Some Factors in the Development of Self-Efficacy Beliefs for Computer Use among Teacher Education Students

Article excerpt

The self-efficacy for computer use of teacher education students was measured at the beginning of their course and again following a semester in which some students had completed computer courses. At both pretest and posttest the amount of time spent using computers was the factor that contributed most to the variance in self-efficacy for computer use. The influences of other factors such as personal ownership of computers and completion of computing courses appeared to be exerted through effects on levels of use. Strategies are suggested through which teacher educators might seek to increase self-efficacy of students by encouraging computer use.

Computers are an accepted part of modern life. They are used almost universally in business and are increasingly common in homes. However, concern has been expressed that computers generally appear to have had less impact in education than in other workplaces (Cuban, 1993; Papert, 1993), despite their benefits for teaching and learning having been demonstrated under a variety of conditions (Dwyer, 1994; Walker & Rockman, 1997).

Many schools would no doubt welcome additional and upgraded computers, but the slow rate of computer related change in schools cannot be entirely due to lack of computers. A recent US study found that, although almost all schools have computers and the average student-computer ratio is 10 to 1, up to 40% of 12th-graders claimed never to have a used a computer for school work (Coley, Cradler, & Engel, 1997). In an earlier study, Australian secondary schools were found to have a median student-computer ratio of 12 to 1, but about 40% of teachers were reported as making "no use of computers" (Roberts & Albion, 1993). In the UK it has been reported that only 34% of secondary and 56% of primary teachers use computers regularly and, despite the increased numbers of computers in schools, these figures have not changed significantly since 1989 (Beck, 1997).

Teachers can be expected to play a decisive role in determining patterns of computer use within their classrooms and attention to factors which influence teacher decisions about technology use should help to explain patterns of use. Studies of experienced computer-using teachers have found that perceived barriers to increased use of computers include limited access to resources, lack of time for planning and inadequate training (Hadley & Sheingold, 1993; Sherwood, 1993).

If training is a significant factor in teacher decisions about computer use, it might be expected that, compared to experienced teachers for whom computers may represent an intrusion into established practice, newly graduating teachers would be better prepared and more likely to use computers in their teaching. However, fewer than 25% of teachers graduating from some US institutions considered themselves "adequately to thoroughly" prepared for using computers in instruction (Handler, 1993). Moreover, Western Australian beginning teachers have rated their computer use in teaching lower than that of more experienced colleagues (Oliver, 1993). Oliver suggested that this may be a result of beginning teachers directing their energies towards the more pressing tasks of classroom management and lesson programming rather than towards "unnecessary challenging tasks such as implementing computer programmes." He found that although courses in personal skills for computer use appeared not to influence later patterns of u se, courses that focussed on curriculum applications of the computer tended to increase later use of computers for teaching.

Personal skills for computer use will likely be a necessary but not sufficient condition for classroom use of computers. Integrating new technologies into teaching requires that, in addition to knowing how to harness the technology for personal use, teachers be able to adapt their classroom practice. "The issues concerned with classroom management, changing teacher role and changes to teaching and learning models are more complex and difficult than the development of IT skills" which occurs rapidly when teachers are given access to the technology (Beck, 1997). …