledge automatically.
Learning involves a conceptual change. It is a change in the student’s cogni-
tive structures, and it requires a lot of work from the student.
Learning is constructing one’s knowledge network again and again. What
students learn is always based on what they already know. The students
process the new information and form new meanings and knowledge struc-
tures. Thus learning is not so much knowing more as a gradual change in
understanding. What the student already knows makes learning easier, but
it may also prevent learning. This is because sometimes learners make their
own theories about matters that they know a little about, but not enough to
understand them completely. These kinds of assumptions and misconcep-
tions may direct the learning process. It is easy to learn new things if they
confirm the old beliefs and theories, but problems arise if the new informa-
tion is in conflict with prior assumptions. (Lehtinen 1997) A constructivist
teacher, therefore, first tries to find out what the students already know, or
think they know about the subject matter. The result then determines how
the teacher proceeds. Teachers themselves may have similar difficulties in
adapting new ideas about teaching. The prior beliefs might be compatible
with the new ones, and changing them could be difficult.
What is general and common for all students in a learning situation is only
the framework of the subject area, and a general idea about the goals. The
learning tasks are as open as possible. Students set their own personal goals
and make decisions on how to reach the goals. In a constructivist learning
environment students' perceptions of the world, and the subject at hand, are
the starting point. It is important for the teacher to be aware of the stu-
dents' learning strategies, because they have a great impact on what the
students' learn. For example, students may themselves have been used to a
step by step learning, and tend to memorise facts instead of trying to under-
stand the whole. In that case the teacher tries to convince the students
about a better strategy. When evaluating the teacher leaves room for stu-
dents' individual interpretations of the subject matter. All students cannot
be expected to learn all the same things in the same way. Thus, rather than
testing the contents in detail, the teacher tries to find out what kind of
qualitative changes have happened in the students' conceptual thinking.
Therefore again, knowing the students' initial assumptions is vital. A pre-
requisite for this kind of cognitive difference in students is the flexibility of
the curriculum. The curriculum cannot be fixed to the detail in advance.
There are no fixed contents or fixed students in the constructivist teaching
What is known about the importance of social interaction in learning calls
for teaching methods that encourage discussions between students and stu-
dents and teachers. To create the kind of atmosphere that allows students to
express their opinions freely without the fear of being laughed at is a great
challenge for the teacher. Having the opportunity to test one's ideas in pub-
lic helps the learner become aware of his or her own thinking processes as
well as others'. In such group discussions the tacit knowledge comes into the
open, and is added and changed by the input of others. This promotes the
kind of metacognition; knowing that I know, or knowing what I do not know.
Bearing in mind the situated nature of learning, it is important to try to
connect the new information with as many contexts as possible. This helps
promote transfer of knowledge to new situations. A case in point is learning
a foreign language. Integrating language studies with professional subjects
helps students see the language as a useful and flexible tool that can be
used in different ways in different situations. Opposite to the hierarchical
order of teaching the basic things first as steps towards the whole, a con-
structivist teacher starts his or her subject from the top introducing general
principles that can be applied to a variety of situations.
Finally, according to the constructivist theory, learning can be learnt. Stu-
dents are provided with learning situations where they have an opportunity
to reflect on their own learning, weigh different solutions to problems, find
analogies etc. These are the kind of skills that can develop in language les-
sons as well as in science lessons, or in professional studies.
5 Towards online pedagogy
In this study 'online learning' is used to refer to Information and Communi-
cation Technologies (ICT) in instruction. Other terms generally used in the
same sense in literature are, for example, 'web-based learning' and 'eLearn-
ing'. 'Information Technology' (IT) refers to the technology per se, whereas
'Computer Aided Instruction' (CAI) is used to refer to the earlier applica-
tions of computers in instruction without the Internet connection.
Other terminology in the field is more often used to refer to the teaching
arrangements rather than the use of technology as such. Thus a reader may
encounter terms like 'virtual learning environment', 'virtual classroom',
‘open learning environments’,’ new learning environments'. In the present
study, the terms 'virtual classroom' and 'open learning environment' are
used to refer to a learning environment on the net.
Finally, 'online pedagogy' is used in the sense Lehtinen (2001) defines it as
involving such pedagogical solutions that enable the utilization of informa-
tion networks in the most purposeful way. The term refers to the teaching
approach and the methods aimed at enhancing learning in a virtual class-
room. It is recognised, however, that no new pedagogy has yet been devel-
oped for online learning.
In the following the development of the use of computers in instruction is
briefly summarised. The aim is to provide evidence to the assumption that
the prevailing learning theories are reflected not only in teaching practices
and the use of available technology, but also in the research conducted at
5.2 Computer aided instruction
New technologies do not automatically bring about new pedagogies. Tech-
nology can be used to reinforce the existing teaching approach as well as to
enhance or change that approach. It all depends on how the teacher decides
to use the technology. Skinner developed his teaching machines to effec-
tively implement the behaviouristic theory of learning. A great deal has
happened in the field of teaching technology since then, and before the
emergence of the World Wide Web and the virtual classroom along with it.
Experiments in the use of computers as teaching aid were conducted in uni-
versities as soon as computers had been developed. In the 1970's when the
first microcomputers were introduced to schools, they quickly became a
natural part of school teaching. According to Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) the
experiences from the late 1960's and early 1970's concluded that computers
seemed to help in training basic skills. Since the dominant theory of learn-
ing at that time, behaviourism, relied on repetition and reinforcement in
learning, mainly drills and practice programs were developed. The programs
were not designed for teaching higher-level cognitive processes.
The results from 1970's through early 1990's confirm the earlier findings of
the effectiveness of CAI. In addition, positive changes in the attitudes of
students towards school, and higher motivation, were also detected. (Cotton
Until the 1990s the focus of research had been on the effects of Computer
Aided Instruction. Gradually there was a shift towards different ways of
using computers, and the computer technology know-how of the teachers.
Ryan (1991) categorised the different uses of computers in instruction into
drill and practice programs, tutorials, simulations, programming language,
discovery programs and utilities. His findings suggested that a combination
of different uses was generally more effective than any one method alone.
Ryan also analysed the effects of teacher training in computer use. The
longer the training the more effective the experiment proved to be.
According to Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) the recent studies show quite the
opposite results compared to the earlier findings. Instead of drill and prac-
tice, programs that demand more autonomous active problem solving from
the learner, are seen as the most effective. In fact, recent studies show that
the effects of drill and practice are relatively small and do not last long. As
controversial as the conclusions of earlier and recent studies may seem they
can be understood against the prevailing theories of learning of each time of
study. The studies conducted in the 1960s through 1980s were still influ-
enced by behaviourism and the ideas of programmed instruction. Electronic
learning environments based on the constructivist theory of learning were
only developed at the end of 1980s and during the 1990s. With the new
learning theory and new software the studies have also focused more on
5.3 ICT in instruction
At the moment there seem to be two basic approaches in the use of ICT in
instruction; 1) to use the Internet to deliver teaching materials or auto-
mated drills and quizzes, and 2) with the help of advanced software to cre-
ate open learning environments. The first approach aims at transferring
knowledge in a more effective way and make it available for a larger num-
ber of students. The learning environment approach aims at promoting
problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and knowledge construction by
generating social interaction and collaborative activities for the students.
The results of the multitude of studies conducted on the benefits and short-
comings of online learning may be inconsistent, because of the way ICT has
been used in each case. An example of the transmission of knowledge via the
Internet is the study by, Faux and Black-Hughes (2000). Faux and Black-
Hughes came to the conclusion that traditional lectures are more effective in
teaching social work history than web-based instruction. In their study the
Internet was used to offer video recordings of live lectures, to present the
course notes on the web sites, and to suggest useful links for the students to
browse. According to Faux and Black-Hughes, the biggest problem for the
instructor was to make sure that the links were current and that the infor-
mation was reliable. In short, the web-based instruction did not offer any-
thing new. The teacher was doing most of the work on behalf of the stu-
dents. The Internet, compared to classroom teaching, seemed to be merely a
The majority of cases of ICT in instruction, however, fall between the two
extremes showing features from both approaches. A review of 100 research
reports and journal articles on the experience of online learning and teach-
ing (Coomey and Stephenson, 2001) indicates that teachers' epistemological
beliefs and theories of learning determine what kind of courses they produce
on the net. Coomey and Stephenson have described the different paradigms
of learning and teaching, which surfaced from their analysis of online
courses, in a grid form. The current online courses seem to fall in four cate-
gories that Coomey and Stephenson describe as North West, North East,
South East, and South West.
