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, UKJournal of Research onTechnology in EducationPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujrt20Using 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: 10.1080/15391523.2003.10782411To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2003.10782411PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensorsmake no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy,completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Anyopinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions andviews of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor& Francis. 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Terms & Conditions of accessand use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsDownloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsUsing 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 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 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 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 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). journal of Research on Technology in Education 173 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 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 are not seen as busywork (Chong, 1998; Riesbeck, 1996). Through case discussions, online participants use reasoning to construct creative view-points and solutions to issues about struggling readers that challenge them to go beyond the "rules of textbook prescriptions" (Chong, 1998, p. 171). They begin to think more about the practical applications of their coursework in reading, and they develop .oultiple lenses through which they view struggling readers (Chong, 1998). 174 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 The study described here differs from many of the studies of online case-based discussions Chong noted. In contrast to the teaching cases Chong used, in which students were supplied real-life cases through textual materials such as popular news magazines, the preservice teachers in this study conducted their own case studies of students in 4'h or 5'h grade elementary classrooms. The pre-se:vice teachers were each assigned a case student in their practicum setting who struggled with literacy. These teachers gathered multiple data on their student that included interviews, observations of the student in the classroom, reading assessments such as the QRI- III (Leslie & Caldwell, 2001), and writing and spelling assessments. As the semester progressed, they developed a case study of ea:::h student. These case studies formed the basis of the electronic discussions that occurred throughout the entire semester course. Preservice teachers partici-pated in four discussion fora that pertained to their case students. ':: wo general questions guided my research: 1.\X'hat themes about literacy assessment and instruction emerged across elec-::ronic discussions and within individual discussion fora? 2. How did the electronic discussions facilitate and limit student learning about jteracy assessment and instruction? SL~MARY OF STUDY Method The participants in the study were nine preservice teachers who were enrolled in the middle education program of a midatlantic university. Ten preservice teachers were enrolled for one semester in their second literacy course, taken du::.-ing the second semester of their teacher education program. However, one female student did not complete the course, and did not participate in all of the electronic discussions, so her data were dropped from the study. There were six female and three male preservice teachers in the course. Before the study, these preservice teachers completed their first literacy course concerning foundational information about reading and writing processes and practi:::es. This study pertained to the second literacy course in their program that specifically focused on the use of assessment practices to understand the de-vel.:::>pmental nature of literacy within content area classrooms. During this sec-ond course, the preservice teachers also attended a literacy practicum in which they were required to apply the concepts they learned in the course out in the field. One requirement of the practicum was to tutor a struggling reader and/ or wrjter in grades 4 or 5. These tutoring sessions consisted of assessing the stu-cent and providing instructional strategies to meet the reading and writing needs of that student. Each preservice teacher worked with a middle-grades tec..:her in the field to select a struggling reader. The classroom teachers helped the preservice teacher select the case students by considering the previous scores the students received on the SAT-9 reading achievement test, the state-based criterion reference test, and classroom assessments and observations. During the semester, the preservice teachers studied and used a variety of as-sessments as they worked with their middle-grade student. These assessments Journal of Research on Technology in Education 175 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 included inventories of the student's reading attitudes and self-efficacy, self per-ception, motivation, and interest, the Qualitative Reading Inventory, and spell-ing and writing inventories (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston, 2000; Gambrell, Palmer, Codling, & Mazzoni, 1996; Henk & Melnick, 1995; Leslie & Caldwell, 2001). As the preservice teachers administered each assessment and considered possible instructional strategies to use with the student, they took on the role of teacher researchers, exploring the issues of assessment and instruc-tion by writing field notes of their experiences with the struggling readers, and sharing issues related to assessment with other preservice teachers on the elec-tronic discussion board. The preservice teachers had two university instructors during this experience: the course professor and the practicum instructor. I