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Teachers’ Frequency of ICT Use in Providing Sustainable Opportunity to Learn: Mediation Analysis Using a Reading Database

Department of Linguistics, School of International Studies, Center of Global Competence, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(23), 15998;
Submission received: 21 October 2022 / Revised: 26 November 2022 / Accepted: 27 November 2022 / Published: 30 November 2022
(This article belongs to the Topic Education and Digital Societies for a Sustainable World)


As classrooms have become increasingly digitized, information and communication technology (ICT) has been frequently used by teachers. On that basis, whether teachers’ ICT use could provide students with more and sustainable opportunities to learn (OTL) has aroused more attention in the relevant research field. However, there has been scarce evidence for teacher-related factors that elucidate the correlation between the ICT use of teachers and providing OTL in secondary education. Given this inefficiency of evidence, this study aimed to investigate the above correlation and explore the mediation effects of teachers’ self-efficacy and teachers’ flexible strategy use to solve individualized challenges (i.e., adaptive instruction). The data of 10,796 teachers in 389 secondary schools were analyzed using R based on a multilevel mediation model. As indicated by the results of this study, teachers achieved higher self-efficacy and adaptive instruction levels when ICT was used more frequently in reading classrooms, which would further enhance the provision of OTL for students. In addition, experienced teachers were better at facilitating adaptive instruction and self-efficacy using ICT. The above results could lay a solid foundation for future empirical studies to incorporate ICT in reading course design. Furthermore, it is imperative to carry out teacher training programs to improve teachers’ beliefs and practices in providing OTL for better sustainable education in ICT education contexts.

1. Introduction

In a digital environment, learning requires teachers to apply diversified information and communication technology (ICT) on a frequent basis to provide more accessible knowledge to learners [1,2,3,4]. Despite the ICT applications were designed and applied to the individualized needs of different students in the educational setting, the supportive and adaptive practices of teaching were highly demanded to guide students in the information processing while maximizing the benefits of digital learning [5]. Intending to fulfill lifelong learning opportunities prescribed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to achieve the Goal 4 of quality education in Sustainable Development Goals [6,7], urging teachers to improve their ability to provide enriched learning opportunities to accommodate students to increasingly virtualized educational context, is highly essential.
Among the knowledge and skills required for the future development of an individual in the contemporary society, reading plays a fundamental role in the learning process [8]. Digital reading, which refers to the reading activity on ICT applications, requires higher levels of cognitive abilities to navigate, locate, process, and synthesize information than traditional pen-and-paper reading. Additionally, it allows more freedom and flexibility for students to explore digital information [9]. In this regard, learning digital reading seeks more opportunities to learn (OTL), as OTL increases the resources, connections, and feedback that guarantee the successful exploration of curricular knowledge. First proposed by John Carroll in 1963 in a model of school learning, OTL originally referred to the “actual time available to individual students to learn in view of the pacing of instruction (p. 733)” [10]. The OTL concept has long been focused on face-to-face classroom education and has been confirmed as a strong predictor of students’ academic achievement [10]. The digital era extended the OTL definition as ICT would supplement more opportunities that might not be well covered by teachers, but it continued to highlight OTL in students’ academic and overall development [11]. Since international educational databases such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reported measured outcomes of students’ academic achievement and influencing factors, its survey through self-report questionnaires provided rich materials for secondary analysis. Secondary analysis using PISA data across variables might reveal the correlations that were not reported in the descriptive statistics of PISA report [12]. Previous secondary analysis using PISA has provided robust positive connections between OTL and adolescents’ mathematics and science performance [13,14], and more relationships are to be tested specifically in other subjects, such as digital reading [15]. Since the main subject of the latest round of PISA, i.e., PISA 2018, focused on digital reading, its background questionnaire involved reading provided valuable information on reading-specific OTL and its influencing factors.
Up to now, there have been extensive research efforts on the positive connections between teachers’ frequency of ICT use and OTL [16,17], which is worthy of test in digital reading. Although the frequency of ICT use by teachers does not directly lead to OTL, it is influenced by a collection of teacher beliefs and teaching practices. These beliefs and practices navigate the specific behavior of teachers to provide OTL, such as linking theory to daily experience and summarizing strategies [18]. By exploring the relationships between these teacher-related factors, it could be better explained how teachers utilize ICT applications to provide sustainable OTL for students.
The self-efficacy of teachers in instruction and adaptive instruction are two significant influencing factors for teaching effectiveness, especially in complex learning environments such as learning with ICT facilities [19]. At the secondary education level, the reduction of teacher self-efficacy has an adverse effect on the engagement of teachers in classroom teaching, the maintenance of teacher–student relationships, and the stability of career development [20]. Providing students with adaptive instruction contributed to more efficient classes where students gain more improvement. In combination, these two factors explained teaching effectiveness to a large extent. Currently, there is less clarity provided on how teachers apply ICT to formulate and adjust their teaching practice while improving the efficiency of classroom teaching. The mechanism of teachers’ supportive behavior in the ICT-mediated reading class could be revealed by understanding relationships among teachers’ ICT use, self-efficacy, and adaptive instruction. Therefore, the current study seeks to investigate the relationships between teachers’ frequency of ICT use, in addition to the mediating effect of self-efficacy and adaptivity in the instruction in reading classes.

