Using Computer-Mediated Discussion To Facilitate Preservice Teachers’ Understanding of Literacy Assessment And Instruction

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Glasgow]On: 07 October 2014, At: 04:01Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Using Computer-MediatedDiscussion To FacilitatePreservice TeachersUnderstanding of LiteracyAssessment And InstructionTamara L. Jettonaa James Madison UniversityPublished online: 24 Feb 2014.

    To cite this article: Tamara L. Jetton (2003) Using Computer-MediatedDiscussion To Facilitate Preservice Teachers Understanding of LiteracyAssessment And Instruction, Journal of Research on Technology in Education,36:2, 171-191, DOI: 10.1080/15391523.2003.10782411

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2003.10782411

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Using Computer-Mediated Discussion To Facilitate Preservice Teachers'

    Understanding of Literacy Assessment And Instruction

    Tamara L. Jetton james Madison University

    Abstract The author summarized research conducted with preservice teachers who participated in the case stud]' of struggling readers via asynchronous Computer Mediated Discussion (CMD) on Black-board Results revealed that themes about assessment and instruction ofstruggling readers emerged within and across discussion fora. Also, CMD both facilitated and limited these preservice teach-ers' understandings of literacy assessment and instruction. Thi:: a.nd orher research studies in this area served as a base for recommendations regarding the u::e of CJi1D in university teacher education courses. Recommendations focused on issues ofcommunict1tion, collaboration, and the learning environment. Specific recommendations reveal that instructors should carefUlly consider the purpose and tasks for employing CMD in a university cour::e. Also, instructors must find ways ro increase motivation for those students with writing apprehension. Further, instructors can practice methods to facilitate increased interaction during Ci'vfD. Lastly, by having preservice tettchers engage in discussions of case study research, instructor; can provide an effective learning environment for preservice teachers to learn about the multifoceted nature of literacy assessment and instruction.

    There is a need to examine environments in which preservice teachers partici-pate to learn about the teaching of literacy. These learning environments in-clude teacher-controlled or peer-led discussions, inquiry-based instruction, and the use of teaching cases (Chong, 1998; Goldman, 1997; Jetton & Alexander, 1997; Wade, 2000). Recently, the advent of technology has enabled preservice teachers to participate in a learning environment in which they conduct elec-tronic discussions using the Internet (Dutt-Doner & Powers, 2000). These dis-cussions have been referred to as Computer-Media:ed Discussions Qetton, 2003; Schallert & Reed, 2003; Fauske & Wade, 2003). Through these discus-sions, preservice teachers share their understanding of course content with one another to extend learning beyond the limits of the actual classroom (Labbo & Reinking, 1999). Given the learning benefits of such tec~~nology as electronic discussion boards, Hoffman and Pearson (2000) call for teacher educators to use electronic texts as part of reading teacher education to enhance teacher learning. Likewise, Wepner and Mobley (1998) believe that technology must play a role in any field experience program.

    In this paper, I first provide a theoretical rationale that explains how Com-puter Mediated Discussions (CMD) contribute to teacher education through communication, collaboration, and the learning environment. I then summarize a study in which preservice teachers conducted case studies of struggling readers and conferred about the case students using asynchronous CMD on Black-

    Journal of Research on Technology in Education 171

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  • board. This study serves as a research base for recommendations that I suggest for employing CMD in a university teacher education course. My recommen-dations focus on using CMD in order to enhance communication, collaboration, and the learning environment for preservice teachers.

    ADVANTAGES OF CMD IN TEACHER EDUCATION Through an examination of the results of the study summarized here and

    other current research in this area (e.g. Hawkes & Romiszowski, 2001; Dutt-Doner & Powers, 2000), I found that CMD offers three important advantages for teacher education. First, it provides an additional way that teachers can com-municate about their beliefs and experiences both in terms of the content of their college courses, and the experiences they encounter in the field during their practicum placements (Wepner & Mobley, 1998). Second, CMD becomes a tool for collaboration among teachers (Hawkes & Romiszowski, 2001). Third, CMD is an alternative learning environment in which preservice teachers can process information, increase their knowledge, and conduct reflective thinking about their own and others' teaching practices (Thomas, 2002).

    Communication According to Wepner and Mobley (1998), communication is critical to the

    development of teachers, both as they enter the field of education and as they continue their journey as ir~service educators. They propose a model for teacher education in which CMD is one mode of communication that should be com-bined with multiple modes, such as face-to-face discussions and peer ccmmuni-cation, for teachers to effectively process and reflect on their teaching practices. Wepner and Mobley believe that electronic communication encourages teachers to develop a better sense of their own self efficacy and to increase their under-standing of their own teaching practices as they engage in self reflection. Fur-ther, communication helps teachers develop higher expectations for themselves and others as professionals in the educational community.