served as the practicum in-structor for the course. Both the course professor and I participated in the elec-tronic discussions as they took place throughout the semester. In order to facilitate interaction on the discussion board, the course professor and I constructed four themes that focused on central issues discussed in the class that were reinforced through the preservice teachers' participation in fieldwork during their practicum. Themes 1-3 were posted every other week during the semester, and preservice teachers were required to respond to the forum. Theme 4 was posted for four weeks. Preservice teachers were given a participation grade as part of their semester grade for responding on the discussion board. Data Analysis I collected several different data throughout the course of the semester to tri-angulate the results. First, I asked the course instructor to keep notes of the is-sues and themes that emerged through the class discussions. Second, I kept field notes of the issues and themes that arose during my practicum observations, which occurred twice per week for approximately two hours. These observa-tions were made as I watched the students participate in their 4'h and 5'h grade classrooms and during the pull-out sessions with individual students. During these observations, I tried to observe each preservice teacher and write field notes about my observations. However, not all preservice teachers were available during every observation period because some were running errands for the co-operating teacher or administering classroom tests. Also, the instructor and I took notes of the issues that emerged during private meetings between us as we planned the content and curriculum throughout the semester. All messages posted on Blackboard were downloaded into a computer file and printed. Lastly, the course instructor and I conducted interviews with all participants at the end of the semester. The interview questions we asked are provided in Ap-pendix A (p. 190). The preservice teachers' interview responses were audiotaped and transcribed for data analysis. Although I used the initial questions to guide the study, the Blackboard dis-cussion responses were analyzed qualitatively using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). I employed this inductive analysis to deter-mine the patterns, themes, and categories that emerged from the data (Patton, 1990). The content of all CMD and interview responses was read, examined, 176 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 and open-coded in order to produce an initial code list. The responses were then reread and categories refined until all data' had reached theoretical satura-tion. Data from the class and field notes were used to further verifY the catego-ries that emerged (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). SUMMARY OF RESULTS The questions that guided the study pertained to themes about literacy that emerged within and across the discussion fora. I was also interested in discover-ing whether CMD facilitated and/or limited student L:arning about reading as-sessment and instruction. A summary o: the results is provided below: Emerging Themes Within Discussion Fora As I utilized the inductive process of the constant comparative method, it be-came clear to me that different themes emerged from within each individual fo-rum. This may be due to the different topics and tasks posed by the instructors to initiate the CMD. The topics for each forum are presented in Appendix B (p. 191). Forum I: The Classroom Environment and Behaviors of the Struggling Reader. In Forum 1, preservice teachers were asked to discuss their first experiences in the field and convey their initial ideas about what a struggling reader might look like. The postings during CMD focused on th;: classroom environment and student be-haviors that might signifY a struggling reader. The preservice teachers posted re-sponses about the classroom environment of their practicum setting by noting the seating arrangements, types of books in the classroom, posters on the wall, and les-sons occurring during their initial observations. Their postings were written as if they had a video camera panning across the classroom. The preservice teachers also posted their descriptions of a struggling reader. Most of their descriptions focused on the behaviors that could be seen in the classroom, rather than any cognitive or motivational concerns. Preservice teach-ers noted such behaviors as not being involved, being easily distracted, trying to take multiple breaks, having bad posture, and being disruptive to others. Forum 2: Curriculum Materials and Instruction that Match the Reader. As I examined the themes within Forum 2, in which they were asked to comment on their experiences as they read alongside their struggling reader, different is-sues arose that were evidenced by the CM:D, my field :10tes, and the instructor's notes of the class discussions. For example, the preservice teachers began to un-derstand the need to choose an appropriate level of text in order for the strug-gling reader to be successful. They also posted responses that focused on the type of instruction their students might need. The preservice teachers were try-ing to figure out the balance between the implicit instruction that teachers might facilitate and the explicit instruction that struggling readers might need. Thus, most of the postings focused on curriculum and instructional issues, as opposed to general impressions of the classroom environment as evidenced in the first forum. Forum 3: Feelings and Questions about Assessment. Because Forum 3 con-cerned issues of literacy assessment, preservice teachers' postings shifted to feel-journal of Research on Technology in Education 177 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 ings and questions about assessment. They were anxious and nervous about conducting assessments with their case students. They had many questions about the