2. Literature Review

2.1. OTL

Originating from the International Education Association (IEA) investigations, the concept of OTL was a significant factor considered to investigate the impact of classroom teaching practice [21]. In John Carroll’s model, OTL meant the time allocated for actual learning, while later definitions took OTL as content covered in sections of the implemented curriculum [22]. Considering both the time and content coverage for facilitating students learning, OTL was in essence closely connected to teacher practices [23]. This integrated definition was also adopted by the PISA, which defines OTL as teachers’ frequency to summarize knowledge and link knowledge with real-life experiences through flexible classroom activities.
OTL could either be assessed by teachers’ self-reports or students’ reports [22]. In OTL assessment, it was surveyed frequently in international large databases, most notably PISA 2012, 2015, and 2018. PISA has incorporated OTL in the optional teacher questionnaire to investigate teachers’ knowledge background, beliefs, and competencies in providing support for adolescent students [24]. Given the advantages of cross-regional large databases, the assessment of OTL in PISA has the potential for secondary analysis with other possible teacher-related factors.
Factors that contribute to more OTL have been discussed in worldwide educational contexts. School resources determine facilities and teacher qualities, which provided foundations of OTL [23]. In teaching practices, OTL entails the teachers’ preparation before class, instructions in class, and feedback received through and after the courses [25]. Therefore, OTL is a multi-dimensional construct and is associated with facilities and pedagogy [26].
At present, OTL has also been recognized for decades as a key factor in sustainable student development in educational research, especially in face-to-face classes where students and teachers were directly and closely connected. Extant literature suggested a significantly positive impact of OTL on student achievement [27]. It was evidenced that middle school students were more likely to be well-supported in science learning and achieved better science performance in assessments when given more OTL [14]. Currently, OTL research revolves around STEM subjects, because researchers hold the belief that these disciplines which placed a strong emphasis on critical thinking and creativity merited additional OTL to enhance student learning results [28]. Comparatively, a significantly smaller number of studies focused on reading, as reading was more frequently viewed as a skill or literacy rather than a requisite subject [27]. Nevertheless, it has been consistently shown in research that OTL in reading is essential for understanding the effects of formal education [15]. Additionally, in OTL research, secondary schools received less attention than higher education and primary education [28,29], which made it necessary to investigate OTL specifically in the reading classes in secondary school by taking into account the characteristics of different educational levels.
As digital education emerged, where ICT was applied in the classrooms to allow students more freedom for exploration, more importance was attached to OTL [30]. A growing body of research has recently started to examine OTL in the context of digitization. According to researchers, ICT tools would improve the diversity of learning chances [31]. Differently, some researchers warned against a potential loss of control as instruction with more freedom was granted [32]. Given the mixed results, it was necessary to conduct further explorations in diversified educational settings.

2.2. Teachers’ ICT Use in the Digital Reading Classroom

The term “teachers’ ICT use” describes how teachers employ ICT resources to facilitate learning [20]. The use of ICT by teachers might provide students with more sustainable resources for learning and promote class involvement, both of which had a favorable impact on academic performance [33]. ICT accessibility or use and student learning have not, however, been consistently linked by empirical studies [34]. Although the bulk of studies came to the same conclusion—that ICT use helps students’ reading performance—there were several studies that arrived at the opposite conclusion [35]. For instance, a meta-analysis examining reading media disclosed that frequent ICT reading would lead to decreased reading comprehension [36]. These results revealed that the association between ICT use and academic achievement was far more complicated and took into account aspects other than just access and use [37]. Additionally, a number of researchers contended that incorporating ICT into teaching methods has numerous advantages for students, particularly the enhancement of their learning opportunities in general literacy, such as reading [19].
For the sustainable development of future generations in this digital era, teachers are required to provide more resources by systematically integrating ICT into course design [38]. Increasing demands for teachers’ ICT use in educational settings have led to the development of the technological, pedagogical, content knowledge (TPACK) framework, which prescribed the knowledge and competence of teachers to integrate ICT effectively into classroom practice [39]. At present, a majority of teachers needed assistance in improving their ICT literacy to teach reading, as evidenced by their opposition to integrating smart devices into reading classrooms and their feelings of uneasiness when using ICT devices to teach reading. These difficulties in integrating smart education into teaching practice would further reduce teachers’ self-efficacy in smart education contexts.
ICT-mediated reading activities were built on the findings of numerous research that indicated utilizing ICT in the classroom aided adolescents in achieving their aim of successful reading [40,41,42]. Although teachers performed the role of agents who selected when and how to use all ICT devices, the process of teachers’ instructional support using ICT has attracted far less attention in research than students’ reading accomplishment [43]. Research on teachers’ ICT use was, therefore, required to address technological integration while working toward curriculum integration with technology [44].
When incorporating ICT applications into school education, adaptive instruction that focused on each student’s unique reading issues attracted more attention, because distinct individual features had a significant impact on the reading process. However, functions provided by ICT applications could not achieve their maximized positive effect without teachers’ adaptive instruction to balance group learning context and individual needs [45]. Digital reading is more subjective and associated with more individualized cognitive activities [46], which further requires teachers’ competence to coordinate learning activities in ICT-mediated reading courses. It was necessary to examine the linkages between OTL and other teacher-related elements to gain a better knowledge of how teachers provide OTL to students in reading classes [47].