The NW sector of the grid represents the most traditional teaching with a
lot of teacher control and teacher specified tasks. The online content is often
text based leaving the learner with little initiative. The reading material as
well as assignments could all be set in advance. Most of the courses in
Coomey's and Stephenson's study fell in this sector. The SE sector, on the
other hand, seems to include the constructivist teaching approach with open
ended, strategic assignments and learner managed learning. Students can
have personal goals and a lot of freedom of choice. The NE and SW sectors
have something of the both extremes in varying degrees.
On the basis of their research Coomey and Stephenson have also been able
to create a framework of four common features that seem to play a key role
in online learning. The features are Dialogue, Involvement, Support, and
Control (DISC). Dialogue must be carefully structured in the course. It can
take place between students themselves, students and the instructor or the
students and an expert. Dialogue can be made possible with web tools like
email, bulletin board, real time chat, asynchronous chat, group discussions,
etc. Involvement refers to students' active engagement with material, stu-
dent collaboration and motivation. Students also need Support from each
other, from the teacher, from experts and technical personnel. Control refers
to the extent to which the students have control of their own learning activi-
ties like pacing and timing, choice of content and goals, etc. According to
Coomey and Stephenson, all of the above features can be present in various
degrees and in different variations depending on the paradigm that the
online course represents.
The strength of Coomey's and Stephenson's grid is that it does not attempt
to give a norm as regards the best approach to online teaching. The authors
recognise the different teaching approaches, and based on research evidence
are able to give practical suggestions on how the DISC features can be im-
plemented within each paradigm. For example, a teacher in the NW sector
can create dialogue by making online participation a requirement and cre-
ate reasons to participate. A specific task could be introducing oneself on the
bulletin board with everybody commenting on each other's introductions. On
the other hand, in the SE sector the teacher can make a variety of discus-
sion groups available and let the students choose in which to participate. On
a course in the SE sector the students, furthermore, lead discussions, seek
external specialist assistance, etc.
Coomey's and Stephenson's grid provides a useful sounding board for teach-
ers to reflect on their own practices and beliefs about teaching and learning.
Often one may agree with, for example, the constructivist approach to teach-
ing and think oneself as a constructivist. A closer look, however, reveals that
the teaching practices have remained basically the same.
This discrepancy in teachers' ideas about teaching and their actual teaching
practices seems to be surprisingly common. Often a teacher approves of the
new learning theories, but does not seem to implement them in his or her
own teaching. (Prawat 1990, Sinko and Lehtinen1999)
5.3.1 Finnish experiences of ICT in instruction
The best way to get an idea of the possibilities brought by ICT in instruction
following the principles of the constructivist theory of learning is to look at
some case studies of innovative teaching experiments. There is a multitude
of national and international experiments with examples of good practice
(Bonk et al 2001, Mason 2001, Rosie 2000). However, because of the limita-
tions of the present study, a decision was made to focus on the typically
Finnish educational problems and the attempts that have been made to ad-
dress them with the help of ICT in instruction.
Finnish students do not engage in conversations to develop new ideas, they
like to listen and contemplate the ideas on their own. They would rather
express a well thought out opinion than discuss half-baked ideas. In that
sense they are closer to Piaget’s theory of social interaction. These observa-
tions are based on the author's own, as well as reported experiences of co-
operative learning projects, not on a scientific study (Lehtinen 1997). Thus
in case of co-operative learning, for example, there is a lot of chatting going
on before the work begins. But after the workload has been somehow di-
vided, each student tends to do his share alone. In the end, the different
pieces are put together. In the worst cases a couple of students do the work
while the others are engaged in unproductive activities.
Using the Internet to connect the students, and providing them with com-
munication tools does not necessarily change the situation for the better
unless an extra effort is made to overcome this problem. However, having
the tools to express ideas that are difficult to form into words at an early
stage, might lower the threshold of communication. Lehtinen (1997) reports
of an experiment where the students using a computer-aided algebra-
program (DERIVE) were able to silently communicate with each other by
showing their ideas on the screen. This kind of non-verbal communication
would be possible with graphic programs as well when working on a design
project, for example.
Obviously the goal cannot be teaching silent communication. Activities like
the above serve as a first step towards sharing ideas. Another point that
Lehtinen is making is the use of communication tools like electronic bulletin
boards and chat rooms to encourage students to engage in meaningful dis-
cussions about the subject matter. These easily accessed tools make it possi-
ble for students to participate in a real time exchange of ideas in a shared
knowledge building process or, alternatively, read what other students are
writing, let it sink in, form their own opinions, and express them when
ready. The fact that communication via networks is in a way faceless, and
the students can maintain their anonymity to a certain extent, may also
make participation easier. Email interaction between the student and the
teacher can also be more personal and intimate than face-to-face interac-
tion. It can also make it easier for the student to approach the teacher (Far-
Marttunen (1997) gives an example of a simple use of email to develop stu-
dents’ argumentation skills and critical thinking. The reason why attention
is being paid on argumentation skills specifically is the evidence on Finnish
students’ poor performance in academic discussions (Laurinen 1996, Mart-
tunen 1994, Mauranen 1993, Steffensen 1996). Finnish undergraduate stu-
dents do not often ask questions in class, they do not challenge the lecturer,
they are shy to express critical views about the professors’ or fellow stu-
dents’ arguments, and, as mentioned before, the simple sharing of ideas in
public is not easy for the students. Marttunen (1997) reports of a study
made in the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. The students used an elec-
tronic email environment to discuss the course literature. Since all the se-
lected students participated in the email communication, the interaction
between the students improved. However, the study also showed that criti-
cal argumentation was scarce. Marttunen concludes that Finnish under-
graduate students tend to avoid disagreement, as it feels impolite. He goes
on to suggest that seminar and class discussions could be increased by giv-
ing the students an opportunity to comment on the lecture afterwards via
electronic communication tools. This way also the shy students might be
encouraged to ask questions and offer their often valuable insights and ex-
periences. Again, the desired outcome would be that once the students get
used to expressing their ideas, they would feel confident enough to do so in
class as well.
The above are examples of using communications networks at a rather low
technical level. On the market there is a range of commercial web-based
courseware that makes it possible for the teacher to plan a course where the
students learn at their own pace, test their learning strategies and develop
their independent learning skills. These enable asynchronous working on
the same project - working together wtihout being present at the same place
at the same time. These programs encourage co-operative learning, follow-
ing Vygotsky's theory of socially constructed knowledge. The students can
comment on and add to each other's documents, and this way develop their
critical thinking skills as well.
One example of the use of such courseware ( WebCT) in Lahti Polytechnic is
the combined marketing and the English language project conducted via the
Internet. WebCT was used as a virtual classroom to connect students from
two different polytechnics; Lahti Polytechnic and North Karelia Polytechnic.
The students were doing a course on marketing with an emphasis on foreign
language skills. The two groups of students never met. It was the students’
responsibility to create imaginary companies in teams of 3 - 4 students, and
to produce the company web pages with descriptions of their products. The
students also introduced themselves with photographs. This was all done in
English. All this material was put in the presentation area within WebCT.
The students then had to familiarise themselves with all the companies, de-
cide which of them they would like to do business with, and then approach
the chosen company/companies with a business letter. The companies had
their own email addresses within WebCT. The correspondence led to a busi-
ness deal with a problem arising at the last minute. The problem was then
solved in a videoconference between the companies.
The experiences of the combined marketing and English course were very
positive. According to the students the correspondence felt real, and they
had to pay extra attention to making themselves understood. This is not al-
ways the case when the letter is only written for the teacher to mark. The
students were also happy for an opportunity to practise videoconferencing,
and the negotiation skills in English. The project would have been even
more effective if the other school had not been Finnish, too. Even so, the
students felt not knowing the other party made the simulation more real
than working with one’s own classmates.
5.4 Teachers as IT and ICT users
Despite the many good experiences and innovative experiments of using ICT
in instruction there seems to be a problem how to expand the know-how and
the innovations to other schools and other teachers. ICT in instruction is not
as widespread as one might think considering the technology available in
schools today. According to Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) the student - com-
puter ratio in polytechnics and universities in Finland is approximately 3-5
students per computer. In primary and secondary education the ratio is 12 -
15 students per computer. Teachers are, however, reluctant to participate in
online teaching and learning. The problem often lies in the attitudes and
even in the fear of losing authority. Teachers must feel safe with computers
in order to use ICT in their own instruction. (Mällinen 2001, Sinko and Leh-
Even though teachers do get involved in online teaching, their teaching style
does not automatically change. To develop teaching methods, more is needed
than the introduction of new hardware. Wishart and Blease (1999) studied
the effects of the installation of a computer network on teaching and learn-
ing. The study took place in a secondary school in the academic year 1996/7.
