Teacher Adoption of Technology: A Perceptual Control Theory Perspective

By Zhao, Yong; Cziko, Gary A. | Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Teacher Adoption of Technology: A Perceptual Control Theory Perspective


Zhao, Yong, Cziko, Gary A., Journal of Technology and Teacher Education


There is an ironic and costly contradiction in the attempt to integrate technology into education. While evidence of the educational benefits of technology abounds and investment in hardware and software has dramatically increased, relatively few teachers use technology regularly in their teaching and the impact of computers on existing curricula is still very limited. What lies behind this contradiction? Why don't teachers make wider use of instructional technologies?

In this article we introduce a novel model of goal-oriented behavior, Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), as a framework for understanding teacher adoption of technology. Unlike other approaches that examine this issue by studying the external environment, this new framework attempts to understand teacher adoption of technology from the inside. It considers teachers' use of technology by examining the goals of teachers and how the use of technology might help or hinder their goals. While it is too early to provide systematic findings to show the usefulness of this application of PCT, we have used it here to interpret and synthesize the findings of a number of studies on teachers and technology. We also make suggestions derived from this model for the infusion of technology into schools.

To summarize the major themes, in order to understand why and why not teachers use technology, we must look at teachers as goal-oriented, purposeful organisms. PCT provides a comprehensive model for understanding technology infusion. From a PCT perspective three conditions are necessary for teachers to use technology:

1. The teacher must believe that technology can more effectively meet a higher-level goal than what has been used.

2. The teacher must believe that using technology will not cause disturbances to other higher-level goals that the he or she thinks are more important than the one being maintained.

3. The teacher must believe that he or she has or will have sufficient ability and resources to use technology.

There is an ironic and costly contradiction in the attempt to integrate technology into education. While evidence of educational benefits of technology abounds (Bialo & Sivin-Kachala, 1995; Education Week, 1997; Fletcher, Hawley, & Piele, 1990; Garner & Gillingham, 1996; Kulik & Kulik, 1991; McKinsey Inc., 1996; Means, 1994; Office of Technology Assessment, 1982, 1995; Wenglinsky, 1998)) and investment in hardware and software has dramatically increased (Mageau, 1991; Heaviside, Riggins, & Farris, 1997), relatively few teachers use technology regularly in their teaching (McKinsey, 1996; OTA, 1995) and the impact of computers on existing curricula is still very limited (David, 1994; Education week, 1997; Harper, 1987; OTA, 1995). What lies behind this contradiction? Why don't teachers make wider use of instructional technologies?

Interestingly, in spite of the widespread recognition of the underutilization of technology and the central role of teachers in the effective use of technology (Cuban, 1986; Education week, 1997; Harper, 1987; Luke, Moore, & Sawyer, 1998; McKinsey, 1996; OTA, 1995; Wenglinsky, 1998), "there has been relatively little research on how and why American teachers use technology" (OTA, 1995, p. 51). There is even less research on why teachers do not use technology. Most research about educational technology has focused on the impact of technology on learners. The few studies conducted on teachers have typically focused on a special subset, the successful "accomplished" technology users (Sheingold & Hadley, 1993), rather than the majority, those who do not use technology.

The lack of empirical studies notwithstanding, a set of assumptions about why teachers do not use technology does exist and is currently functioning as the theoretical base underlying many efforts to help teachers integrate technology with their teaching (Charp, 1995; Lauro, 1995; Persky, 1990; Sammons, 1995; Strudler, 1994). …

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