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Exploring Pedagogical Practice within an Online Learning Community

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  1. Exploring Pedagogical Practice within an Online Learning Community Alison Mander, mandera@usq.edu.au Petrea Redmond, redmond@usq.edu.au USQ, Australia, Toowoomba campus

  2. Where are we headed? • From the literature • Context • Process • Results • Impacts • Implications for future practice

  3. Online Learning Community • Collaboration forms the foundation of a learning community online (Palloff & Pratt, 2005) • Support the learning of individuals and the group • Promotion of creativity and critical thinking

  4. Learning communities online • Online enables differentiation in participation and membership • No longer place based, geographically disconnected can become connected • Community requires social presence of the individuals

  5. Why online? • effective and efficient access to information and multiple others • “(t)echnology tools can now bind students, peers, mentors, instructors, practicing teachers, and experts in an array of resources, discussions and curriculum recommendations” (Bonk, Angeli, Malikowsk & Supplee, 2001)

  6. Online dialogue • “the reflective and explicit nature of the written word that encourages discipline and rigor in our thinking and communicating” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 1999). • “that the very basis of thinking is rooted in dialogue, drawing on a socially constructed context to endow ideas with meaning” (Hudson 2002) • Participants (both students and teachers) written dialogue required them to “speak”, listen, observe, challenge, support, persuade and be persuaded.

  7. Community of practice with peers and experts • education is “moving the emphasis of learning away from what we learn to who we learn from” (Fowler & Mayes,1999)

  8. Benefits • access to curriculum experts; • promotes deeper understanding; • view models of professional online interaction; and • time to make considered responses, reading, reacting, responding and reflecting at their own convenience

  9. Teacher facilitator roles • expose them to different approaches and definitions of teaching and learning; • to welcome them into the profession; • assist pre-service teachers in developing pedagogical content knowledge: provider of information, offer encouragement, negotiate meanings, give feedback, question, share experiences; • professional role model, provide emotional support.

  10. Student roles • share and critically reflect on experiences which are memorable, inspirational or bothersome; • explore and debate issues; • confirm some of their preliminary ideas about teaching or re-examine their prior understandings of learning and teaching

  11. Student response obligation • Course assessment • In hope to move the pre-service teachers’ thinking beyond recording or initial reaction and responses, engaging them in critical dialogue with others, sharing insights, carrying out research, and reflecting back • assessment of participation was based on • Building and sustaining a community of learners • Promotion of deep discussion • Engaged in professional self reflection and metacognition • Professional standards of literacy • Reflection of the online community process

  12. Context • Exploring asynchronous conferencing tools to facilitate exploration of pedagogical practices • Situated in specific curriculum areas • Each secondary pre-service teacher involved in 2 different curriculum forums • 2 x Curriculum courses joined in online discussion with practicing teachers • Across 2 different campuses, therefore 4 cohorts of students • Blended courses: both f2f and online components • Participation in online component significant assessment item for both courses

  13. Process • Finding an online space which would allow for multiple classes and online guests (Drupal) • Recruitment of curriculum specialists to act as online facilitators • Establishing online forums for each different curriculum community of practice • Establish starter questions for each week • Unpacking of sample postings during class – construction of understanding

  14. Data sources • N = 150 • Archived online discussion threads • Survey on completion • Assessment reflective activity

  15. Results – The positives • Focus questions made ‘them think’ • Enjoyed interaction with peers and mentors over real issues • Development of trust and support built confidence over time

  16. Perceived negatives • Too much time taken to get into online environment, find something to comment on and prepare a reflective response • Association with assessment • Unsure of the reliability of peer comments

  17. Findings • “interactions were often one-way serial monologues” (Pawan, et al. 2003) • students like to share experiences and question their own thinking • Unsure of who is the leader – is it the ‘blind leading the blind?’

  18. Results • the pre-service teachers regularly acknowledged previous postings, made connections to previous posts and added their own experience; • Responses to initial postings showed more deep understanding and integration of ideas from other sources • very few drew conclusions or provided other sources of information to justify comments when responding to their peers

  19. Impacts • New interface: new to academics, pre-service and in-service teachers – a learning curve • Online discussion as a means of learning rather than socializing new to many students (although range of results from exceptional to poor) • Time: although the online discussion replaced 2 hours of f2f + 50% of assessment students noted the increase in time commitment • Post/response cycle rarely evident: not dialogue, but post for sake of posting • Difficulty experienced adding to conversation i.e. nothing new to say • Variable size of groups – between 5 - 25

  20. Benefits • online environment meant that facilitators were not limited to those within the local area; • flexibility of access in terms of time and place enabled collaboration with curriculum experts; • Pre-service teachers’ response obligation gave rise to the sharing of “air time”; • provided collaborative opportunities for pre-service, and in-service teachers to exchange ideas, ask questions, and engage in dialogue within a community of learners without the assessment associated with professional experience.

  21. Implications • To continue or not? • Time, flexibility and assessment issues • Development of deep thinking, and community of practice protocols

  22. Questions? • For more information contact: • Alison Mander, mandera@usq.edu.au • Petrea Redmond, redmond@usq.edu.au