The results suggest that computers had a greater impact on the pupils'
learning experience than on the teachers' teaching style. In the study in
questions the pupils felt that the use of computers had in general enhanced
their learning. The increase in motivation and the improved work was con-
firmed by the teachers, too. Changes in the teachers' teaching style were
less obvious. After the first survey in January 1997 40 % of the teachers felt
that their teaching had improved, whereas 53% of the pupils reported no
change at all in teaching. After the second survey in July of the same year
72% of the teachers mentioned a variety of changes. A relatively high per-
centage (31%) of students, too, had noticed a change in teaching towards
more independent, open learning tasks. This would suggest a change in the
teacher's approach to teaching. Wishart and Blease point out, however, that
all the reported changes do not necessarily indicate a clear change in teach-
ing style as the change may have involved simply using computers to re-
place an earlier method, the teaching style remaining the same. Also, 46% of
the pupils still reported no change. The results may not show unquestion-
able changes in teachers' teaching style. The results could, however, indi-
cate that the teachers thought their teaching style had changed. This would
be in accordance with the notion that it is easier for the teachers to approve
of new teaching methods than to actually manage to implement them in
their teaching (Prawat 1994, Sinko and Lehtinen 1999). Also Foddy (1993)
when discussing survey responses points out that the relationship between
what respondents do and what they say they do is not always very strong.
Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) report on a similar study in three Finnish lower
secondary schools. A group of students were chosen to receive laptop com-
puters for their individual use for the duration of the experiment. The
teachers were supported by a consultant from a university. The teachers
also received continuous training. This experiment lasted three years. The
results showed that actual changes in the tasks that teachers gave to their
students started to show only in the third year of the experiment. Phenom-
ena outside the school became the subject of learning, and the students be-
came better equipped to work independently, to set their own goals and to
evaluate their work. Furthermore, since cooperation was necessary for
many tasks, the students learnt how to work efficiently in a group. Also, the
students developed special skills, on the basis of which the work was divided
in the group.
Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) conducted a series of studies across all school
levels in Finland to find out how teachers used ICT in their teaching. The
results were similar at all levels of education; teachers mainly used com-
puters to prepare lectures and assignments, acquire and process new infor-
mation, to maintain contacts with their colleagues, and to conduct their own
research. Their reluctance to try new innovative uses of ICT in their own
teaching was explained by lack of time, lack of pedagogical support and in-
adequate computer skills. School administrators were included in the survey
as well. Their answers confirmed the teachers responses with the exception
that the administrators also mentioned teachers' reserved attitudes.
6 A survey on teachers' beliefs about learning and
ICT in instruction at Lahti Polytechnic
The study was carried out using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
The data were collected using questionnaires and interviews. The question-
naire consisted of multiple-choice questions, dichotomous questions, rating
scales, and one open-ended question. Closed questions were chosen mainly
because they were quick to complete. In the past few years the staff of the
polytechnic have been subject to several different surveys, and at the mo-
ment a kind of 'survey fatigue' can be detected. The reason for frequent sur-
veys is the ongoing development work in the polytechnic as well as the fact
that many of the teachers are pursuing Ph.D. studies. The questionnaire
was formulated together with the Head of Continuous Training at the Fac-
ulty of Technology. The aim was to draw from her experience in arranging
continuous training courses plus to ensure that the questionnaire would
provide the kind of information she needed for planning a new course for
teachers. One IT teacher was also consulted in order to formulate questions
that would best serve as indicators of teachers' computer know-how. Finally
the draft questionnaire was piloted and submitted to a collegial critique in a
seminar for a group of Ph.D students. All the post-graduate students in the
group were teachers in Lahti Polytechnic. None of them participated in the
final survey. On the basis of the group's comments and responses the ques-
tionnaire was further modified. Most changes concerned the ambiguity of
questions, which in many cases asked more than one thing.
The questionnaire was taken to each respondent personally either by the
author or her assistant. The idea was to ensure as big a response percentage
as possible. Also, it was easy to clarify the questions if necessary in a face to
face situation. The respondents' reactions and comments were all noted
down and included in the qualitative analysis. However, a few of the re-
spondents could not be reached. Questionnaires were left for them on their
desks with instructions to send them back with the school mail.
The quantitative analysis of the survey was carried out with the Statistica
computer program. Frequency analyses were run of all variables of the
quantitative data. The open-ended question as well as all the other com-
ments that the respondents had given were recorded and analysed using
qualitative content analysis. Based on the results of the analysis of the
questionnaire responses, theme interview questions were formulated. Only
the respondents who had taught web-based courses or part of such courses
were interviewed. The main purpose of the interview was to find out what
kind of online courses the interviewees had designed and taught. The inter-
view questions also probed the successes and difficulties that the respon-
dents had experienced in their experiments of online teaching. The answers
were recorded manually in the interview situation and later analysed quali-
The purpose of this methodological and investigator triangulation was to
increase the validity and reliability of the study.
The purpose of the questionnaire was, on one hand, to help determine the
teachers' current level of computer know-how and their use of ICT. On the
other hand, the questionnaire items tried to tease out teachers' current be-
liefs about learning, their teaching style, satisfaction with their current
teaching and attitudes towards change.
The questionnaire began with contextual information about the research
and the investigator's purposes. The introduction also stated that the re-
spondent's identity would not be known to anyone but the investigator
(Cohen et al 2000, Foddy 1993). This was considered important since some
of the teachers might have considered the topic too sensitive to provide
truthful answers. ICT in instruction is such a popular theme in schools to-
day that teachers who are either not interested in or, for some other reason,
not involved in it might fear becoming labelled old-fashioned or accused of
The questionnaire items focused on two separate issues; ICT and teaching.
The questions about ICT (1-9) investigated teachers' access to ICT at home
and at work and their computer know-how. Teachers' computer know-how
was probed for example with questions like "Can you save files in folders?"
or " How do you edit text?". Their general use of ICT was asked in questions
like "Do you know how to make an attachment to your email message?", and
"Can you find train timetables on the Internet, if necessary?"
These may seem as rather simple IT and ICT skills. According to the IT
teacher, who was consulted, surprisingly many of the teachers who come to
IT training courses do not have these skills. Teachers' experience of ICT in
instruction were asked in questions (10-14) like "How do you use informa-
tion networks in instruction?".
Questions 15-17,18e, 18i, 18k, 18l, 18m, 18n, and18o tried to tease out the
respondents' beliefs about teaching and learning. These questions were for-
mulated to reflect either the principles of behaviourist theory of learning or
the constructivist theory of learning. Examples of such questions were
"Which of the following statements best corresponds to your teaching style?
- I start with a complicated problem.
- I proceed from the simple to the more complicated.
- I use both styles depending on the situation.
Another example is from the Likert scale, where the respondents could
choose from 'strongly disagree' (1) to 'strongly agree' (5):
- "Students do not know themselves what they need to learn. 1 2 3 4 5"
- "The starting point for teaching should be the students'
perceptions of the subject. 1 2 3 4 5"
The structure of the questionnaire followed Cohen et al's (2000) advice on
questionnaire design; from clear, simple, factual questions to more challeng-
ing closed multiple choice questions and ratings, to open-ended questions
about opinions, attitudes, etc. The questionnaire contained multiple-choice
questions, dichotomous questions, Likert scale ratings, and one open-ended
question. The first questions asked simple, factual information, and were
easy and quick to answer. The questionnaire began with questions about the
respondent's age, subject he/she taught and the Faculty, where he/she
taught. The age was not categorised in advance in the fear of losing infor-
mation. These general questions were followed by questions about access to
ICT and the use of IT and ICT. They were all multiple-choice questions with
one alternative always left open for respondents' own comments to avoid
irritation due to not finding an appropriate alternative. The first multiple-
choice items also included questions which were hoped to have high interest
value (Cohen et al 2000) and therefore encourage participating. Such ques-
tions were, for example, those, which enquired the availability of hardware
at work and its age. It was hoped that teachers would see the survey as a
means of letting the administrators know if they felt they were required to
produce online courses without proper equipment.
