Developing TPACK through online professional development on teaching Math/Science with spreadsheets

Niess, M., van Zee, E., & Gillow-Wiles, H. (2011). Knowledge growth in teaching mathematics/science with spreadsheets: Moving PCK to TPACK through online professional development. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27(2), 42–52.


This interpretive study involved an online course preparing teachers to integrate dynamic spreadsheets into their elementary and middle school math and science classrooms. The impact this course had on the participants decision to explore further and implement the software was examined.  Twelve instructors took part in the course and contributed to data analyzing their development when learning to integrate this technology.

The study drew data from each of the participants in four areas. A binder for each teacher was managed, containing observation results, assignments from the course, transcripts of course discussions, and in-depth interviews with the researchers. The data was analyzed to determine each teachers’ level of development. These levels were as follows: 1) recognizing (knowledge) the capabilities of spreadsheet use in the subject matter, 2) accepting (persuasion) the use of spreadsheets in their classrooms, 3) adapting (decision) the spreadsheets to use in activities in their classrooms at a lower cognitive level for students, 4) exploring (implementation) and designing activities in the classroom that utilize spreadsheets, and 5) advancing (confirmation) the use of spreadsheets through curriculum changes. Of the twelve participants, 8 were determined to be at the accepting level (#2), 2 at the adapting level (#3), and 2 at the exploring level (#4). The author shares comments from participants made during the interview phase of the study that support the levels indicated.

When I think about my own TPACK level I realize just how much I have to learn.  I’d say for the most part I’m at level 5 whenever possible, trying to adjust my curriculum and plans to incorporate appropriate tech tools. In future research I do wonder if preservice teachers were more widely exposed to the capabilities of tools such as spreadsheets, what impact this would have on their TPACK levels once they are teaching. As stated in this study, many teachers will align their instruction of math and science with the methods they were taught with. Changing this through education in tech tools during their undergraduate level could be the key.




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