Using computer-mediated communication to create a community of reflective practitioners
Christopher Jay Whitbeck, Boston College, United States
Boston College . Awarded
This research is based on the idea that computer mediated communication (CMC) can facilitate the formation of an on-line community of reflective practitioners. Teachers used CMC to analyze student understanding and consider how instructional practice impacted understanding. There are few examples of CMC experiences that explain how, and, if, teachers' instructional practice can be influenced through collaborative reflection on their own students' understanding. This research sought to determine whether teacher professional development and instructional practice could be improved through CMC.
Most teachers in this case study positively described their participation in the five-month electronic Video Case Studies project (eVCS). On-line they shared videotape of students working on science problems. They analyzed and discussed the impact that their teaching had on student understanding. Questionnaire and interview results indicate that the teachers had a sense of obligation to one another and they believed that they had begun to form a community. They reached high levels of reflective discussion about student understanding.
While most teachers reported that they missed the immediate feedback and physical interactions of face-to-face discussions, they also felt that eVCS helped them become less isolated. Time continues to be an issue for CMC as it is for traditional, face-to-face professional development.
Teachers were most engaged when discussions focused on materials from their own grade level. When teachers described changes in their practice, they related these changes to individual effort, not the collaborative reflections of the community. Such responses illustrate the personal nature of change. While collaboration helped teachers to reflect on their teaching, actual change in practice requires personal reflection decisions to try something new.
Findings from eVCS suggest that the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, to investigate common questions, must be made local. Teachers must not only have the tools and opportunity to reflect on practice with like-minded colleagues, they must implement changes in instruction based on this reflection and publicly assess the impact of such instruction. Computer mediated communication breaks down the barriers of time, location and money and facilitates professional development that may impact student learning. It fosters the formation of collaborative communities of reflective practitioners.
Whitbeck, C.J. Using computer-mediated communication to create a community of reflective practitioners. Ph.D. thesis, Boston College.
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