After the simple, factual questions, more difficult multiple choice and di-
chotomous questions followed. These dealt with teaching style, and beliefs
about learning. To achieve intensity (Cohen et al 2000) a Likert scale was
used to measure the respondents' degree of interest in online teaching as
well as their attitudes towards it. Some of the statements also focused on
beliefs about learning in an attempt to validate the respondents' earlier an-
swers to similar multiple-choice questions.
The questionnaire was broken down into subsections with headings. The
purpose of the headings was to help the respondents' see the foci of the
questions and the reasons for including the items (Cohen et al 2000).
Finally, the questionnaire ended with an open-ended question about the
kind of support and training the respondents felt they would need in design-
ing and teaching online courses. According to Foddy (1993) most methodolo-
gists accept that answers to open questions indicate what issues are salient
in respondents' minds as the respondents are allowed to express themselves
in their own words. Another reason why it was decided not to suggest an-
swers to this last question was that this question, too, might reveal some-
thing about the respondents' beliefs about learning. As all the other ques-
tions about learning focused on teachers' perceptions of how students learn
best, this one was asking the teachers to consider how they would learn best
In formulating the questions attempts were made to pay attention to the
wording so that the questions would not be ambiguous or misleading. Lead-
ing questions, as well as, too complex or highbrow questions were also
avoided. The questionnaire did not contain questions with double negatives,
either. These are all considered basic rules of formulating questionnaires
(Cohen et al 2000, Foddy 1993, Payne 1986) Instructions guided the respon-
dents as to where one alternative was to be circled, and where several alter-
natives could be selected.
6.2.1 Questionnaire survey
65 teachers were randomly selected to receive questionnaires. Two of them
were on a leave of absence and could not be reached. Out of the remaining
63 teachers 49 returned the questionnaire giving a response rate of 78%. All
the seven faculties and a variety of subjects were represented by the re-
spondents, 30 of whom were female and 19 male. The youngest of the re-
spondents was 29 and the oldest 62 with most of the respondents falling into
the age group of 45 - 55.
The majority of the respondents (30) reported having a computer with an
Internet connection at home. At work most of them (33) had their own PCs
in their offices, while the rest either shared a computer with a colleague
(14). Only one reported not having a computer in his/her office at all. The
computers were from 1 to 4 years old on an average.
220.127.116.11 Teachers' computer know-how and the use of IT and ICT
Almost all of the respondents (41) seemed to master saving files in their own
folders. 19 used formatting definitions under 'styles' to modify text, 22
changed fonts. Using styles in the Microsoft Word program is a more ad-
vanced method of text processing, generally preferred by teachers who teach
text processing. A large number of the respondents used other advanced
computer programs like power point (29), excel (38), and FrontPage (7).
It must be noted here that the numbers exceed the total of 49, because many
respondents reported mastering more than one program.
Table 1 shows how many teachers reported using the Internet with ease,
and how many used IT or ICT in instruction.
Frequency Valid Percent Total
Reads email once a day 36 73 49
Adds attachments to email 43 88 49
Finds information on the net 46 96 48
Uses IT in instruction 30 63 48
Uses the Internet in instruction 38 79 48
Table 1: Teachers' use of the Internet in general and IT and the Internet in instruction.
Nearly all of the respondents felt they were conversant with the Internet. 30
of the respondents reported using IT in instruction either sometimes (16) or
In addition, a great number (38) also used the Internet in instruction. To the
question: "How do you use the Internet in instruction?", 36 answered that
they asked students to search for information on the Internet, 21 answered
that they sent and/or received assignments via the Internet. 8 had made
teaching material available on the Internet. As above, the respondents were
able to select more than one alternative. 4 reported having conducted an
entire web-based course or web-based courses, 3 having supplemented his or
her course/s with web-based modules. 7 of the respondents had studied on
an online course themselves.
18.104.22.168 Teachers' beliefs about learning
Figures 1-3 show the results of the frequency analysis of teachers' answers
to the multiple choice questions, the purpose of which was to investigate
how much student control teachers allow in the decision on goals and con-
tents of courses, and carrying out the assignments (questions 15 and 16), as
well as teachers' own views about their teaching style (question 17). Each
chart shows the number of responses to the four alternatives in the ques-
tion. The alternatives have been reduced to keywords due to the limited
space available for value labels. The original question can be seen above the
How do you begin a new course?
No of obs
Teacher gives goals Negotiated goals Other
Figure 1: How the goals and contents of courses are determined
Figure 1 shows the teachers answers to the question: "How do you begin a
new course?" 25 teachers answered that they told students what the goals
and contents were going to be, and 22 answered that the decision about the
goals and contents was made together with students. The third alternative:
" I let the group decide on the contents and the objectives" was not selected
by anyone. The alternative "Other" was selected by 2 teachers who ex-
plained that the start depended on the situation.
How do you give assignments?
No of obs
Teacher specified Some student control Open-ended Other
Figure 2: Teacher specified versus open-ended tasks
Figure 2 shows the results of the analysis of teachers' answers to the ques-
tion: " How do you give assignments?" Most respondents (31) answered that
they specified the assignment but allowed individual freedom to some ex-
tent. 15 answered that they used teacher specified assignments, whereas
only 2 reported giving open-ended assignments. Again alternative "Other",
was answered with "it depends on the situation".
Which of the following best describes your teaching style?
No of obs
Complicated problem Simple basics Depends on subject Other
Figure 3: How teachers introduce a new subject.
Figure 3 shows answers to the question: "Which of the following best de-
scribes your teaching style?" One respondent answered that he/she intro-
duced a complicated problem right at the beginning, while 15 reported they
started from the simple basics and then proceeded to the more complicated
problems. 29 of the respondents answered they used both methods depend-
ing on the situation. Those who answered "Other" explained that the
method depended on the subject.
Figures 4 - 9 (see appendices) show the results of the analysis of teachers
answers to the Likert scale statements 18i, 18k, 18l, 18m, 18n, and 18o in
the original questionnaire. These statements focused on teachers' views and
beliefs about learning. The respondents were asked to agree or disagree
with the statements on the scale of 1 - 5, where number 1 stood for "strongly
disagree", number 2 for "disagree", number 3 for "neither agree or disagree",
number 4 for "agree", and number 5 for " strongly agree". In the bar charts
label number 3 has been changed into "no opinion" because of the limited
space available. The original statement can be seen above the chart.
Half of the respondents either strongly agreed (14) or agreed (12) with the
statement: " Direct teaching is the most effective method in my subject."
(Figure 4) The number of "no opinion" was quite high (12) while disagree-
ment (6) or strong disagreement (4) was expressed by fewer respondents.
The next three statements divided the responses more. Most respondents
(18) could not tell one way or the other, whether they agreed or disagreed
with the statement "Dividing the subject into small logical steps makes
learning easier." (Figure 5) Still, altogether 20 answered that they either
strongly agreed or agreed with the statement (10+10), while a clear minority
(8) disagreed. Nobody disagreed strongly.
"No opinion" was also the most common answer (16) to the statement "Stu-
dents do not know themselves what they need to learn." (Figure 6) The other
answers spread quite evenly between agreement (13+2) and disagreement
(4+14). The statement "The starting point of teaching should be students'
prior knowledge about the subject." (Figure 7) attracted 13 "no opinions",
and as many disagreeing answers (5+8) while almost half of the respondents
The analyses of the responses to the statements "I try to cover the same cur-
riculum on every course." (Figure 8) and " Mastering the tools is necessary
before planning online teaching." (Figure 9) show similar results. In both
cases the most frequently selected answer by far was "strongly agree" , 25
and 32 respectively. In addition, 18 respondents answered that they agreed
with the former statement. In the latter case the rest of the responses were
more evenly divided between the other alternatives. The responses to these
last two statements differ from the earlier ones also in that "no opinion" was
not a common selection here.
Regarding the teacher's role in the learning achievement a great majority of
the respondents (30) was of the opinion that the teacher's role is important.
Even more (46) agreed with the statement "A good relationship between
teacher and students plays an important role in student outcomes."
22.214.171.124 Teachers' need for support and training
Over half of the respondents expressed their interest in online teaching and
learning (26) and wanted to have some training in it (27). Most respondents
either did not have an opinion (12) or disagreed (30) with the statement "In-
formation networks in instruction are best used for the delivery of materi-
Quite a few respondents (26) were happy with their teaching methods, 17
did not know, and a minority (8) expressed dissatisfaction with their current
teaching. Still, many wanted to learn more about the new theories of learn-
ing (27). 17 out of 49 respondents answered the open-ended question "What
kind of support and training would you like to have for designing and teach-
ing web-based courses?" 2 of them could not specify their needs, but ex-
pressed interest in receiving some kind of training. 5 wanted training in
technical skills; practising the use of web-course tools, creating homepages,
and using the hardware in general. 9 respondents wished to learn more
about good practice experiences; demonstrations and examples of successful
courses on the net. In their answers they emphasised a practical approach:
- "How it works in practice."