2.3. Teachers’ Self-Efficacy and Adaptive Instruction

The self-efficacy of teachers and their instruction adaptation were all considered significant teaching qualities needed to effectively support student development [46]. Self-efficacy paid attention to the motivational aspect of teachers’ beliefs to educate students well, while adaptive instruction focused on the flexibility of teachers in varied instructional requirements. They collaboratively built up a student-friendly classroom for the learning of reading where students might benefit from the supportive environment.
In the context of digitized education, the definition of teachers’ self-efficacy was extended to the confidence in teaching subject knowledge and classroom management. Higher levels of teachers’ self-efficacy meant teachers’ stronger confidence to keep pace with the times and develop a strong sense of efficacy in combining ICT with teaching. Among the contributors to teachers’ efficacy, the years of teaching experience exerted a weak yet positive effect [47].
In regard to reading, teachers’ self-efficacy referred to teachers’ confidence in their ability to successfully guide students to fulfill reading tasks and exert a positive influence on students’ reading ability. It was motivated by teachers’ context-related appraisals to engage students in current reading activities [48]. Teacher self-efficacy played a role in encouraging teachers to guide students through the reading process, assisting them to overcome the obstacles to learning, and inspiring them to engage in learning. In general, there remained positive findings on the influence of ICT use on teachers’ self-efficacy [45,49]. Nevertheless, most of these discoveries were based on general classrooms without specific disciplines or only within STEM subjects. Therefore, it remained debatable whether these findings applied to reading.
Encouraged in the context of digital learning, teachers’ adaptive instruction is a type of flexible instruction strategy that makes changes to teaching contents and methods to provide instruction in a way that suits students’ needs without reducing efficiency and effectiveness in teaching [50]. Rising computer-based educational systems have focused on adaptive instruction through algorithms, but in classroom practice, teachers’ adaptive instruction is equally important to facilitate students’ comprehension [24]. Usually understood as teachers’ decision-making in classes, teachers’ adaptive instruction required acute sensitivity to the classroom and students [51]. In reading, adaptive instruction was demonstrated as conducive to engagement in reading tasks [52]. After processing information from students’ behaviors, teachers acted based on their decisions to re-design the tasks and instructions offered to students rapidly [53]. Existing studies focused attention mainly on a discussion about the benefits of adaptive instruction from the perspectives of students’ learning process and outcomes. However, its direct relationship with teachers’ connection with students was overlooked (e.g., providing OTL) [54]. By understanding the influences of adaptive instruction on the provision of OTL by teachers, the reading teachers could be better informed of their power of teaching practices with varied ICT applications.

2.4. Teachers’ Teaching Experience and OTL

Teachers played an instrumental role in realizing OTL, as teacher characteristics and practices contributed to differentiated OTL levels [55]. According to some research, offering OTL required both pedagogical and subject expertise, which came from years of teaching experience. Therefore, novice teachers and experienced teachers might exhibit different patterns when providing OTL to students, thus yielding different results [56]. To help students understand, teachers could, for instance, modify or annotate their course materials using what they have learned from teaching.
The amount of OTL given to students was also observed to differ between novice and experienced teachers in terms of teacher autonomy. Less-experienced teachers preferred to lecture according to their prepared materials in both traditional and online learning environments, while more experienced teachers adapted their lesson plans in response to instant student feedback [57]. In this regard, novice teachers might fall short with their adaptive instructions.
Teaching experiences in virtualized educational contexts would increase the gap between novice teachers and experienced teachers when providing OTL, primarily because of teachers’ experience integrating ICT applications into course contents [58]. Young teachers were more likely to simply rely on ICT, and less of their attention was paid to interactions between students. Nevertheless, questions remained about whether novice and experienced teachers would differ in terms of the influence of ICT use on digital reading performance.
Based on the literature review above, the following three research questions were proposed.
Research question 1. What is the relationship between teachers’ frequency of ICT use and providing OTL?
Research question 2. How do teachers’ self-efficacy and adaptation of instructions influence the relationship between teachers’ frequency of ICT use and OTL?
Research question 3. Would these relationships be different between novice teachers and experienced teachers? If so, how?
Corresponding hypotheses were put forward based on existing evidence.
Hypothesis 1.
Teachers’ higher frequency of ICT would lead to more frequent provision of OTL in reading classes.
Existing evidence has proven a correlation between the frequency of teachers’ ICT use and the frequency of OTL provision [30]. This study intended to explore this relationship in a large database regarding reading and confirmed its generality in secondary education.
Hypothesis 2.
Teachers’ self-efficacy mediated the relationship between teachers’ ICT use and their provision of OTL.
There are empirical studies showing that frequent ICT use by teachers contributes to a higher level of self-efficacy in classroom teaching [48]. Increased self-efficacy of teachers could further increase the frequency of OTL provision. Given these two correlations, the mediation effect is worth testing.
Hypothesis 3.
Adaptation of instruction mediated the relationship between teachers’ ICT use and their provision of OTL.
More ICT use would contribute to a higher level of instruction adaptation [33], which is closely related to flexibility in classroom activities and teaching strategies. Such flexibility guaranteed students’ comprehension of taught contents to a large extent [24].
Hypothesis 4.
Experienced teachers would perform better in transforming ICT use to OTL for students.
A case study in a Chinese university suggested that experienced teachers enjoy more autonomy when using ICT [58]. With more adaptivity and autonomy, experienced teachers might better utilize ICT resources and create more learning opportunities, at least compared to novice teachers. Whether this could be applied to secondary students is tested in this study.

3. Methods

3.1. Data

This study utilized the PISA 2018 database, which provided rich contextual information to examine the influences of teacher-related factors on OTL [59]. PISA adopted a two-stage sampling procedure, with the random selection of schools before the random sampling of classes. Since PISA targeted 15-year-old students who were at the end of their voluntary education, investigations were conducted in secondary schools. A total of 10,796 teachers from 389 schools in the regions of Hong Kong, Macau, and Chinese Taipei were extracted from the database. These three regions were selected because they share a similar social development status, thus avoiding occasionality in results from only one region while freeing us of biases related to economic and cultural backgrounds [60]. These reading teachers were offered PISA 2018 teacher questionnaires to collect information about their educational and working backgrounds, classroom practices, and teaching beliefs; this questionnaire ought to provide additional evidence regarding their students’ reading performance.

