Instrumental and Missional Thinking

CEP 815 - Spring 2014

Problem of Practice

Our school recently purchased the Discovery Education Science Techbook for grades K-8, but many teachers are choosing not to use it. The Techbook is meant to replace the previous textbooks, yet many teachers are still referring to the old text, despite the fact that it does not provide appropriate material to meet the requirements of the Michigan GLCEs (they were published in the 1990's and are literally the same textbook used when I was in elementary school). The Techbook provides quality text, accommodations for a variety of learners, videos, interactive elements, and is tied to the Michigan GLCEs, potentially making the process of planning more simple and focused. Part of the problem is varying access to technology tools between classrooms, but is more in due to the fact that we lack professional development time for the teachers to become familiar with the Techbook.

Instrumental Questions

  1. What tools do teachers need in order to incorporate the Techbook in their classes? (more computers, iPads, etc...)
  2. Are there grants available in order to purchase laptops make our school 1-1?
  3. Would BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) make using the Techbook easier, or would it cause more trouble than it's worth?

Missional Questions

  1. Does the Techbook provide adequate and appropriate materials for meeting the standards set forth by the Michigan GLCEs?
  2. How can teachers meet learning goals of students through the use of the Techbook based on the technology available in their individual classrooms?
  3. How can we improve teacher learning in the area of technology integration, specifically in terms of using the Science Techbook?


In deciding upon a problem of practice within the school in which I work, I wanted to find a topic that focused on technology as well as student achievement. I have really enjoying using our new science Techbook and feel that it is a valuable tool in meeting the goals set forth by the Michigan GLCES and thought that it would be the perfect area of focus. I think the problem convincing teachers and administrators to adopt more effective tools and also of making the best use of the tools that they already have is a problem in many schools, not just mine, so I thought this would be a relevant topic for discussion within this course.

When choosing the instrumental questions, I actually drew a little inspiration from TE 846 (Accommodating Differences in Literacy Learners), which I am also taking this semester. This week's lectures (from Best Practices in Literacy Instruction by Lesley Mandel Morrow and Linda B. Gambrell) talked about student motivations to learn, which I think tie into the idea of instrumental and missional thinking pretty perfectly. With instrumental thinking, the motivators provided to our students are external. We are seeking to appeal to the children (or in the case of my school, their parents) externally with the best, newest, or trendiest tools. With missional thinking, on the other hand, the motivation to learn is more internal. As teachers and leaders who think missionally, we are seeking to appeal to students internally by eliciting curiosity and interest in the subject matter and use appropriate technologies as a tool rather than a focus.

By discussing the instrumental questions with my staff, the focus of our discussion would likely focus on the hardware and software needs of more effectively using the science Techbook. We would probably discuss ways to fund the additional technology as well as the viability of implementing a “Bring Your Own Device” program. The end result would likely be more tech tools that many of the teachers would still not use since there is unfortunately little emphasis placed on professional development in my school.

In discussing the missional question, I feel the outcome would provide a better result for both teachers and students. First, as a staff we would be able to decide whether or not the Techbook is able to provide the material needed in order for students to meet the goals set forth in the Michigan GLCEs. If the Techbook doesn’t have what is needed than we would need to decide how to supplement the curriculum in order to meet the learning goals for our students. The teachers would be able to discuss how to best meet the students’ needs within the confines of their current classroom technology situation as well as the type of training they need in order to be successful in reaching their goals. In order for any technology to be successful, it is important that the teachers feel comfortable enough to actually use it. By talking to the teachers and finding out what they need in terms of their own learning and teaching practices hopefully the attitude towards implementing the Techbook would change and student understanding would improve.

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