- "Practical training, demonstrations."
- "Through concrete examples I might become even more interested."
3 respondents mentioned specifically the need for support in designing and
creating the contents of an online course. What they felt they needed was
not necessarily the technical advice on how to make the pages look attrac-
tive, or in what form the material should be presented, but what to include
in an online course:
- "… knowledge about the criteria for creating the contents. Let the ex-
perts plan the web pages.."
- " How to realise the contents."
The original idea was to interview all the respondents, who reported having
taught parts of their courses (3) or entire courses (4) on the net. However,
one of them had not volunteered for an interview, and 3 could not be
reached for different reasons. Ultimately, 3 teachers were interviewed on
the phone. They all represented different faculties. The purpose of the inter-
view was to find out a) what kind of web-based courses/parts of courses the
interviewees had taught, b) what experiences they had had, and c) what
kind of support, if any, they felt they needed. The interview took a form of
an informal chat. The interviewees told about their courses in their own
words. All of them seemed eager to volunteer information and share their
The first interviewee was a professional subject teacher. He had conducted
two different kinds of web-based courses. The first one was on teamwork
skills aimed at company personnel. The course was offered in the WebCT
learning environment, and consisted of materials on web pages, as well as
quizzes. The learners also sent in their assignments through WebCT. Part of
the assignments were dealt with during contact lessons. Problems in this
course were caused by the fact that company personnel did not necessarily
have access to a computer as often as necessary.
The second web-based course that this teacher had experience of, was aimed
at the regular students of the polytechnic. The students spend four weeks at
a time in practical training in local industry. During the practical training
period their link to school is the WebCT virtual classroom. The learning
task is always some project work that they do for the industry. The students
work in teams of two or three. The teacher had prepared instructions re-
garding the project. The instructions were on WebCT. The students were
required to make a project plan, report on the progress of the project, and
write a final report. All of these were put on WebCT for everybody to see.
When the students came back to school they presented their projects in class
using the material they had prepared for WebCT.
According to the interviewee there was no obligation for the students to read
each other's reports or any control, whether they did it or not. However, the
teacher had understood that the students had gone to see what their class-
mates had written. The teacher was also very happy with some of the stu-
dent reports, which had contained video clips and pictures. On the other
hand, for some students the technology had been more of a complication
than a useful tool.
This interviewee was quite satisfied with how the course ran. He was also
keen on finding new ways of utilising WebCT. His latest experiment was to
put the written test on WebCT. The students took the test at school under
supervision, but they did it on computers. Earlier the test had consisted of
essay type questions, where students had been required to discuss relevant
topics. With WebCT tools the teacher had been able to include pictures
about key ideas, machines or production solutions. The questions partly
consisted of WebCT multiple choice quizzes, and short answers checked by
the computer. The essay was reduced to one longer answer, which the
teacher read and corrected. The main problem with this kind of testing had
proved to be students whose typing skills were not adequate for the longer
answer. In the feedback, which the students were able to give right after the
test, they often complained about having to remember trivial things, facts
and figures, easy to test with WebCT quizzes.
Regarding the possible support or training the interviewee first acknowl-
edged the technical support which was always available. Also, he felt that
his teacher training was so recent that he felt safe with the pedagogy, too.
However, he realised that social interaction was missing on this kind of
course. He was not very happy with the new computer based test, either,
since it did not succeed in measuring understanding. This is where he felt
most need of support; finding ways to bring about social interaction, and to
The second interviewee was a lady, who, in fact, had not taught online, yet.
She had, however, planned a course to be carried out within the WebCT en-
vironment the following academic year. The course was to be conducted as
an international co-operation project involving two polytechnics in Finland
and two universities abroad. The idea was to transfer expert lecturers' lec-
ture notes into an electronic form to be easily accessible to students in all
three countries. Students would also receive their assignments via the
Internet, and put their project work on WebCT for all the other students to
What this interviewee desperately needed was technical support. She was
also surprised at finding no centralised system for producing web-based
courses in the polytechnic. She felt she had wasted valuable time finding out
herself who could help her, and how much that help would cost. She did not
feel she needed any more pedagogical studies, since she had attended sev-
eral methodology courses quite recently. What she wished for was a course
on the use of WebCT, and a possibility to create an online course with tech-
nical support nearby.
The third interviewee had run the same web-based marketing course five
times already. The course included a fair amount of student managed learn-
ing, as the students were required to find advertisements, analyse them and
send in their analyses to the teacher. The teacher gave each student indi-
vidual feedback via email, but also compiled model answers as examples on
the course web page. This course was not set in the WebCT learning envi-
ronment, but utilised web pages and email.
This teacher did not want any training. Instead, he wanted to learn what
measures, if any, the polytechnic was going to take to address the issue of
The teachers who participated in the survey seemed well equipped for
online teaching if the criteria are access to computers and the Internet, and
general computer know-how. A great majority also reported using IT (30)
and ICT (38) in instruction regularly. The main uses of the Internet were
sending and receiving assignments via email, and asking students to search
for information on the net. Sinko and Lehtinen (1999) report similar find-
ings in their studies of the use of ICT in instruction across the whole educa-
tional field in Finland. Few respondents had any experience of either online
learning or teaching. However, over half of the teachers reported being in-
terested in online teaching, and as many wanted more training in it.
To find out what teachers' current instructional approach was the present
study set out to investigate teachers' beliefs about learning. The questions
in the survey were formulated according to the principles of behaviourist
and constructivist theories of learning. Typical of the behaviourist approach
are teacher specified tasks with little student control, and proceeding from
the simple basics to the more complicated entities (Figures 1-3). The find-
ings indicate that the respondents were a little more inclined to use the be-
haviouristic approach than the more student-centred, constructivist ap-
proach. Most answers clustered around those alternatives which described
teacher specified goals and assignments allowing some student control (Fig-
ures 1-2). An exception was the direct question about the teaching style
(Figure 3) where the most frequently selected answer was "depends on sub-
ject". Even so, 15 respondents reported starting their teaching with simple
basics rather than a complicated problem. In fact, the extremely constructiv-
ist alternatives in questions 15-16 (Figures 1-3): "I let the group decide on
the contents and the objectives", "I leave the assignment as open as possi-
ble", and " I start with a complicated problem" received only 3 answers alto-
Many of the Likert scale statements proved to be problematic, as so many
respondents selected the "neither agree or disagree" alternative. This was
especially true about statements dealing with direct teaching, dividing the
subject into small steps, and the importance of students' own goals and prior
knowledge (18i, 18k, 18l, 18m). The inability of the respondents to give an
opinion on these issues could perhaps be interpreted as not being aware of
the theory of learning that underlies their teaching approach. Comments
that the respondents made when answering these statements were often
about not finding the statement applicable to their own subjects. The state-
ments were very straightforward and not ambiguous. It is difficult to see
why they could not be applied to any teaching. However, answering these
particular questions required a bit more thinking, reflecting on one's own
work, rather than just giving an opinion as with other statements. Perhaps
the respondents simply did not have time to stop to think, and "no opinion"
was an easy choice.
As Cohen et al put it "crude data can only yield crude interpretation" (2000,
p.255), no conclusive interpretations can be made about teachers' beliefs on
the basis of the analysis of the questionnaire responses. However, assuming
that the questionnaire items were successful indicators of the principles of
the two different theories of learning: behaviourism and constructivism,
those selections that favoured one or the other could perhaps be cautiously
interpreted as reflecting behaviourist or constructivist views respectively.
In the following, the responses to multiple-choice questions 15-17, and
Likert scale statements 18i, 18k, 18l, 18m, and 18o are placed on Coomey's
and Stephenson's grid (2001). The "no opinion" answers to Likert scale
statements are not included at all. "Agree" and "strongly agree" are coupled
to show agreement, as are "disagree" and "strongly disagree" to show dis-
agreement. Figure 10 shows how the responses were scattered in the axis of
traditional teaching approach-constructivist teaching approach.
Figure 10: The frequency of responses scattered according to teaching ap-
The numbers in the northwest section of the grid show the frequencies of
responses that were interpreted to reflect behaviourist views of learning.