    Because CMD involves communication through writing, students who par-ticipate in electronic discussions have opportunities to increase their writing skills. Daly and Miller (1975) found that students with writing apprehension typically avoid situations involving writing, and they dread writing when it is placed in a public forum. Several researchers have found that computer-medi-ated communication actually benefits students with writing apprehension (Hiltz & Turoff: 1978; lvfabrito, 1992; Wellman, 1997). By participating in electronic discussions that require students to read others' writing and respond with their own writing, students with high writing apprehension engage in the very process that they tend to avoid (Mabrito, 2000). Other researchers have found that because the discussion is mediated by the computer, writers feel a greater sense of remoteness. Thus, through computer-mediated environments, they tend to take more risks, enhance their roles and status in the electr::mic community, and increase the socio-emotional content of their responses (Coo-per & Selfe, 1990; Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1984; Ku, 1996; Rice & Love, 1987).

    172 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 361Vumber 2

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  • Another communication advantage is that the online, written electronic envi-ronment of CMD enables teachers to read and review written artifacts that are stored in memory, so they can reference particular comments (Tiene, 2000). That is, in contrast to face-to-face discussions, in which responses are tempo-rary and fleeting, electronic discussions enable teachers to look back and analyze several responses that pertain to a particular theme. Through this analysis, they can more effectively construct their own response in light of others' contribu-tions. In a survey of the advantages and disadvantages of online discussions ver-sus face-to-face discussions, Tiene found that survey respondents were in strong agreement about the advantages of having a written record of the online discus-sions, and many of them noted that they did examine the written record of re-sponses before posting their own ideas.

    Collaboration One of the major components of the development guidelines put forth by the

    National Staff Development Council (NSCD) is the need for teachers to collabo-rate with their peers to understand the processes of learning and teaching (Hawkes & Romiszowski, 2001; Sparks, 1994). Yet opportunities for teachers to collaborate are minimal at best (Lichtenstein, McLaughlin, & Knudson, 1992; Little, 1993; Lieberman, 1995). CMD offers teachers the opportunity to collaborate. Collabora-tion has been defined as teachers and their peers engaging in cooperative experi-ences to reach educational objectives (Hawkes & Romiszowski, 2001).

    Through CMD, teachers collaborate to share expertise (Selwyn, 2000). They receive and provide information to other teachers about a host of educational themes that may concern management issues, teaching practices, and resource materials. Rheingold (1993) describes this process of shared expertise as an "online braintrust." Collaboration also involves solving particular problems and opportunities for teachers to empathize with one another (Goodson & Hargreaves, 1996; Schoch & White, 1997).

    All of these opportunities lead to positive outcomes that include the develop-ment of problem solving skills (Damon, 1984), stronger voices (Jervis, 1996), and new teaching and leadership opportunities (Hammerman, 1997). In addi-tion, collaboration about students with special needs leads to more individual-ized plans for meeting those needs (Hawkes & Romiszowski, 2001). Teachers often collaborate to affect change in their school, district, and/ or community (Darling-Hammond, 1996). Lastly, the lively debate and online conflict that arise when teachers collaborate creates the state of disequilibrium that, in turn, leads to new insights (Cochran-Smith, 1991; Lord, 1994).

    Learning Environment Teachers benefit from the online environment of CMD in terms of process-

    ing information, increasing their knowledge, and engaging in reflective think-ing (Thomas, 2002). Basically, teachers have many opportunities to learn. The learning process occurs online when teachers process a thought, construct the thought through writing, and reshape their ideas in response to elaboration and critiques from peers (Rowntree, 1995).

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  • Computer-mediated environments increase learning beyond declarative knowledge to more sophisticated knowledge structures that involve evaluation, critical analysis, and self-reflection (Thomas, 2002). According to Dewey (1910), reflection means "active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends" (p. 6). The process of reflection involves defining tie problem, analyzing the means to the end, and generaliz-ing. Schon (1987, 1991) described reflection as framing and reframing prob-lems as one constructs and evaluates a solution. Teachers who engage in this kind of critical reflection through CMD are enhancing their own learning pro-cesses and the learning processes of others.

    Hara, Bonk, and Angeli (2000) examined the depth of processing and cogni-tive and metacognitive thinking represented by online responses during asyn-chronous discussions. They found that although students posted only the few messages that were required, their messages showed depth of processing in which they were ming high-level cognitive and metacognitive strategies to achieve deep reflection and self awareness. For example, the researchers found evidence in the students' online responses that they were using the cognitive strategies of inferencing and judgment.

    GOALS FOR USING CMD IN PRESERVICE TEACHER EDUCATION COURSEWORK

    Course instructors have many different goals for using CMD in university classrooms (MacKinno::1, 2000). They use CMD to prepare students for face-to-face discussions that will ensue in the classroom. They also introduce new course readings by asking students to respond critically to the readings using CMD. Due to the time limitations of college courses, instructors use CMD to have teachers discuss topics that were not discussed in full during class time. Lastly, instructors use CMD to establish an open forum of ideas, in which stu-dents discuss topic5 about education with which they are interested.

    In the particular study summarized here, the goal in using CMD was to en-gage preservice teachers in critical inquiry to increase their awareness and knowledge of students with reading difficulties as identified by literacy assess-ments. Another goal was to engage these teachers in discussions about the in-struction of readers who struggle with text. Preservice teachers conducted case studies of struggling readers and conferred about these case students using asyn-chronous discussions on Blackboard. Case-based discussions enable the students to integrate the course content with technology to create meaningful discus-sions that...

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