3.2. Variables

Five main variables were selected from the teacher questionnaire of PISA 2018 for analysis, of which year of work experience is used to recognize novice teachers and experienced teachers. The frequency of teachers’ ICT use is taken as the independent variable, while the frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students is the dependent variable. Both teachers’ self-efficacy in instruction and teachers’ adaptive instruction were potential mediating variables.
Year of work experience as a teacher. PISA 2018 surveyed the years of experience in working as a teacher in the teacher background questionnaire. Research has indicated that teachers with more than five years of teaching experience would show a better perception of students’ needs, design appropriate educational activities, and manage classroom order well [20]. Teachers who had five or less than five years of work experience were, therefore, regarded as novice teachers, compared to experienced teachers who had worked for more than five years.
Frequency of teachers’ ICT use in classrooms (TCICTUSE). The frequency of teachers’ ICT use was a derived variable in PISA, consisting of 14 items representing the different types of ICT applications in classrooms. Each item was rated by the corresponding yes/no answer to the question “During the last month, did you use any of the following digital devices?”. All answers were processed officially by PISA and resulted in a derived, continuous variable.
Frequency of providing opportunities to learn in reading comprehension (TCOTLCOMP). In PISA, OTL is connected closely with the types and frequency of activities that engage students’ overall comprehension ability in reading [61]. The frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students is also a derived variable based on teachers’ responses to the question “How often do you teach the following aspects of reading comprehension in your lessons?”. The aspects included cognitive support that facilitated reading comprehension. Of the 4 items (see below in Table 1) that constituted this variable, each item was scaled ranging from “never or almost never” to “every lesson or almost every lesson”.
Teacher’s self-efficacy in instruction (SEFFINS). Teachers’ self-efficacy survey in PISA assessed teachers’ beliefs in using strategies to help students develop their learning ability in reading. The assessed beliefs included crafting questions, providing assessment strategies, giving alternative explanations, and offering alternative instructional strategies. Each assessed aspect was shown as a separate item in the questionnaire, with the same four scales from “never or almost never” to “every lesson or almost every lesson”.
Teacher’s adaptive instruction (ADAPTINSTR). In PISA, teachers’ adaptation of instruction was understood as teachers’ flexible strategy use to solve individualized challenges faced by students. The assessed aspects include tailoring the teaching, providing individual help, and adaptively changing the topic of instruction, which evidenced teachers’ adjustment of teaching strategies to ensure comprehension of the majority of students.
All items of the derived variables are listed in Table 1.
All derived variables were assessed reliability by PISA to ensure the items could effectively represent the corresponding latent variable and be appropriate for further analysis. The values of Cronbach’s alpha which indicated reliability were listed in Table 2, and they all indicated acceptable reliability (α > 0.7).

3.3. Modeling

A multilevel mediation model was adopted for the current analysis. In a clustered educational context, where teachers are nested in schools and schools are located in different regions, the effects of schools and regions might be apparent in individual teachers. To account for the differences between schools and regions, a multilevel mediation model was used.
Prior to the primary analysis, all data were pre-processed using SPSS 25.0.
First, expectation maximization (EM) was used to process all missing data. Using iterative expectation (E) and maximization (M) phases, the EM imputation generates maximum-likelihood estimates of the original data and produces an estimated value for each missing value in the original dataset. Second, standardization was carried out using Z scores to make sure that all data were assessed on the same scale.
The mediation analysis was performed in the lavaan package of R based on the structural equation modeling approach. For this study, a multilevel mediation model that incorporated two potential mediators was adopted, suggesting two parallel mediation paths of “X-M1-Y” and “X-M2-Y”. The hypothetical figure is drawn as follows (Figure 1):
In this model, each path is named according to the correlated relationships it represents. a1 and a2 represent the coefficients of influence from X to M1 and M2, respectively. b1 and b2 refer to the coefficients of influence from M1 and M2 to Y. c’ represents the direct effects, while a1b1 and a2b2 represent two parallel mediation effects. The sum of the direct and indirect effects of X on Y is used to determine the effects of X overall. The statistical model’s Equations are constructed in the following method to measure these effects:
M1 = iM1 + a1X + eM1
M2 = iM2 + a2X + eM2
Y = iY + c′X + b1M1 + b2M2 + eY
iM1, iM2, and iY are regression constants, and eM1 and eM2 are estimated errors.

4. Results

4.1. Descriptive Results, Model Fit and Intra-Class Correlation

Table 3 shows the descriptive results for the main variables in this investigation. Among the 10,796 teachers in the reading subject from Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau, 6928 (64.17%) were female and 9398 (87.05%) teachers had more than five years’ teaching experience. The mean and standard deviation (SD) of the frequency of teachers’ ICT use, frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students, teachers’ self-efficacy in instructional settings, and teachers’ adaptive instruction were based on the standardized outcomes of all participating regions in PISA 2018, with zero suggesting a median level among all surveyed regions. Therefore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau all showed a higher frequency of teacher ICT use levels than the average level, while the outcomes for frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students, teachers’ self-efficacy in instructional settings, and teacher adaptation of instruction were comparatively lower than the average global level. This demonstrates that these three regions are highly equipped for ICT, while also showing that teaching practices in a digitalized environment require further development.
Model fit indexes were included to ensure the hypothesized model was valid and appropriate for the interpretation of further results. Model fits for Chinese Taipei (CFI = 0.996, TLI = 0.984, RMSEA = 0.060, SRMR = 0.013), Hong Kong (CFI = 0.964, TLI = 0.936, RMSEA = 0.062, SRMR = 0.015), and Macau (CFI = 0.979, TLI = 0.962, RMSEA = 0.078, SRMR = 0.008) all indicated a good fit, showing that the data supported the hypothesized model.
To determine whether a multilevel analysis was necessary to account for the between-school variation in individual teachers’ teaching practices, the intra-class correlation (ICC) method was tested. The ICC values for the frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students were 0.0137, 0.0019, and 0.0316 for Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau, respectively. This suggested no significant school-level differences in teachers’ frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students, as an ICC value less than 0.1 indicated possibly unbiased results if school-level factors were not considered. However, to ensure precision and set the model in a realistic educational setting, a multilevel mediation model is still needed to incorporate the possible influence of schools [62]. All coefficients in the analysis were results that accounted for the influence of schools.