The corresponding multiple choice alternatives and Likert scale statements
in the original survey were as follows:
- 25 I tell the group what the contents and the goals of the course are.
- 15 I specify the assignment.
- 15 I proceed from the simple to the more complicated.
- 26 Agree: Direct teaching is the most effective in my subject.
- 22 Agree: Dividing the subject into small logical steps makes learning
- 18 Agree: Students do not know themselves what they need to learn.
- 13 Disagree: The starting point of teaching should be students' prior
assumptions about subject.
- 43 Agree: I try to cover the same curriculum on every course.
The numbers in the southeast section of the grid show the frequencies of
responses that were interpreted to reflect constructivist views of learning.
The corresponding multiple choice alternatives and Likert scale statements
in the original survey were as follows:
- 0 I let the group decide on the contents and the goals.
- 2 I leave the assignment as open as possible.
- 1 I start with a complicated problem.
- 10 Disagree: Direct teaching is the most effective in my subject.
- 8 Disagree: Dividing the subject into small logical steps makes learn-
- 18 Disagree: Students do not know themselves what they need to
- 22 Agree: The starting point of teaching should be students' prior
knowledge about subject.
- 3 Disagree: I try to cover the same curriculum on every course.
Number 31 in the northeast section of the grid shows the frequency of re-
sponses to the multiple-choice alternative "I specify the assignment but al-
low individual freedom to some extent." Numbers 22 and 29 in the south-
west section of the grid show the frequencies of responses to multiple-choice
alternatives "We decide together what the contents and the goals will be",
and "I use both 'a' and 'c' depending on the situation." respectively.
It is easy to see that the northwest sector, which represents the traditional,
behaviourist teaching approach, holds the biggest number values. The result
is in accordance with Coomey's and Stephenson's (2001) study of online
courses. According to their study, most online courses available today fell
into the northwest sector of the grid. It could be assumed, therefore, that
this is the kind of online courses that the respondents might produce, too.
Especially direct teaching, dividing the subject into small steps, and the
fixed curriculum idea surface as prominent features. Although the north-
west sector seems to be dominating, there were also some answers in the
southeast sector, and quite high response rates to questions that fell in be-
tween the two extremes.
The results seem to imply that teachers' beliefs about learning are in transi-
tion. In some respects the traditional views seem to dominate teaching, but
on the other hand there is a wide consensus over the importance of students'
prior knowledge of the subject as well as students' ability to determine their
own goals. These are some of the basic principles of the constructivist theory
In this light it is interesting to look at the responses to the two question-
naire items, which indirectly may reveal the respondents' beliefs about how
they think they learn best themselves. The first such question was Likert
scale statement number 18n "Mastering the tools is necessary before one
can start planning online teaching". 39 respondents out of the total of 49
agreed with this statement. It may not be all that evident, but mastering
the tools first before having any ideas of the course as a whole appears to be
just another occasion of programmed instruction. The idea that it is not pos-
sible to see the whole before learning the basics seems to lie deep.
On the other hand, a question arises whether it is the overemphasis of the
role of technology in online teaching that has influenced teachers' opinions.
Perhaps teachers today, more than ever before, feel the need for technologi-
cal update. This may not explain all the responses, but certainly at the Fac-
ulty of Technology teachers were first presented with the tool, WebCT, and
then the demand for online courses. The idea of using ICT in instruction did
not originate from a teacher's need to somehow enhance his or her teaching,
perhaps taking it out of the classroom with the help of new technology. It
was introduced in the form of WebCT, a web-course tool. In general, online
courses have been accused of being technology led and too much materials
centred. Maybe the reason is that we have started the whole process the
wrong way round.
The second question to tease out the respondents' beliefs about their own
learning was the open-ended question "What kind of support or training
would you like to have for designing and teaching web-based courses?"
Without reading too much into the fact that one third of those who described
some need wanted specifically to learn technical skills, it is noticeable that
practically all of the responses called for very practical hands-on learning.
Nobody suggested listening to lectures. Good examples were felt important,
as well as ideas about how to operate online.
The interviews, although only three, prove that there are enthusiastic
teachers at Lahti Polytechnic, who are willing to take a risk and try some-
thing new, even though they cannot have a guarantee that the new is al-
ways better than the old.
The interviews show many things. For one, you do not necessarily need
complicated courseware to use ICT in instruction. Web pages together with
email can be used quite effectively to enhance learning and increase student
control. The interviews also imply that there should be a strategy on the
polytechnic level, how to develop online learning and provide the kind of
support, technical and pedagogical, that is needed. Finally, all three inter-
viewees seemed to be alone in the polytechnic with their experiments. One
had sought co-operation elsewhere, the other two had developed their ideas
on their own for their own use. There are probably more teachers like these
three in the polytechnic fostering good ideas to enhance their teaching with
the help of ICT, and experimenting with their own courses. Spreading the
experience and knowledge that enthusiastic and innovative teachers already
have remains a problem with successful experiments throughout the educa-
tional field (Sinko and Lehtinen 1999).
As regards the original problem, why teachers did not want to participate in
the experimental online teaching project, it seems logical to conclude that
the teachers' did not have enough experience of online teaching. The find-
ings, however, indicate that there is interest in the matter. Support is
needed to encourage and empower teachers to take that leap into a new
learning environment. Especially, if we agree that the old teaching methods
do not work for the new society.
6.3.1 The validity and reliability of the study
The limited scope of the study means that the results cannot be generalised
as such, not even on the polytechnic level. However, the findings about
teachers' use of ICT in instruction as well as the dominating role of tradi-
tional teaching methods are supported by current literature on online learn-
ing, or teaching and learning in general ( Bonk et al 2001, Coomey and Ste-
phenson 2001, Prawat 1990, Rauste-von Wright and von Wright 1994, Sinko
and Lehtinen 1999). We cannot make generalisations about the ICT skills or
teaching style of the teachers in Lahti Polytechnic on the basis of the pre-
sent study. Instead, we can use the results to make some suggestions as re-
gards the kind of support and training that is needed to help teachers see
the new possibilities of ICT in instruction.
Efforts were made to ensure the validity and reliability of the study, partly
by methodological and investigator triangulation, partly by sampling. Dif-
ferent methods were used to gather data; a questionnaire with closed ques-
tions as well as one open-ended question, and interviews. Since the inter-
views were done over the phone, the accounts of the interviews as they ap-
pear in the paper were checked by each of the three interviewees. The inter-
viewees received the extracts of the text by email and sent them back with
their comments or corrections. The purpose was to minimise investigator
bias that might have affected the manual recording of the interviews on the
Although the sample was rather small for a quantitative analysis, the sam-
ple was randomly drawn and represented all the faculties of the polytechnic
in proportion to their size. The response rate was as high as 78% adding to
the reliability of the study. The questionnaire was formulated in co-
operation with colleagues, piloted and modified before use. With a few ex-
ceptions, the respondents received the questionnaire personally with writ-
ten as well as oral instructions. The respondents were also encouraged to
ask whenever they were not sure they understood the question.
There is always a danger, however, that the questionnaire items do not
measure what they purport to measure (Foddy 1993, Cohen et al 2000). The
questions that focused on factual information were short and simple. In an
attempt to find the right indicators of behaviourism and constructivism spe-
cial attention was paid to selecting the key ideas in the two theories of
learning. These served as the basis for formulating the questions about
teachers' beliefs about learning and their teaching approach.
In spite of the careful wording it must be recognised that there is a possibil-
ity that some of the respondents may have understood the questions differ-
ently from what was meant, or differently compared to each other. They
may not have been answering the same questions (Foddy 1993). Thus, for
example questions such as "I specify the assignment" or "I try to cover the
same curriculum on every course" may have been interpreted as something
every good teacher should do. The respondents may have understood the
opposite in the first case to be a teacher who leaves the students on their
own wondering what to do. In the second case, the imagined opposite could
have been an inefficient teacher who does not even try to cover the curricu-
lum. When these selections are interpreted as indicators of a behaviourist
teaching approach, it is done with the greatest reservations.
