返回首页

Refining Knowledge in a Virtual Community: A Case-Based Coll

时间:2010-06-07 00:17来源:知行网www.zhixing123.cn 编辑:麦田守望者

Abstract

This paper examines issues of integrating technology into teacher education. By looking at a case-based project designed to help preservice teachers at two United States higher learning institutions to examine and refine their beliefs about teaching and learning through collaboration via electronic mail, the study attempted to investigate how computer networks can be effectively used to enhance constructivist learning. Major findings include: (1) case-based projects promoted critical thinking and knowledge revision; (2) collaborative thinking and critiquing were affected by many factors--technology was only one of them; and (3) technology was more effectively learned when embedded in content-based projects.

 

Keywords -- computer network, teacher beliefs, teacher education.

 

1. Introduction

Technology, particularly telecomputing technology, has been praised for its potential to facilitate collaborative learning activities [4, 6]. In a project utilizing computer networks to provide "teacher education students with hands-on opportunities to experience collaborative, constructive learning," [2, p. 149], the Teaching Teleapprenticeships (TTa) team found computer networks have several advantages: (1) time flexibility; (2) distance flexibility; and (3) immediate feedback. Additionally, Zhao [8], suggested that information on computer networks is less authoritative because it is easier to create and publish, thus making it easier to reveal the inadequacies of one's knowledge.

However technology, in and of itself, contains neither pedagogical nor content bias [3]. For instance the computer network can be used to transmit traditional instructional packages or used to promote cooperative learning. To use technology to support constructivist learning, the teacher must understand the precepts of constructivism. It is also necessary for teachers to be familiar and comfortable with technology so that they can focus more on the possibilities of the technology rather than being inhibited by their anxiety from exploration of its potential.

In light of the above considerations, we designed a case-based collaborative activity that is intended to help teacher education students: (1) refine their beliefs about learning and teaching; (2) experience a collaborative and constructivist learning project; (3) acquire skills with computer networking technology; and (4) develop a positive attitude toward medium-mediated communication.

 

 

2. Edpsycommunity: The Project

 

2.1. Participants

Participants were 68 teacher education students at two United States higher education institutions. One is a public research-oriented midwestern university while the other is a private four-year teaching-centered liberal arts college in the Northwest. Overall about 30 percent of the students had experience with email prior to the project. Most had used computers for word processing. About 5 percent of the students had access to the Internet at home. The rest had to go to a computer lab in order to use email and other network related tasks.

 

2.2. Procedures

The project lasted one semester. Initially, the participants were asked to write five essays analyzing a classroom case from different perspectives. For the first analysis, the participants were asked to analyze the case and provide a hypothetical action plan to cope with the problem situation based on their experiences and beliefs. This was intended as a vehicle for them to reveal their present beliefs. The second analysis asked the participants to provide an analysis and action plan for the same case using a Behaviorist perspective. The third one required analysis from a Cognitive perspective. The fourth one asked the participants to analyze the case from multiple motivational theories. The final essay requested students to again provide an analysis from a revised perspective of their own.

Halfway through the semester following completion of the second case analysis, we realized that the participants were not taking advantage of the system and collaborating as much as we had expected. We asked the participants to reflect upon the experience and solicited suggestions using the weekly email processing journal mechanism. Based on the feedback, we made the following adjustments: (1) split the large group into eight groups of 10 to 12 people equally divided between students from each section at Linfield and the section at UIUC; (2) gave longer time-gaps between assignment instructions and assignment due dates; and (3) discussed the importance of the experience. As a result of this change, only three case analyses were completed.

 

 

3. Results

Based on the 406 messages exchanged among the students during the project, students' weekly process journals (726 total), and interviews with six selected participants, we have the following findings to report. The findings are organized around each of the four goals we expected to achieve.

 

3.1. Goal One: Help Students Refine Their Beliefs About Learning and Teaching

To find out to what degree this goal was met, we categorized participants' case analyses into four groups along two dimensions: (1) basis of beliefs and (2) teaching approaches. After reading all the messages, we found that the participants generally based their analysis on two sources: their own learning experiences or a known theory. Therefore we first coded the messages into two groups: Experience-based and Theory-based. The second dimension was about the approach each student would take to teach the first class. Two distinguishable types were identified: Quasi-Behavioral and Cognitive-Humanistic. The coding was first completed independently by the two researchers. They then exchanged the results through email. When there was a disagreement, the two researchers discussed (over email) and reached an agreement. Table 1 summarizes the analysis of the messages.

As indicated in Table 1, Goal One was achieved for the most part. From the first to the last case analyses, we observed a clear shift of beliefs about teaching and learning. While the beliefs as revealed in the first case analysis reflect the students' own learning experience and a disposition toward teacher-centered and quasi-behavioral (assertive discipline type) approaches, beliefs revealed in the last case are more theoretically-based and cognitively-oriented.

Table 1. Distribution of Case Analyses.
Case # Total Basis of Beliefs Basis of Beliefs Teaching Approach Teaching Approach
    Experience Theory Behavioral Cog-humanistic
1 51 46 5 48 3
2 48 43 5 48 0
3 50 11 39 0 50

 

The participants noted their changes of beliefs in their process journals. Almost every participant reported in their final process journals that as a result of the class, particularly the case-based project, they will teach differently. More tellingly, students began to think and discuss theories.

 

Technology or The Project: What Made the Difference?

Faced with these results, we asked ourselves the question: Would students have changed their beliefs without using the technology? The answer is yes because:

First, although we had expected that the participants would make use of the network to exchange ideas before they wrote up their analyses, the amount of exchange among the participants over the network was minimal. For the first two case analyses, every student posted their final drafts to the whole group. No single message was posted prior to their posting of the final copy, although there were seven messages commenting on the second case analysis immediately after the message was posted. After getting an unsatisfactory grade, one participant posted his revision of the second analysis to the group and solicited comments and suggestions before he turned it in for regrading. No responses were recorded on the network, and it is not known if he received any comments privately. Basically the first two case analysis were independently completed by each individual. The email only served as a bulletin board where the participants posted their final products. The technology did not make a big difference in the quality of the analyses.

Second, even though there was a tremendous increase in the number of messages exchanged among the participants before they began to write the third analysis, it is not obvious if that exchange had any impact on individual analysis. As mentioned earlier, due to the lack of collaboration during the first half of the semester, we made two structural changes: breaking the participants into smaller groups and allowing more time between assignments. Evidently the changes greatly facilitated the collaboration, at least in terms of the number of messages exchanged (from 0 to 139). However, a closer look at the content of these messages suggests that most (87%) of these messages were more confirming than challenging to the original ideas posted.

In summary, the result that the participants beliefs about teaching and learning, and their way of expressing that changed during the project was primarily due to the case-based nature of the project instead of the collaborative aspect of the project. In other words, the same results could have achieved without the use of the technology as a medium for collaboration.

------分隔线----------------------------
标签(Tag):
------分隔线----------------------------
推荐内容
猜你感兴趣