4.2. Total Effects

The estimated total effects are displayed in Table 4, which shows that there is a positive relationship between teachers’ frequency of ICT use in classrooms and the frequency of providing OTL for students in all three examined regions in the hypothesized model. The unstandardized model coefficient (B) showed that with a 1-unit increase in the frequency of teachers’ ICT use in reading classrooms, OTL was predicted to show an increase ranging from 0.3670 to 0.4770 unstandardized units in groups of novice teachers and from 0.3609 to 0.4620 in groups of experienced teachers. Regarding the standardized model coefficient (β), with a 1-unit increase in the frequency of teachers’ ICT use, OTL would correspondingly increase by 0.3405–0.4720 standardized units among novice teachers, and by 0.3624–0.4589 standardized units among experienced teachers. The frequency of ICT use was, therefore, largely proven to contribute positively to OTL, with experienced teachers showing more OTL given more use of ICT applications in reading classrooms. The standard error from 0.0139 to 0.0598 was within the normal range. Moreover, a 95% confidence level (95% CI) was used to test the significance of the results; a 95%CI that did not contain zero within its range suggested significant results.

4.3. Direct Effects

Direct effects were reported to assess the relationship between the frequency of teachers’ ICT use in reading classrooms and the frequency of the provision of opportunities to learn for students, ruling out the influence of potential mediators. As is represented in Table 5, the frequency of teachers’ ICT use in classrooms positively influenced the frequency of the provision of OTL for students among novice teachers, thus separating the influence from potential mediators; this was apparent in Chinese Taipei (β = 0.2210, 95% CI ∈ [0.2020, 0.2380]), Hong Kong (β = 0.2434, 95% CI ∈ [0.1831, 0.3532]), and Macau (β = 0.3630, 95% CI ∈ [0.3450, 0.3890]). Similarly, in the group of experienced teachers, this relationship remained positively significant in Chinese Taipei (β = 0.2167, 95% CI ∈ [0.1960, 0.2353]), Hong Kong (β = 0.2615, 95% CI ∈ [0.2378, 0.2811]), and Macau (β = 0.3522, 95% CI ∈ [0.3303, 0.3789]). These findings suggested that teachers’ ICT use was correlated with OTL in digital reading classes, regardless of the levels of teacher self-efficacy, adaptive instruction, and work experiences.

4.4. Mediation Effects

Paths of mediation are listed in Table 6. Notably, except for the fact that teachers’ frequency of ICT use did not significantly affect novice teachers’ self-efficacy in instruction in Hong Kong, all other mediation paths suggested significantly positive results (p < 0.05). In other words, teachers’ frequency of ICT use significantly influenced adaptive instruction in all examined regions, as well as in both novice and experienced teachers’ groups. In addition, both self-efficacy in instruction and adaptive instruction contributed to OTL in reading classes.
Indirect effects, or mediation effects, are reported in Table 7. The results suggested that both teachers’ self-efficacy in instruction and adaptive instruction were strong mediators between teachers’ ICT use and providing OTL, except for novice teachers in Hong Kong, who failed to transform ICT use into self-efficacy. Comparatively, teachers’ adaptive instruction displayed a larger standardized coefficient than teachers’ self-efficacy in instruction, across regions and teacher groups. The proportion of mediation from 23.00% to 40.20% suggested medium-to-large effect sizes. Comparatively, the mediation effects were less evident in novice teacher groups compared to experienced teacher groups. A summary of the path coefficients is also presented in the figures of the full models for novice teachers and experienced teachers, respectively (Figure 2 and Figure 3). Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau were abbreviated as TAP, HKG, and MAC following PISA official reports. The “*” in the figures indicates significant results.

5. Discussion

This study advances the body of knowledge on how secondary school teachers use ICT to provide OTL for teaching reading. Among a bundle of studies investigating teachers’ ICT use and students’ academic performance, this article discusses the teaching beliefs and practices of entitling students to OTL, which enables young generations to develop reading abilities.

