|Ph.D Student||Levenberg Ariella|
|Subject||Flexible Thinking in Technology-Enhanced Learning|
Environments: From Theory to Practice
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Miriam Barak|
|Full Thesis text|
Global rapid changes pose a challenge for education systems worldwide to prepare learners to solve problems and cope with changing situations. Among the required competencies needed for coping successfully with changes, flexible thinking is most significant. Although flexibility seems to be intuitively easy to define, an examination of the research literature shows that there is a spectrum of overlapping definitions, none of which related to contemporary learning. Therefore, the goals of this study were: to identify and conceptualize the underlying constructs of ‘flexible thinking’ in technology-enhanced learning environments (TEL), to develop a valid and reliable scale for flexible thinking in TEL, and to explore ways for its practice in contemporary education. Accordingly, this research consisted of three successive studies, each addressing a specific research goal, as described below.
Study 1 aimed at conceptualizing flexible thinking in TEL. It employed the qualitative Grounded Theory approach, via open-ended surveys and semi-structured interviews. It included three groups of participants: educational instructors (n = 14), academic lecturers (n = 46), and pre-service teachers (n = 73). The findings yielded a three-construct model and a definition of ‘flexible thinking in TEL’ as a “higher order thinking skill that constitutes open-mindedness to other’s opinions as fundamental to the ability to accept new or changing technologies that brings to adapting to changes in learning situations”. This definition was empirically tested in Study 2.
Study 2 aimed at developing a valid and reliable individual differences scale for flexible thinking in TEL. It employed a quantitative approach comprised of the following stages: content validity among educational experts (n = 8), construct validity among pre-service teachers from two higher education institutions (n = 429), discriminant validity and known-groups validity among pre-service teachers (n = 363), stability across populations and time among pre-service teachers (n = 225), and concurrent validity among pre-service teachers in science and engineering education (n = 54). The stages addressed three subscales: Technology acceptance; Open-mindedness to others’ opinions; and Adapting to changing learning situations. Study 2 resulted in a valid and reliable 19-item questionnaire, on a 1-to-6 Likert type scale. The findings confirmed and reinforced the definition and the theoretical model that were generated in Study 1. The emerging theoretical model was examined in Study 3.
Study 3 aimed at exploring the ways flexible thinking in TEL can be practiced in contemporary education. It employed an embedded mixed method design, combining both qualitative and quantitative approaches, using open ended and close-ended surveys, and semi-structured interviews. This study included academic lecturers (n = 55) and pre-service teachers (n = 63). Systematic content analysis indicated that pedagogical strategies, which include the use of online collaborative writing in shared cloud documents, can foster flexible thinking in TEL.
The research has a threefold contribution: Theoretically, the research generated a contemporary model of flexible thinking in TEL that combine both social and cognitive aspects. Methodologically, the new validated scale can serve both as a research tool and as a self-assessment instrument. Practically, the scale can be used for examining the degree to which pedagogical interventions may affect learners' flexible thinking.