procedures for conducting the assessments, such as on which passage level they should test: cheir student or whether they should use both narrative and expository passc._g,es in the:r assessments. They also asked questions about their interpretation ,Jf the assessment data. One student asked if her interpreta-tion of a student's reading fluency sounded "like a possible explanation." They used CMD to express their ideas about how the testing environment is so dif-ferent from an insrructional environment, because during the assessment, the teacher should not intervene with instructional scaffolding. Forum 4: Instructional Strategies for Meeting Literacy Needs. As preservice teachers entered :he fourth Forum, in which they could construct their own discus-sion threads, postings reflected specific instructional techniques to use with the struggling readers to m:tif)r such difficulties as word recognition and comprehen-sion. Preservice tead_ers shared information about instructional strategies and en-gaged in problem solvi_~g to meet the literacy needs of their case students. Themes Across Discussion Fora Empathizing. Just a3 each discussion forum elicited specific responses that tied to the task and topic, the data also revealed themes that emerged across the fora. One general t.t_eme was that preservice teachers expressed their emotions and feelings about their experiences in the practicum setting. These emotions were often validated by their peers. Selwyn (2000) found teachers making simi-lar comments. These postings are used by a participant to orient others to a par-ticular situation, to e::...-plain his or her own orientation, and to empathize with the person experienci::1g the sicuation (Schoch & White, 1997). The preservice teachers empathizec with their peers when their case students were experiencing difficulties at home o::- school, when they were puzzled about an instructional technique or testing procedure, and when their peers felt overwhelmed by the work required in the course. Problem Solving. Another pattern or theme that emerged in all fora was prob-lem solving. These preservice teachers were given a problem situation upon en-tering their practicum, when they were given a case student whom they had never met, and they were to assess this student and plan instructional activities. It would seem natura~ that they would use the CMD to pose questions, ask for ideas, and provide s::~lutions to the issues that arose with these case students. The preservice teachers posted problems, such as classroom management of reading groups who get out of control, and their peers responded with sugges-tions to solve the management issue. One preservice teacher elicited advice about how to help c._ s:udent \vho struggled as he read a passage and got upset with the teacher wher: she corrected him. Many of the questions focused on the procedures for conducting assessments and analysis of them, such as which reading level to use and how to score an assessment. Reporting Progress. As the semester progressed, the preservice teachers were engaged in completing tasks in their practicum that were required for their course. Some of the postings focused on the tasks that they still had to perform 178 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 in the field. The preservice teachers noted dates and times tha: they would com-plete their work. They discussed school events that impeded their progress, such as school-wide testing, and special study sessions for students :hat took their case students out of the classroom. Other postings concerned tie c.ctual time schedules the preservice teacher planned to work with the student that included specific days and the activities he would conduct on ead: day. How did CMD Facilitate Learning about Literacy Assessment and Instruction? Through an analysis of the electronic dialogue and the final inte:views, I was able to detect ways in which CMD facilitated student leaning about literacy as-sessment and instruction. Making Connections. One of the primary goals of the course, practicum, and CMD assignment was to increase preservice teachers' awareness of struggling readers in the schools. My goal in the practicum was to r_elp preservice teachers understand the various behavioral, cognitive, and motivational chc.racteristics that struggling readers may exhibit in the classroom. Through the C1v1D, the preservice teachers shared information about their case students with their peers in the class. The pattern that emerged both in the data and in the interviews was that preservice teachers began to see connections am:mg their case students, the results of their assessments, and the instructional tecaniques that they were employing with the case students. Other preservice teachers begae to make con-nections among the various problems that their peers we.::.-e having with the as-sessment data, such as how to count the reading miscues as their case students were reading aloud, and the proper procedures for scoring the miscue analysis. Gaining Multiple Perspectives. As the preservice teachers began dialoguing through CMD about their case students, they began to expand their naive no-tions of what a struggling reader looks like in the classroom. Initially, they iden-tified behaviors that they could observe from students when they described a struggling reader. Their ability to share their case studenLS with each other through CMD helped them gain multiple perspectives about a struggling reader. Some preservice teachers who had a struggling rec.der \vith word recogni-tion difficulty were able to read about and respond to teachers who had strug-gling readers with very different issues than their own. Some of the struggling readers had fluency and/or comprehension problems. Other struggling readers lacked motivation and interest in what they were reading in the classroom. The preservice teachers noted in their interviews that they gained a variety of in-sights into the nature of a struggling reader. Problem Solving. CMD enabled the preservice teachers to C.ialogue with each other and the instructors to solve a variety of problems that occurred during the practicum. They discussed issues related to time constraints and obstacles completing their fieldwork. They also detailed problems in conducting their assessments that included the administration and the scoring of the various as-sessments. Further, the teachers posed problems about instruction . .l\1any ques-tions arose about techniques to use in providing instruction for the case stu-dents. Rather than rely on the instructor to solve these problems, :he preservice teachers offered insights of their own during the CMD. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 179 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 Adding Depth. The preservic= teachers noted in their interviews that they were able to achieve more depth about an issue using CMD than during the class discussion, in which they could not spend a lot of time concentrating on one particular issue. Other researchers have also found depth of processing dur-ing CMD (Hara et al., 2000). The preservice teachers noted during the inter-views that they could be more specific about their problems during CMD than when they discussed them during face-to-face interactions. Eliciting Instructor Input. The university reading course met once per week, and the practicum occurred twice per week. Even though preservice teachers had three opportunities to obtain feedback from the instructors, they noted during the inter-views that they really liked being able to elicit feedback from the instructors through CMD. It is interesting that they had the instructors' e-mail addresses, so they could have e-mailed us personally at any time during the semester. However, they often used CMD to elicit irstructor feedback. The preservice teachers also ap-preciated the instructors' feedback to others' problems. The teachers stated during the interviews that they bene::ited from hearing the instructors' input to other stu-dents' problems posed during the electronic discussion. How did CMD Limit Learning about Literacy Assessment and Instruction? Redundancies. The middle grades education program is designed so that the same preservice teachers progress through a series of courses for three semesters. The course in which these teachers participated in this study oc-curred during the second serr_ester. Thus, these preservice teachers alr~ady knew each other well, and rhey had multiple opportunities to interact with one another both socially and academically. Many of the students carpooled to their practicum .;ites, and therefore had plenty of time to dis-cuss issues during the ride. Because the preservice teachers had so many op-portunities for face-to-face interaction, they often found that they reiter-ated the same issues during CMD that they had already discussed with their peers during face-to-face interactions. As a result, they found the en-tries they contributed to be redundant and unnecessary, because they had already expressed them in an 1lternative medium. Response Time. As evidenced in the discussion dialogue, there were lapses of days between the time the preservice teachers asked questions and the time they received responses. They noted in their interviews that this lapse of response time was frustrating because they could not get immediate feedback. Many pre-service teachers stated that by the time they received a response, they had for-gotten the content of the message they sent that elicited the response. They also noted that by the time they received the response, they had moved on to an-other issue with their student, so there was no longer a need to respond. Thus, much of the dialogue did not resemble a conversational interaction. Other re-searchers have found that electronic dialogue is not conversational in the same way as face-to-face interactions (e.g., Thomas, 2002). In this study, I found thar participants who engage in Clv1D may not be able to engage in "normal discus-sion" that appears conversational by nature partly because of the time lapse be-tween responses. 180 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 Prior Knowledge. Although these preservice teachers had taken one previous literacy course in their program, the content of the course and practicum was relatively unknown to these teachers. They were just beginning to understand the constructs of word identification, fluency, and comprehension. They had never seen nor administered the literacy assessments, and they had few oppor-tunities until this course and practicum to implement instructional techniques for improving literacy skills. As a result, as the preservice teachers engaged in CMD, they were hesitant to provide advice, solve problems, and suggest in-structional techniques to other preservice teachers. This result was also evi-denced during class discussions and the interviews. One preservice teacher noted in her interview that she did not trust her classmates' CMD responses because her peers did not know any more than she did. Other preservice teach-ers noted that they had difficulty responding to a question because they did not know enough, and thus were not confident enough to pose a solution. One possible reason that this issue emerged is that the course instructor was highly transmissional in her approach to teaching (Wade & Moje, 2000). That is, these preservice teachers did not interact in her classroom. Rather, they lis-tened to her lecture on the topics of discussion. She assumed the role of au-thority in the classroom, and they were often intimidated by her. As one stu-dent noted during his interview, he was not as confident in his knowledge as the instructor. Writing. Those preservice teachers who were apprehensive about writing because of poor self-efficacy or lack of motivation for writing found CMD to be frustrating. These were the teachers who posted only as often as re-quired, and their responses were not