5.1. Teachers’ ICT Use and OTL

The positive correlation between the frequency of teachers’ ICT use and teachers’ frequency of providing OTL supports Hypothesis 1 and is in agreement with the existing finding that OTL ought to be promoted in a highly digitalized learning environment [14]. Teachers’ frequent ICT use, as revealed in the total effects and the direct effects of the mediation model, would contribute to more OTL provided by teachers, even without the influence of teachers’ efficacy and adaptive instruction. Consistent results across our three examined regions suggested that the positive correlation between the frequency of teachers’ ICT use and teachers’ frequency of providing OTL was common. In addition, the results further confirmed the accessibility of the OTL concept in the online learning context, where time and content coverage together explained students’ OTL.
Admittedly, OTL provided by teachers and possessed by students was influenced by macro-influencing factors, such as economic, social, and cultural statuses (ESCS) [60]. Higher ESCS levels would lead to better academic performance through the lens of unequal opportunities, while the use of technology would help narrow the gap of such inequality if it is well guided by teacher support [63]. However, micro-level factors also counted for opportunities students would receive in classroom teaching. Students’ OTL, in accordance with what Schmidt and fellow researchers have discovered [26], was largely influenced by teacher practice and disciplinary climate, which were also applied in digitalized classrooms. Evidence from investigations revealed two levels of instructional support for digital reading. Fundamentally, the level of technology integration refers to the mere adoption of ICT in the classroom, whereas teachers at this level often failed to integrate ICT with classroom activities, resulting in undesirable outcomes for students’ digital reading performance. The second level refers to the curricular integration in which teachers were proactive and strategic in guiding students to process the information and fulfill the prescribed tasks in digital environments [9].
To explain the correlation between the frequency of teachers’ ICT use and teachers’ frequency of providing OTL, it is apparent that ICT use by teachers would save time on procedural routines that ensure comprehension of the majority of students. In addition, ICT use equips teachers and students with more accessible information to summarize, and more flexible tasks to switch according to the modes of the class. On this basis, richer contents and individualized learning processes were offered to larger quantities of students, which constituted the core of OTL expected by students.
Even though teachers’ ICT use was demonstrated to contribute more OTL, appropriate teaching strategies are still needed to support the benefits of ICT, thus confirming the results in other studies of ICT and Carroll’s model that students’ learning depends partly on factors controlled by teachers [10]. OTL is provided with the final aim of developing students’ learning outcomes and learning abilities. As a rising form of literacy that largely influences adolescents’ future development [18], digital reading is more emphasized in OTL [15,64,65]. The existing literature linking OTL to students’ reading performance has also highlighted the importance of investigating OTL in reading [15]. The same held true in the digital learning context, where OTL assumed more considerable importance.

5.2. Frequency of ICT Use, Self-Efficacy in Instruction, and Adaptive Instruction in Reading

According to the current findings, ICT use enhanced self-efficacy of both the novice teachers and experienced teachers in instruction and adaptive instruction in reading, across Macau and Chinese Taipei. The findings only partially matched H2 as Hong Kong novice teachers did not successfully transform their frequency of ICT use into the development of their self-efficacy. This research extended the correlation between ICT use and teachers’ self-efficacy to the field of reading, and this subject-specific research allowed the disclosure of some unique findings in contrast to general discussions on teacher self-efficacy development. With the exception of Hong Kong in this study, all results have indicated that using ICT applications in reading classrooms more frequently increased teachers’ levels of self-efficacy, both inexperienced and experienced. This aligned with the former investigations of mathematics teachers who gained more self-efficacy in teaching as they were more familiar with ICT in teacher training programs [49]. However, the results obtained from novice teachers in Hong Kong questioned the universality of the positive relationship between ICT use and teachers’ self-efficacy. Surprisingly, more access to and use of ICT did not bring these teachers evident progress in self-efficacy, which might be attributed to teachers’ anxiety over balancing classroom management and ICT use management [45]. Novice teachers were restrained by more complex elements in classroom settings in ICT educational setting, which inhibited teachers’ confidence in providing OTL that sustained adolescents’ long-term development. These contradictory results might also be rooted in teachers’ values, which viewed ICT as a required but unfavorable application [30].
Hypothesis 3 was upheld, as more frequent ICT use would indicate better adaptive instruction among teachers. This implied that teachers’ ICT use largely influenced teachers’ beliefs and behaviors, before it could contribute to teachers’ providing OTL, in accordance with previous studies [44]. In addition, any changes in the educational level were the results of a collective of individual, school, and regional factors [66]. This further demonstrates the necessity to conduct a multilevel analysis to account for potential influences from school-level differences. There are arguments claiming that ICT use could cause uncertainties among teachers, but this study found that adaptive instruction using ICT among teachers would relieve students’ anxiety by receiving more learning opportunities, which are in turn related to increases in reading achievement [67].
Considering the positive effects of ICT use on teachers’ practices that benefit students, it is worth exploring teachers’ detailed use of teaching practices [68]. Therefore, school management staff should not only strengthen teachers’ professional skills training but also pay attention to teachers’ internal cognition related to teaching matters, striving to improve teachers’ self-efficacy. Teacher education has even more firmly emphasized the use of such technologies in a meaningful way in educational settings [69].

5.3. Novice Teachers and Experienced Teachers in Using ICT

The data corroborated Hypothesis 4 and were in line with existing research that has discovered that teachers experience transitions in cognitive activity (such as self-efficacy) and classroom practice (such as adaptive instruction) as they progress from novice to experienced teachers [70]. Particularly in the area of ICT integration, both novice and experienced teachers could benefit from a variety of ICT applications to promote their efficacy and adaptivity in the classroom, demonstrating the advantages of integrating ICT into reading courses to provide sustainable and high-quality education to students. Nevertheless, while utilizing ICT in the classroom, novice teachers were less able to fully utilize ICT applications to improve their self-efficacy in teaching, and they were less skilled at using ICT to adjust their teaching practice adaptively in response to student needs. This was corroborated by existing discovery that inexperienced teachers, lacking confidence in the learning process of their students, tended to follow a predetermined form of instruction, and frequently gave lessons based on their preparation rather than the immediate needs of the students in the classroom [57]. Though such fully prepared instructions might be effective in ensuring rich contents and consistent flows in reading classrooms, they might also inhibit students’ OTL, as only limited freedom to explore and targeted information were provided.
The discrepancy in self-efficacy and adaptive instruction between novice teachers and experienced teachers could be attributed to a fear of losing control of classroom management. Introducing ICT into reading courses would increase these uncertainties, as some of the knowledge was imparted to students through ICT facilities and the process was not under the complete control of teachers [58]. Even when less-experienced teachers are inclined to use ICT more often and for more diversified purposes, they are disadvantaged in their competence in balancing ICT use and classroom management [19]. Therefore, to develop novice teachers’ ICT competence, support should be provided in guiding teachers to systematically integrate ICT into course design, thus potentially reducing teachers’ fear of flexibly adapting their instruction [71].