6.3.2 Ethical concerns
Professional competence and obsolescence are sensitive issues. Neither of
them was the focus of the present study. However, as online learning ex-
periments are continuously increasing and being discussed, those teachers
who, for some reason or another, do not wish to participate may feel it as a
pressure. A questionnaire survey, which focuses on the mastery of IT and
ICT skills and the teaching approach, may in the worst case be experienced
as an attempt to reveal old-fashioned thinking and teaching methods, an
attack against teachers' professional competence. To prevent such misun-
derstandings from occurring, the questionnaire was given to all those re-
spondents personally that could be reached, and the research focus was
openly discussed to obtain an informed consent. Volunteer participation was
a prerequisite. Confidentiality was assured when introducing the question-
naire, both in writing and orally. The respondents answered the question-
naire anonymously. However, answering all the questions in the question-
naire meant giving so much detailed information about oneself (age, sex,
faculty, teaching subject) that it would have been easy to guess the identity
of many of the respondents even without the name. Therefore, the respon-
dents were encouraged not to answer any questions they felt uncomfortable
with. The fact that the response rate was so high (78%), and that almost all
the respondents had answered all the questions, speaks for the fact that the
participants did not feel threatened.
The ethical concerns are also an important part of reporting and publishing
the results. Therefore, it is important to emphasise that the interpretations
made about the respondents' beliefs about learning are understood to be
only interpretations, not facts. Due to the limited scope of the study nothing
conclusive can be said about the polytechnic teachers' teaching approach in
general. The results will only serve as a basis for guidelines for future
teacher training and support. They will not be published out of the context
or used to label the polytechnic teachers in any way.
7 Guidelines for supporting teachers in their use of
ICT in instruction
According to Prawat (1990) teachers' epistemological assumptions appear to
affect their thinking about learning. Teachers' beliefs about learning deter-
mine their teaching approach. Hence, it could be concluded that teachers
teach online according to the same principles they teach in classrooms. If
there is doubt about the effectiveness of the present instructional approach,
as implied by the self-evaluation report and the subsequent pilot study at
the Faculty of Technology, that approach might not be the best possible for
online teaching. On the contrary, online teaching might be one opportunity
to change the instructional approach. Perhaps the new innovative teaching
practices could reflect on classroom teaching as well.
Prawat (1990) suggests that changing education can only happen by chang-
ing teachers' beliefs about teaching and learning. This is by no means sim-
ple. The prerequisites for change, according to Prawat, are 1) individuals'
dissatisfaction with their existing beliefs, 2) identifying what is problematic
about existing beliefs, 3) finding the alternatives both intelligible and use-
ful, and 4) finding a way to somehow connect the new beliefs with their ear-
lier conceptions. Martti (1996) considers making teachers aware of their
own beliefs as the most important challenge for teacher training. Teachers
should be encouraged to reflect on how their beliefs have originated and how
useful or logical they are.
The following guidelines for supporting Lahti Polytechnic teachers in their
experiments with ICT in instruction are based on the constructivist theory
of learning, the results of the present study, and a review of current litera-
So far the polytechnic teachers have been offered short training courses in
IT and ICT skills mainly. Also, technical support for producing online
courses has been available at the Faculty of Technology for the last to years.
The results of the present study indicate that the teachers' IT and general
ICT skills are fairly good, but the use of ICT in instruction is limited to
searching information on the Internet and sending and receiving student
assignments by email. Therefore it might be advisable to shift the main fo-
cus in further training away from skills in IT to pedagogical support. Long-
term support has proved to be more effective than short training courses
(Sinko and Lehtinen 1999).
Based on their research Sinko and Lehtinen conclude that "new practices
cannot be established if teachers cannot adapt them to their own thinking
and activities" (1999, p. 90) They suggest organising an official experiment
group as a best means to help other teachers join in. This can lead to the
development of a community of teachers whose goal is pedagogical reflection
and development. Since there already are teachers in the polytechnic who
are using ICT in new ways in their teaching, making them aware of each
other could be the first step. Some of the interested teachers might be will-
ing to join forces in the development work by sharing ideas and experiences.
The second step could be forming a clearly defined working group with the
aim of enhancing classroom teaching with the help of ICT.
However, the purpose of such a group would not only be to produce online
courses, but to develop the participants' pedagogical skills. The work should
start from their current pedagogical thinking. The present study is the first
attempt to find out about teachers' prior assumptions about learning. It
seems important that teachers, too, become aware of their own beliefs, and
how these beliefs show in their teaching. At present, as the findings of the
study imply, teachers are quite happy with their teaching methods. Accord-
ing to Martti (1996) revising one's own beliefs requires a cognitive disso-
nance. One way is to bring about a situation where two or more teachers'
beliefs clash. Martti suggests that this kind of corrective reflection is best
accomplished in a group where teachers can discuss and compare different
teaching approaches using concrete examples from their own teaching. Ruo-
hotie (1996) warns about expert defensiveness, which is not uncommon
among teachers. It may be difficult for a teacher to accept a different view
about teaching, if it is imposed on him or her from the outside. This sup-
ports the idea of creating a situation where teachers can test their own be-
liefs against other beliefs and come to their own conclusions about the pos-
sible need for change.
The participants would have their own concrete goals related to the subjects
they teach. This is the kind of hands-on work that many of the respondents
of the study wished for. The teachers in the group would be learners as well,
learning to use ICT in instruction. As a learning experience the work would
follow the principles of the constructive theory of learning with the learners'
own goals and a lot of control of their learning. Social interaction in solving
concrete problems, critical thinking, self evaluation, reflection on one's work
and progress would all be parts of the process. The participants would have
a first-hand experience of something else than traditional learning methods.
It would make it much easier for the teachers to apply some of those princi-
ples to their own teaching as well.
An outside consultant could be brought in to provide new perspectives and
pedagogical support (Sinko and Lehtinen 1999). The group should also have
a co-ordinator to arrange meetings on a regular basis and otherwise assist
the group's work, for example by finding good practice examples from out-
side own school, arranging pedagogical or technical support when necessary
etc. The co-ordinator could also keep the other staff members up-to-date
about the group's progress.
To encourage teachers to use ICT in instruction in new and innovative ways
examples of successful experiments are needed. The kind of group project as
described above could produce such examples, and attract other teachers to
join in. Starting small is important to avoid transferring old practices into a
new learning environment where they may not function at all. Apart from
extending the influence of the experiment to the rest of the school, the
knowledge and experience of the participants could later aid new teachers
on their way towards online pedagogy.
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Questionnaire in Finnish
Tämän kyselyn tarkoitus on selvittää, minkälaista koulutusta opettajat tarvitsevat ja toivovat tuke-
maan tietotekniikan ja tietoverkkojen opetuskäyttöä. Kyselyn tietoja käytetään LAMKin opettajien
täydennyskoulutuskurssin suunniteluun. Samalla tämä tutkimus on päättötyöni Master of Education
-tutkintoon Loughborough:n yliopistossa Englannissa. Kaikki tiedot pysyvät luottamuksellisina.
Olen ............................................................................................................................ nainen/mies.
Ikäni on ………..
Opetan …………………………………………………………. (oppiaine/- aineet)
Valitse vain yksi vaihtoehto. Jos mikään ei sovi, kirjoita vastauksesi tyh-
1. Onko sinulla kotona tietokone ja internetyhteys?
a. minulla on tietokone
b. minulla on tietokone ja internetyhteys
c. ei ole tietokonetta.
2. Mitkä ovat mahdollisuutesi käyttää tietokonetta työpaikallasi?
a. minulla on oma tietokone työhuoneessani.
b. minulla on yhteinen tietokone työtoverin/-tovereiden kanssa.
c. minulla ei ole tietokonetta työhuoneessani.
3. Kuinka vanha työpaikan koneesi on?
a...................................................................................................... alle vuoden vanha
b..................................................................................................................1 - 2 vuotta
c. ..................................................................................................................3 -4 vuotta
4. Osaatko tallentaa tiedostoja omiin kansioihinsa?
b. en osaa
c. en osaa tehdä kansioita.