interactive. That is, they usually re-ported the information that occurred during their practicum without con-necting with one of their peers' postings or by empathizing with someone else's field experiences. In their interviews, those preservice teachers men-tioned that they did not like using CMD because "you're writing to be so-phisticated." They noted that in face-to-face discussions, one could "talk freely, and you don't have to impress anybody by trying to write the best things." Writing, for these CMD participants, was an exercise in status building, rather than a free interchange of ideas. For other students, writ-ing was not motivational. They did not like writing using CMD because to emphasize an idea, "you have to write in depth, which I didn't like because I don't like writing ... " Also, some students did not see themselves as good writers, so they believed their responses lacked quality because of their lim-ited writing ability. Depth. When preservice teachers provided a wealth of information about their case students, the depth of their responses certainly benefited the discus-sion. However, there were times when the CMD participants would post, "Yeah, I agree," or "You should do what they said" when responding to a sug-gestion. During their interviews, the preservice teachers noted that these scant, meaningless responses were not useful to them, and that they limited the inter-actions possible during a discussion thread. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 181 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE Through the use of CMD during this study and subsequent semesters, and my analysis of the results, I have learned a great deal about strategies that in-structors may employ to increase the utility of CMD. I think CMD has great possibility for enhancing rhe communication, collaboration, and learning envi-ronment among preservice teachers. I offer several suggestions that instructors might consider as they employ CMD in their classrooms. Communication Purposes and Tasks As I look across the stud=.es conducted on CMD, I have found that the purposes for using CMD as a communication tool and the nature of the tasks for dialoguing online influence the content that is communicated through CMD. In the particu-lar study summarized above, the university course concerned literacy assessment and instruction as students engaged in a pracricum setting. The course was highly experiential in nature, in that students engaged in practicum out in the field twice per week, and the purposes for using CMD focused on these field experiences. Al-though the preservice teachers were asked to incorporate course readings from a common textbook and journal articles read during the course of the semester, most students eschewed discussions about these texts and the theories described within. This finding is quite different from other studies, in which one of the main pur-poses for the online discussions was to dialogue about the course readings (Hara et al., 2000; Poole, 2000). I believe the tasks dictate the content of the online communication. Enough re-search studies of electronic discussions exist to examine the varying types of tasks in which students engage while participating in CMD. For example, in some studies, participants engaged in discussions of educational themes and issues (Thomas, 2002). In other studies, pc.rticipants responded to posted questions, usually by the instructor (Berge & Muilenburg, 2000; Davidson-Shivers, Muilenburg, & Tanner, 2001). Several researchers have conducted studies in which the participants create their own tasks through the tl::reads they create themselves (Dutt-Doner & Powers, 2000; Hawks & Romiszowski, 2001; Mabrito, 2000; Selwyn, 2000). Lastly, some participants engaged in dialogue about teaching cases and case students (Chong, 1998; Jetton, 2003). In each of these studies the content of the dialogue reflected the nature of the task. For example, in Selwyn's study, when teachers were left to their own topics, one way they socially interacted was by complaining about the difficulty of their job. In the smdy I summarized, preservice teachers spent most of their dialogue time problem solving about their case students. Rarely, if ever, did they complain about the difficulties with their case students, despite frequent tardi-ness, absenteeism, and lack of reading motivation. It appears to me that the purposes for having CMD, and the nature of the tasks associated with it, are highly influential in the content of the communica-tion that occurs. Thus, those instructors who are interested in using ClVID as a mode of communication should take great care in considering the particular purposes for employing CMD and the tasks that will be performed by partici-pants while engaging in CMD. 182 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 Writing Another issue related to communication is writing. After I conducted the study of CMD, I was still left pondering what to do with students who find CMD frustrating because they are either unmotivated writers or writers who lack self-efficacy. Somehow, instructors need to find ways to motivate students to write and share information through CMD and to understand the utility of it. Mabrito (2000) cautions that even though writing-apprehensive students may abhor the process of writing during CMD, they are able to practice and develop fluency in the very process that they avoid. However, this findings does not make me feel any better when I know that some of my students were dis-gusted most of the time that they were participating in CMD. One possible suggestion for motivating these reluctant writers is to have them set their own goals for the discussions. A hypothesis is that if participants are driven by their own learning goals in which they determine the relevance of the medium, those with writing apprehension will not find the writing as abho:-rent because they will be motivated to participate (Ames, 