6. Conclusions

This study aimed to investigate the influence of the ICT use by teachers on teachers’ beliefs and behaviors that might provide more opportunities for students’ sustainable development in the digitalized environment [72]. Three major discoveries were revealed by the multilevel mediation model constructed and validated in this study: (a) teachers’ more frequent use of ICT applications would provide more OTL for students in reading classrooms; (b) both teachers’ self-efficacy in instruction settings and their adaptive instruction mediated the relationship between the relationships of teachers’ ICT use and teachers’ providing OTL; (c) experienced teachers were better at transforming the benefits of ICT use to self-efficacy and adaptive instruction, and thus provide more OTL for students. These findings encouraged secondary teachers to utilize ICT in classrooms more frequently, while suggesting cultivating self-efficacy and adaptive instruction as they developed their ICT competence.
The current study is insightful regarding teachers’ required qualities when adopting ICT in classrooms in addition to ICT competence in designing sustainable ICT-mediated reading courses and relevant teacher training programs. Accessing more OTL through the courses is one prerequisite for students’ sustainable development in increasingly diversified education resources. First, teachers should receive training in advance on how to apply ICT more regularly and more diversely to provide students with more diverse, equal, and universal access to sustainable learning opportunities. Different ICT facilities might target a larger population of students, who might benefit from their preferred method of ICT integration. Second, in teachers training programs, teachers’ self-efficacy in teaching in a digital environment should be given more attention in teachers’ training programs so that they not only learn how to operate the ICT tools, but also gain knowledge about systematically integrating different types of ICT into reading course design. Third, schools and educational management administrators should avoid evaluating teachers’ ICT use only from students’ academic performance, and instead incorporate teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and classroom practice as additional assessments to maximize the effects of ICT in creating high-quality and high-efficiency classrooms.
This study has several limitations that should be considered when interpreting its results. First, this data-driven study was reliant on the data from PISA 2018, and the secondary analysis lacked specific classroom context information; however, the latter did offer more opportunities to explore large-scale and cross-regional data that might yield more general conclusions. Second, since PISA adopted self-reported questionnaires to assess teachers’ frequency of ICT use in reading classrooms, teacher self-efficacy, teachers’ adaptive instruction, as well as teachers’ frequency, biases might arise from teachers’ perceptions of their abilities and classroom activities. Future empirical studies are needed to assess the quality of teachers’ providing OTL actions in specific classroom contexts through observed classroom activities, as well as investigate how students perceive teachers’ providing OTL in the E-learning environment. Additionally, future classroom studies could evaluate how well students perceive OTL their teachers offer via ICT applications, thereby creating recommendations for enhancing student–teacher interactions with technology.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, J.H. (Jingdan Hu) and J.H. (Jie Hu); methodology, J.H. (Jingdan Hu); formal analysis, J.H. (Jingdan Hu); writing—original draft preparation, J.H. (Jingdan Hu) and J.H. (Jie Hu); writing—review and editing, J.H. (Jingdan Hu) and J.H. (Jie Hu); supervision, J.H. (Jie Hu); funding acquisition, J.H. (Jie Hu). All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was supported by the Zhejiang Provincial Philosophy and Social Sciences Programme of Leading Talents Cultivation Project for Distinguished Young Scholars, China, “A study on the influencing factors and mechanism of digital reading literacy in the digital intelligence era” (grant number 23QNYC04ZD).

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Helsinki Declaration and were approved by the Ethics Committee of the School of International Studies, Zhejiang University.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

