Pre-service Teachers’ Confidence in their ISTE Technology-Competency

April, 2020

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 36:2, 96-110

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

As the first step to assess teacher-candidates’ technology-competency, this study aims to measure teacher-candidates’ confidence in the use of technology through a self-assessment survey that was developed based on the 2017 ISTE Standards for Educators.
This study also aims to explore the perceptions of teacher-candidates about the contribution of teacher education programs to their technology-competency.
The following research questions were formulated to meet this study’s aims:
First, what is the technology-competency level reported by teacher-candidates?
Second, does candidates’ technology competency differ by the credential program?
Third, does candidates’ technology competency differ by their teaching experience?
Lastly, how do teacher-candidates perceive the impact of a teacher preparation program on their technology-competency?

The purpose of this study was to investigate the current level of technology-competency of teacher candidates’ who are in the teacher training program.
The survey developed to measure technology-competency based on the 2017 ISTE Standards for Educators.
The questionnaire includes twelve demographic questions used to describe the population characteristics and to form the groups for further comparison.
The participants were 243 teacher-candidates who were recruited from teacher preparation programs (i.e., special education, multiple-subject, and single-subject credential programs) at one of the state universities located in Southern California.

The survey was developed based on the 2017 ISTE Standards for Educators.
The ISTE Standards consist of seven sub-categories and twenty-four performance indicators.
The seven sub-categories of ISTE Standards were designed to empower the professional as a Learner, Leader, Citizen, Collaborator, Designer, Facilitator, and Analyst.
Overall, the survey was developed by three experts representing the fields of instructional technology, special education, and general education.
The finalized survey, which incorporated the feedback from the focus group consists of 32 ISTE technology-competency questions and 12 demographic questions.
Each technology-competency question was answered based on the self-perception equivalent of the 1-5 mastery rubric ratings.
Surveys were provided to the students that consented to the survey.
The lead researcher coordinated with the professors and arranged for the trained research assistants to implement the survey within 30 minutes of the end of their instructional time.

Findings and discussion
Although it is encouraging that the self-reported technology competency of teacher-candidates shows that they are at a “somewhat experienced and knowledgeable level,” their overall technology competency has not yet reached the proficient level of the ISTE Educator Standards.
That calls for the change and restructuring of the pre-service programs at teacher training institutes.
The several important findings provide practical and constructive suggestions that teacher education program providers should consider when they reform their credential program curricula to support teacher-candidates in acquiring the technology-competency that is critical for future education.
In this study, teacher-candidates in the special education program reported a higher level of overall ISTE technology-competency than general education teacher-candidates.
This result could be expected since the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandate assistive technology (AT) as one of the related services to support children with disabilities to increase, maintain or improve their functional capabilities in education (20U.S.C. 1401 (11)).
Therefore, an Assistive Technology (AT) course is designated for the special education teacher candidates to learn to explore the different types of AT and how to utilize AT during the instruction.
In comparison, general education teacher-candidates who participated in this study have no such course.
It suggests that all teacher-candidates need to learn instructional technology during the pre-service training.
Watulak (2018) criticized the practice of offering an isolated and didactic instruction to improve technology skills of teacher-candidates.
She noted the importance of learning by doing and the different levels of technology experience among teacher-candidates.
She recommended providing connected learning opportunities in which pre-service teacher institutes can develop self-directed learners who are free to explore and “mess around” with technology while focusing on peer support.
The diversity of technology skills among teacher-candidates is also evident in this study.
Although the mode of the technology-competency surveyed is 2 or 3, indicating “Having an idea of what I need to work on” and “Somewhat experienced and knowledgeable” respectively, the results show that the range of teacher-candidates is from 1 through 5 meaning “Not familiar with” to “Integration of multiple tools as a high level of functionality.”
The mode of technology competency of special education teacher-candidates was not at the desirable level of “Experienced, proficient, and knowledgeable” although their competencies were statistically significant in comparison to general education teacher-candidates’ competencies.
This suggests that the effort to improve pre-service program should be reflecting the recommendations made by Watulak (2018), namely, infusing technology into the subject matter courses with peer coaching teamwork during the course.
The ISTE Standards for Educators in 2017 provides an informative road map for teachers and focuses on promised technology empowering learning (ISTE, 2017).
The technology-competency reported by the teacher-candidates in this study also varied depending on their team-teaching experience.
The teacher-candidates with team-teaching experience in a K-12 classroom scored significantly higher in the overall ISTE and all subcategories than candidates without team-teaching experience.
These results are unique in that the literature has not reported similar findings yet, but it can be easily anticipated that teacher-candidates who have more team-teaching experience would have shared not only the content and instructional strategies, but also learned from each other how to utilize technology in teaching.
Watulak (2018) recommended a similar concept saying that technology, with peer coaching, should be integrated into pre-service teacher education courses.
Pellegrino and Weiss (2017) concluded teacher collaboration is not only critical to meet the educational needs of individual students, but a vital component for teachers’ success in working with a diverse student body.
They define collaboration as sharing the vision and content knowledge that should be a part of teacher preparation courses and clinically practiced in the fieldwork.
When pre-service teachers practice team-teaching and collaboration, they can improve and achieve the proficient level of technology competencies.
When faculty members in the teacher training institutes were from different disciplines, faculty learned from each other and teacher-candidates became better collaborators with the mentor teachers and other professionals in school settings (Emerson, Clarke, & Moldavan, 2018).
Therefore, it is highly recommended that we increase the collaboration among inter-disciplinary faculty in the pre-service training institutes and help teacher-candidates master collaboration skills while they participate in various hands-on activities during the coursework and the fieldwork.

Emerson, J. M., Clarke, P. J., & Moldavan, A. M. (2018). Bridging pedagogy and practice: From coursework to field experiences in a teacher preparation program. Georgia Educational Research, 14(2), 21–35.
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2017). ISTE Standards for Educators: A guide for teachers and other professionals. Retrieved from
Pellegrino, A., & Weiss, M. P. (2017). Examining collaboration in teacher preparation and clinical practices. Action in Teacher Education, 39(3), 340–357.
Watulak, S. L. (2018). Making space for preservice teacher agency through connected learning in preservice educational technology courses. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 34, 166–178. 

Updated: Feb. 03, 2021