5. Miten muotoilet tekstiä?
a. fonttien kautta
b. tyylien kautta
c. en muotoile tekstiä
6. Mitä näistä ohjelmista käytät? (voit valita useamman vaihtoehdon)
a. front page
b. power point
7. Kuinka usein luet sähköpostisi?
a. monta kertaa päivässä
b. kerran päivässä
c. silloin, kun muistan
8. Osaatko laittaa liitetiedoston sähköpostiin?
b. en ole kokeillut
c. en osaa
9. Löydätkö tarvittaessa juna-aikataulut internetistä?
a. löydän helposti
b. luulen löytäväni
c. en löydä
10. Kuinka usein käytät tietokonetta opetustilanteissa?
a. erittäin paljon
c. en koskaan
11. Käytätkö internettiä opetuksessasi? (jos vastaat kieltävästi, siirry kohtaan 15)
b. en käytä
12. Miten käytät tietoverkkoja opetuksessasi? (voit valita useamman vaihtoehdon)
a. annan tehtäväksi etsiä tietoa internetistä
b. lähetän ja/tai vastaanotan tehtäviä verkon kautta
c. olen tehnyt materiaalia verkkoon opiskelijoita varten
13. Oletko opettanut verkossa?
a. olen opettanut kokonaisen kurssin/kursseja
b. olen opettanut sia kurssista/kursseista
c. en ole opettanut verkossa
14. Oletko opiskellut verkkokurssilla?
b. en ole
15. Miten aloitat kurssin?
a. kerron ryhmälle kurssin sisällön ja tavoitteet.
b. annan ryhmän päättää sisällön ja tavoitteet
c. päätämme yhdessä ryhmän kanssa sisällöstä ja tavoitteista
16. Miten annat oppilaille tehtäviä?
a. määrittelen tehtävän selkeästi.
b. jätän tehtävän mahdollisimman avoimeksi.
c. määrittelen tehtävän, mutta jätän yksilöllistä liikkumavaraa.
17. Mikä seuraavista vastaa parhaiten opetustyyliäsi?
a. annan heti monimutkaisen ongelman.
b. etenen yksinkertaisesta monimutkaisempaan.
c. käytän kumpaakin tapaa aiheesta riippuen.
18. Seuraavassa on opettamiseen, oppimiseen ja opiskeluun liittyviä väitteitä. Ilmoita mielipi-
teesi ympyröimällä sopivin vaihto: 1= eri mieltä 2 = jokseenkin eri mieltä, 3 = ei eri mieltä,
eikä samaa mieltä, 4= jokseenkin samaa mieltä, 5 = samaa mieltä
a. Mielestäni sähköposti on mukava viestintäväline. .........................................................1 2 3 4 5
b. Haluan mieluummin opiskelijoiden harjoitustyöt paperilla kuin liitetiedostona. .............1 2 3 4 5
c. Verkko-opetus kiinnostaa minua ....................................................................................1 2 3 4 5
d. Haluan lisää koulutusta verkossa opettamisesta...........................................................1 2 3 4 5
e. Tietoverkot opetuksessa soveltuvat lähinnä materiaalin jakamiseen. ...........................1 2 3 4 5
f. Olen tyytyväinen opetusmenetelmiini. ............................................................................1 2 3 4 5
g. Haluaisin tietää enemmän uusista oppimiskäsityksistä. ................................................1 2 3 4 5
h. Hyvä suhde oppilaisiin on tärkeä oppimistulosten kannalta. .........................................1 2 3 4 5
i. Suora opetus on tehokkainta minun aineessani. ........................................................... 1 2 3 4 5
j. Opettajan merkitys oppimistavoitteiden saavuttamisessa on suuri. ...............................1 2 3 4 5
k. Oppimista helpottaa, jos aihe on jaettu pieniin loogisesti eteneviin osiin ......................1 2 3 4 5
l. Opiskelijat eivät itse tiedä, mitä heidän pitää oppia. .......................................................1 2 3 4 5
m.Opetuksen lähtökohtana tulisi olla oppijan käsitykset opittavasta aiheesta ..................1 2 3 4 5
n. Ennen kuin voi suunnitella verkko-opetusta, pitää hallita verkkotyökalut ......................1 2 3 4 5
o. Pyrin kattamaan opetussuunnitelmani mukaiset asiat jokaisella kurssilla.....................1 2 3 4 5
Millaista lisäkoulutusta verkkokurssien suunnitteluun ja opettamiseen haluaisit?
Haastattelen osan vastanneista. Laita tähän yhteystietosi, jos suostut haastateltavaksi.
Questionnaire in English
The purpose of this survey is to investigate what kind of support or training teachers feel they need in
order to design and teach online courses. The information will be used in the planning of an in-house
training course for the teachers of Lahti Polyechnic. This survey is also part of my dissertation for the
Master's degree in Education at the University of Loughborough in England. All information remains
I am female/male.
I am ………….. old.
I teach …………………………………………………………………. (subject/s) at the
Faculty of …………………………………………………………………………
In the following circle one alternative. If there is not a good alternative, write your own answer in the
space left empty.
Access to IT
1. Have you got a computer and an Internet connection at home?
a. I have got a computer at home.
b. I have got a computer with an Internet connection at home.
c. I don't have a computer at home.
2. What are your possibilities to use a computer at work?
a. I have a PC in my office.
b. I share a PC with a colleague in our office.
c. I don't have a PC in my office.
3. How old is your PC at work?
a. less than a year
b. 1-2 years
c. 3-4 years
4. Can you save files in their own folders?
a. Yes, I can.
b. No, I can't.
c. I don't know how to make folders.
5. How do you modify your text?
a. I select 'fonts' and change that.
b. I use the formatting definitions under 'styles'.
c. I don't modify my text.
6. Which of these programs do you use?
a. front page
b. power point
7. How often do you read your email?
a. many times a day.
b. once a day.
c. whenever I remember.
8. Do you know how to add attachments to your email?
a. Yes, I do.
b. I have never tried.
c. No, I don't.
9. Do you think you will find train timetables on the Internet if necessary?
a. Yes, I will find them easily.
b. I think I would find them.
c. No, I won't find them.
Information technology in instruction
10. How often do you use a computer in instruction?
11. Do you use the Internet in instruction? (if your answer is 'No', please go to question number 15)
a. Yes, I do.
b. No, I don't.
12. How do you use information networks in instruction? (here you can select more than one alternative)
a. I ask the students to search for information on the Internet.
b. I send and/or receive assignments via the net.
c. I have made material for my students on the net.
13. Have you done online teaching?
a. I have conducted an entire web-based course/entire web-based courses.
b. I have supplemented my course/s with web-based modules.
c. I haven't done any online teaching.
14. Have you studied on a web-based course?
a. Yes, I have.
b. No, I haven't.
15. How do you begin a new course?
a. I tell the group what the contents and the goals of the course are.
b. I let the group decide on the contents and the goals.
c. We decide together what the contents and the goals will be.
16. How do you give assignments?
a. I specify the assignment.
b. I leave the assignment as open as possible.
c. I specify the assignment but allow individual freedom to some extent.
17. Which of the following best describes your teaching style?
a. I start with a complicated problem.
b. I proceed from the simple to the more complicated.
c. I use both 'a' and 'c' depending on the situation.
18. In the following you will find statements about teaching, learning and studying. Give your opinion by
circling the best alternative:
1 = strongly disagree, 2= disagree, 3 = neither agree or disagree, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree.
a. I like email. 12345
b. I prefer receiving students' assignments on paper to email attachments 12345
c. I am interested in online teaching 12345
d. I want training in online teaching 12345
e. Information networks in instruction are best used for the delivery of materials. 1 2 3 4 5
f. I am happy with my teaching methods. 12345
g. I would like to know more about new learning theories. 12345
h. A good relationship between teacher and students plays an important role in
student outcomes. 12345
i. Direct teaching is the most effective method in my subject. 12345
j. The teacher plays an important role in learning achievement. 12345
k. Dividing the subject into small logical steps makes learning easier. 12345
l. Students do not know themselves what they need to learn. 12345
m. The starting point of teaching should be students' prior
assumptions about subject. 12345
n. Mastering the tools is necessary before one can start planning
online teaching 12345
o. I try to cover the same curriculum on every course 12345
What kind of support or training would you like to have for designing and teaching web-
Thank you for your answers!
I will interview part of the respondents. Please give your contact information here, if you
agree to be interviewed.
Direct teaching is the most effective method in my subject
No of obs
Strongly disagree Disagree No opinion Agree Strongly agree
Figure 4: Responses to the statement about direct teaching.
Dividing the subject into small logical steps makes learning easier.
No of obs
Disagree No opinion Agree Strongly agree
Figure 5: Responses to the statement about teaching approach.
Students do not know themselves what they need to learn.
No of obs
Strongly disagree Disagree No opinion Agree Strongly agree
Figure 6: Responses to the statement about learner managed learning.
The starting point of teaching should be students' prior knowledge about subject
No of obs
Strongly disagree Disagree No opinion Agree Strongly agree
Figure 7: Responses to the statement about the importance of prior knowledge.
I try to cover the same curriulum on every course.
No of obs
Disagree No opinion Agree Strongly agree
Figure 8: Responses to the statement about a fixed curriculum.
Mastering the tools is necessary before planning online teaching.
No of obs
Strongly disagree Disagree No opinion Agree Strongly agree
Figure 9: Responses to the statement about the importance of computer know-how