Data supporting the findings of this study are publicly available at PISA official website (URL: (accessed on 25 February 2022).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. The hypothesized model.
Figure 1. The hypothesized model.
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Figure 2. Path coefficients of the full model for novice teachers. Note. *: significant results.
Figure 2. Path coefficients of the full model for novice teachers. Note. *: significant results.
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Figure 3. Path coefficients of the full model for experienced teachers. Note. *: significant results.
Figure 3. Path coefficients of the full model for experienced teachers. Note. *: significant results.
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Table 1. Items of the derived variables.
Table 1. Items of the derived variables.
  • Tutorial software or practice programs
  • Digital learning games
  • Word-processors or presentation software
  • Spreadsheets
  • Multimedia production tools
  • Concept mapping software
  • Data logging and monitoring tools
  • Simulations and modeling software
  • Social media
  • Communication software
  • Computer-based information resources
  • Interactive digital learning resources
  • Graphing or drawing software
  • E-portfolios
1 = Yes
2 = No
  • Summarizing strategies
  • Connecting texts with prior content knowledge
  • Monitoring comprehension
  • Adapting the mode of reading depending on reading purposes
1 = Never or almost never
2 = Some lessons
3 = Many lessons
4 = Every lesson or almost every lesson
  • I can craft good questions for my students
  • I can use a variety of assessment strategies
  • I can provide an alternative explanation for example when students are confused
  • I can implement alternative instructional strategies in my classroom
1 = Never or almost never
2 = Some lessons
3 = Many lessons
4 = Every lesson or almost every lesson
  • I tailor my teaching to meet the needs of my students
  • I provide individual help when a student has difficulties understanding a topic or task
  • I change the structure of my lesson on a topic that most students find difficult to understand
  • I provide individual support for advanced students
1 = Never or almost never
2 = Some lessons
3 = Many lessons
4 = Every lesson or almost every lesson
Table 2. Cronbach’ alpha of the derived variables.
Table 2. Cronbach’ alpha of the derived variables.
Chinese Taipei0.9070.8700.7850.806
Hong Kong0.8660.8610.7370.704
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics.
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics.
RegionNumber of TeachersFemale Teachers
Experienced Teachers
(Teaching Experience > 5 Years, Percentage)
Frequency of Teachers’ ICT Use in ClassroomsFrequency of Providing Opportunities to Learn for StudentsTeacher’s Self-Efficacy in Instructional SettingsTeacher’s Adaptation of Instruction
Chinese Taipei45863252
Hong Kong33872006
Table 4. The c path (The total effects).
Table 4. The c path (The total effects).
RegionTeacher TypeB95% CIβSE
Chinese TaipeiNovice0.3670 *[0.3400, 0.3940]0.40310.0139
Experienced0.3609 *[0.3320, 0.3898]0.36240.0147
Hong KongNovice0.3751 *[0.2579, 0.4924]0.34050.0598
Experienced0.3882 *[0.3569, 0.4194]0.39130.0160
MacauNovice0.4770 *[0.4440, 0.5100]0.47200.0167
Experienced0.4620 *[0.4249, 0.4991]0.45890.0189
Note. *: significant results.
Table 5. The c’ path (from frequency of teachers’ ICT use in reading classrooms to frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students).
Table 5. The c’ path (from frequency of teachers’ ICT use in reading classrooms to frequency of providing opportunities to learn for students).
RegionTeacher TypeB95% CIβSE
Chinese TaipeiNovice0.2200 *[0.2020, 0.2380]0.22100.0093
Experienced0.2158 *[0.1960, 0.2353]0.21670.0099
Hong KongNovice0.2682 *[0.1831, 0.3532]0.24340.0434
Experienced0.2594 *[0.2378, 0.2811]0.26150.0111
MacauNovice0.3670 *[0.3450, 0.3890]0.36300.0112
Experienced0.3546 *[0.3303, 0.3789]0.35220.0124
Note. *: significant results.
Table 6. The mediation paths.
Table 6. The mediation paths.
PathRegionTeacher TypeβpSE
TCICTUSE→SEFFINS (a1)Chinese TaipeiNovice0.07360.0000 ***0.0150
Experienced0.06600.0000 ***0.0160
Hong KongNovice0.03460.56800.0604
Experienced0.08710.0000 ***0.0176
MacauNovice0.06420.0007 ***0.0192
Experienced0.06540.0022 **0.0218
→ADAPTINSTR (a2)Chinese TaipeiNovice0.30700.0000 ***0.0144
Experienced0.31010.0000 ***0.0150
Hong KongNovice0.32130.0000 ***0.0538
Experienced0.33700.0000 ***0.0169
MacauNovice0.27200.0000 ***0.0182
Experienced0.24900.0000 ***0.0208
SEFFINS→TCOTLCOMP (b1)Chinese TaipeiNovice0.64500.0000 ***0.0089
Experienced0.64330.0000 ***0.0094
Hong KongNovice0.68720.0000 ***0.0385
Experienced0.67000.0000 ***0.0103
MacauNovice0.62000.0000 ***0.0107
Experienced0.63140.0000 ***0.0080
ADAPTINSTR→TCOTLCOMP (b2)Chinese TaipeiNovice0.32700.0000 ***0.0093
Experienced0.33290.0000 ***0.0100
Hong KongNovice0.22810.0000 ***0.0469
Experienced0.21190.0000 ***0.0103
MacauNovice0.25300.0000 ***0.0113
Experienced0.26260.0000 ***0.0124
Note. **: p < 0.01; ***: p < 0.001.
Table 7. The mediating effects.
Table 7. The mediating effects.
RegionTeacher TypeM1 (a1b1)M2 (a2b2)Proportion
B95% CIβSEB95% CIβSE
Chinese TaipeiNovice0.0473 *[0.0284, 0.0662]0.04750.00960.1000[0.0893, 0.1110]0.10000.00550.4010
Experienced0.0422 *[0.0223, 0.0622]0.04240.01020.1028[0.0912, 0.1143]0.10320.00590.4020
Hong KongNovice0.0262[−0.0638, 0.1161]0.04590.02380.0808[0.0399, 0.1216]0.07330.02080.2851
Experienced0.0579 *[0.0350, 0.0808]0.01170.05840.0708[0.0609, 0.0808]0.07140.00510.3316
MacauNovice0.0403 *[0.0169, 0.0636]0.03980.01190.0696[0.0586, 0.0806]0.06890.00560.2300
Experienced0.0416 *[0.0149, 0.0682]0.04130.01360.0658[0.0535, 0.0782]0.06540.00630.2325
Note. *: significant results.
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Hu, J.; Hu, J. Teachers’ Frequency of ICT Use in Providing Sustainable Opportunity to Learn: Mediation Analysis Using a Reading Database. Sustainability 2022, 14, 15998.

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Hu J, Hu J. Teachers’ Frequency of ICT Use in Providing Sustainable Opportunity to Learn: Mediation Analysis Using a Reading Database. Sustainability. 2022; 14(23):15998.

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Hu, Jingdan, and Jie Hu. 2022. "Teachers’ Frequency of ICT Use in Providing Sustainable Opportunity to Learn: Mediation Analysis Using a Reading Database" Sustainability 14, no. 23: 15998.

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