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Linking school teachers’ practice with research in educational technology: A call to action

Melissa Bond

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET), Melissa Bond (University of Oldenburg), Dr Olaf Zawacki-Richter (University of Oldenburg) and Dr Mark Nichols (Open Polytechnic of New Zealand) conducted a content and authorship analysis of 1,777 research articles, published in BJET between its first issue published in 1970 and issue 3 of volume 49 (2018) (Bond, Zawacki-Richter & Nichols, 2019). A computer-assisted content analysis, using text-mining tool Leximancer, was our point of departure, and was particularly helpful in gaining an overview of the key themes discussed in BJET throughout each decade.

Figure 1: Overall concept map (n = 1,777 articles published between 1970 and 2018)

The overall concept map (see figure 1) showed that BJET publishes research focussed on technology to support effective teaching and learning, with learning always in the foreground. While the results indicated that research was particularly focussed on online collaborative learning environments and schools, closer inspection of the maps covering the last two decades revealed that research has predominantly focussed on higher education contexts. This shows that more targeted measures are needed to increase educational technology research contributions from contexts outside of formal education, including vocational training and museums, as well as to strengthen links between researchers, school teachers and other practitioners in the field of education.

‘Engaging in reflective practitioner research that leads to a deeper understanding of technology and its affordances would help to mitigate longstanding and pervasive problems.’

While reading and analysing articles across the decades, regular themes began to emerge (see table 1), alongside those already identified from the concept maps. The longevity and pervasiveness of issues surrounding educational technology in schools – such as teachers’ ongoing suspicion towards and reluctance to use EdTech, and a lack of student IT skill and knowledge development – was remarkable. Through engaging in reflective practitioner research, deeper understanding of technology and its affordances might help mitigate the effects of, for example, a lack of effective pre- and in-service teacher professional development, low technology skills and self-efficacy, and the continued low uptake of particular technologies.

Table 1: Key research themes in BJET across 50 years (Bond et al., 2019, pp. 61–62)

Aside from identifying the need to increase the amount of school-based educational technology research, teachers should be involved in not only the research process, but also within the writing and publication process. Only 2 per cent of articles (n = 15) published in BJET since 2010 were authored or co-authored by a school teacher, which represents missed opportunities for reflection and professional growth. Speaking from personal experience, my teaching practice improved greatly after I began undertaking case studies within my German-as-a-foreign-language classroom. By reflecting upon and writing about the process for a postgraduate course and subsequent publication, I began to gain greater insight into which teaching practices were more effective and what I could do to secure the best outcomes for my students.

Where to from here?

Following on from this research, I would suggest that communities of practice be fostered within schools and wider school districts to support teachers in undertaking practitioner-based research. While resourcing is always an issue, schools should provide teachers with regular time to develop their research skills and to undertake professional development within the area of educational technology, which could include taking advantage of the expertise already available within schools. One possibility is that schools could encourage teachers to join the Chartered College of Teaching, which actively promotes evidence-based research (particularly within the field of educational technology), provides members with access to academic publications, and can assist teachers to develop requisite research skills through professional development opportunities.

Finally, closer links need to be forged between higher education/research institutions and schools, creating opportunities for teachers to work with and learn from researchers. However, it is important that this is not a one-sided relationship, with only the research team benefiting from the publication process: teachers should also be given the opportunity to engage in writing for publication. Hopefully, through fostering teacher agency and supporting ongoing professional development, systemic issues such as those discovered in this article will not continue to plague education for the next 50 years.


This blog post is based on the article ‘Revisiting five decades of educational technology research: A content and authorship analysis of the British Journal of Educational Technology’ by Melissa Bond, Olaf Zawacki‐Richter annd Mark Nichols. It is published in volume 50, issue 1 of BJET, and is free-to-view for a limited period, courtesy of the journal’s publisher, Wiley.

Read more about BJET’s 50th anniversary, and the special content being published to mark the occasion, here


Bond, M., Zawacki-Richter, O., & Nichols, M. (2019). Revisiting five decades of educational technology research: A content and authorship analysis of the British Journal of Educational Technology. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(1), 12–63.