ERG SES E 01, Inclusive Education
Changes in society introduce remarkable demands to all parts of social life including schools (Reigeluth & Garfinkle, 1994). Education systems have been evolving and altering to prepare the students with a higher level of thinking skills and new abilities (OECD, 2017; Twigg, 1993). Therefore, the change in the way of teaching practices is inevitable around the world (Banathy, 1994; Reigeluth & Garfinkle, 1994). Before 1960s, early childhood education was considered as a primary concern of parenting. However, continual transforms into social and economic fields have mostly changed this situation (Barnett, 2002). Growing pieces of evidence show that children benefit from high-quality early childhood education (Melhuish et al., 2015; NAEYC, 2002; NCCA, 2014; OECD, 2018a) and early learning can support children’s later development (Burchinal, 2016; Knudsen et al., 2006; Sylva et al., 2004; Yoshikawa &Kabay, 2015). Therefore, decision-makers have initiated the actions to enrich the quality of early childhood education (Copple & Bredekamp, 1987; Duncan &Magnuson, 2013). Even though some actions are taken to increase the funding and to reform education practices, the intended goals are yet to be achieved. It is obvious that education systems are complex and there are many variables that can influence the desired outcomes. Research studies show that teachers have a great impact on students’ learning and can make a difference in their lives (Chetty, Friedman, & Rockoff, 2014; NAEYC, 1993; Rivkin, Hanushek, &Kain, 2005). In other words, a teacher may advance the quality of education given in schools including from higher education (Braga, Paccagnella, &Pellizzari, 2016) to early childhood education (Araujo et al., 2016). Indeed, three structural characteristics namely teachers’ pre-service qualifications, child-staff ratio, and group size, called as “iron triangle”, are considered powerful characteristics in early childhood education (Slot, 2017). Therefore, teachers, as well as future teachers, need to be equipped and guided for desired transformation (Branson, 1988; OECD, 2018b).
Because of the essential changes in education, teacher education programs have a key role in preparing future teachers with the subject-matter and pedagogical knowledge, updating skills, motivation for ongoing learning, and support needed (NAEYC, 1993; OECD, 2018b). Even though teacher training is important, it should be kept in mind that teachers are not passive receivers whether to adopt the innovations (Greenhalgh et al., 2004). In other words, teachers are the adopters of the innovations coming to the education system. According to Rogers (2003), innovation is “an idea, practice or object perceived as new by an individual or other units of adoption” (p.36) and the innovations diffuse between the individuals of a system by using communication channels over time (Rogers, 2003). Therefore, there are time differences between the members of the system in terms of adopting new things and Rogers (2003) explains this issue with the individual’s innovativeness level and adopter categories. As being the most appropriate theory to explain the diffusion and adaptation of innovations, Rogers’ (2003) theory has been widely used in education. Therefore, Rogers’ (2003) Diffusion of Innovations theory was deliberately chosen for the theoretical framework of this study. In brief then, if educators are considered as the key to the fundamental changes in education, it would worth to understand the prospective teachers’ innovativeness level. Therefore, in order to snapshot the possible transformation in early childhood education system, this study aims to answer two main research questions as below:
1) What are the prospective early childhood teachers’ innovativeness levels and how do they differ based on demographic and computer-related variables (i.e. having a personal computer, computers usage year, and computer expertise level)?
2) How the prospective early childhood teachers’ innovativeness levels can be categorized based on Rogers’ (2003) Diffusion of Innovations?
According to Fraenkel and Wallen (2006), survey research is used to figure out the specific characteristics of a group. Therefore, this study was designed as quantitative survey research. The accessible population of this study is 436 preservice early childhood education teachers enrolled at four different early childhood teacher education programs in Turkey. The participants of the study consist of junior (N=258) and senior (N=178) students because it's believed that they are more likely represent future teachers by completing the majority of the department courses and experiencing teaching practices at least one semester. Data was gathered by administering two instruments, namely the Turkish version of Individual Innovativeness Scale (Kılıçer & Odabaşı, 2010) and General Information Scale. The original English version of the Individual Innovativeness Scale was developed by Hurt et al. (1977) and the scale is considered as one of the four best instruments measuring the innovativeness in the literature (Goldsmith & Foxall, 2003). The reliability of the scale is relatively high as 0.89 in the English version and 0.82 in Turkish version. There are 20 items designed by Likert type ranging from 1 to 5 (i.e. 1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree). Innovativeness scores were calculated using the formula developed by Hurt et al. (1977). Based on their scores obtained from the formula “42 + sum of the positive item's score – sum of negative items score”, the participants were considered in high or low innovativeness levels. Moreover, the participants having the innovativeness scores grouped in five adopter categories as Innovator=Greater than 80; Early Adopter=Between 69 and 80; Early Majority=Between 57 and 68; Late Majority=Between 46 and 56; and Laggard=Smaller than 46 (Hurt et al., 1977). Additionally, to collect demographic information of the participants, General Information Scale, developed by the researcher, was used as considering the related literature. To gather data, the required ethical permissions were taken from four institutions and the paper-based instruments were applied by the researchers. Before implementing the survey, all participants were informed about volunteer participation to study, the content of the survey, the method of responding to the items as well as the confidentiality of the answers. The collected data were analyzed quantitatively by using descriptive and inferential (One-way between ANOVA and T-test) statistics after checking the errors and assumptions (Pallant, 2007). For this purpose, the statistical analysis software program were used to analyze the data.
The average innovativeness score of the pre-service early childhood teachers was found as 65.12 (SD=7.8, N=433). Moreover, 43% of the prospective early childhood teachers can be considered high on innovativeness level while 57% of them low. Additionally, the results showed that there were significant differences in the innovativeness scores for the participants regarding the computer usage year [F(4, 428)=3.12, p=.00, ηp2=.02], computer expertise [F(3, 430)=22.44, p=.00, ηp2=.14] and participants’ mother education level [F(4, 430)=3.05, p=.02, ηp2=.28]. However, family income [F(3, 430)=1.32, p=.27], father education level [F(4, 430)=2.20, p=.07] and computer ownership (M=65.25, SD=7.93, t(433)=1.78, p=.08) didn’t make significant difference in individual innovativeness scores. Second, prospective early childhood teachers were categorized considering their individual innovativeness scores. The results of the study showed that 55.3% of the prospective early childhood teachers were in the early majority group (N=241). Moreover, 28.7% of the participants were categorized as early adopters (N=125), 11.3% of them were in the late majority group (N=47), the rest were in the innovator group (N=15) rather than the laggard group (N=3). The result of this study showed similarity with Rogers’ (2003) bell-shaped curve of adopter categories. Early majority group is considered as a linker between the earlier adopters and the later adopters. Moreover, the early adopter group has an important influence on their peers in terms of adopting new ideas and they could be considered as a leader in the diffusion process. Therefore, this group of prospective early childhood teachers could contribute adoption and diffusion innovations in early childhood education. In brief then, considering the crucial role of prospective teachers in educational change (Greenhalgh et al., 2004), it is important to prepare them to be more innovative. Moreover, increasing their computer expertise level and supporting mother education can help pre-service early childhood teachers’ innovativeness.
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