1992; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Certainly, more research needs to be conducted to ascertain effective strategies for engaging these reluctant writers. Collaboration Social Interaction Developing Rapport. Some researchers have found increased interactions among participants as the university course progressed (Hare et al., 2000). One hypothesis is that it takes time to develop social relationships over the cours::: of the study. As participants grow more socially comfortable with one another, their interactions increase. Thus, it would be prudent to set up a university course in which those engaging in CMD have multiple opportunities to engage during the course via face-to-face interactions, particularly at the beginning of the semester. Recently, I taught a course in which I divided students into newsgroups of four or five students who engaged in small-group CMD. Prior to engaging on-line, I had each newsgroup gather together several times during class time to discuss several different themes. By engaging first in face-to-face interaction:;, the students in each newsgroup began to understand the social dynamics of rhe group and the individuals participating in the group. They had opportunities to observe their peers' gestures and facial expressions during discussion-opportu-nities that are not available during CMD (Tiene, 2000). I have not analyzed the data of these classroom discussions to determine how these initial discussiocs affected the subsequent interactions during CMD, but I suspect that increasing the social interactions initially among newsgroup members allowed students to feel more at ease with their newsgroup members once they began engaging in CMD. This, in turn, increased the interactions among newsgroup members. Certainly, this instructional technique needs to be studied empirically. Contributing Knowledge. I also believe that there might be one another rea-son that some studies found increased interaction toward the end of the serr_es-ter. I think students have to feel that they have sufficient knowledge to be able journal of Research on Technology in Education 183 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 to contribute to an online discussion. In my study, the participants did not be-lieve that they had enough knowledge in the beginning of the semester to con-tribute to the dialogue. Since these participants were preservice teachers who were experiencing literacy issues for the second semester, the content of the course was unknown to them, and they needed time to understand the literacy concepts. By the end of the course, students were offering advice regarding as-sessment and instruction because they believed that they understood many of the literacy principles. Thus, it may take time to develop interactions as stu-dents begin to feel more comfortable with the knowledge they possess. Another reason that the preservice teachers may have felt that they lacked the knowledge to participate in CMD could be attributed to the instructor of the course. The instructor assumed authoritarian control over the content of the class, believing herself to be the vessel of knowledge for the students. This au-thoritarian control was evident in the formal language in which she engaged with students in class and online. Students definitely felt that the instructor had "power over" rather than "power with" others (Irwin, 1996). That is, students believed the teacher to be the powerful authority, and, as a result, the discus-sions did not reflect collaboration, sharing, and mutuality among the instructor and the students. When the instructor responded during the discussions, all dis-cussion ended for the students because the teacher was the final answer. Other researchers have found that an instructor's remarks are seen as the "last word," and all postings in the thread end (Berge & Muilenberg, 2000). As a result of this teacher domination, students felt that they lacked the requisite knowledge to respond to questions and problems that arose about struggling readers. For instructors to encourage students to engage in CMD, they need to establish a collaborative classroom in which the possibly naive understandings of preservice teachers are still valued and given a voice. Instructors who participate in the dialogue of CMD must be careful about how they participate in the discussion. When instructors assume an authorita-tive status during CMD by stating opinions and quoting theory, there is a dan-ger that subsequent interactions will end, because students feel that the final authority has spoken. Both students and the instructors could benefit from consideration of those qualities that make a good face-to-face discussion, such as establishing a connection with someone else's response or empathizing with someone's experience. Also, instructors can ask open-ended questions that guide students toward in-depth thought about how the theory of learning and instruction can apply to the situation at hand. Instructors can work with stu-dents to develop a rubric for effective discussion interactions that might in-clude such items as asking a thoughtful question, elaborating on someone else's idea, or applying an idea to a novel situation. During the rubric de-velopment, students can also identify ineffective characteristics of discus-sions that might include arguing a pet idea, belittling someone, or ignoring someone's idea. The instructor and students can then examine previous CMD on the basis of the rubric they created to better understand how to increase the quality of their interactions. 184 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 Learning Environment Opportunities for Self Reflection The preservice teachers in the aforementioned study had many opportunities to consider the nature and characteristics of struggling readers. During the be-ginning of the semester, they posted responses through CMD about their initial views of a struggling reader. Following these responses, they were able to read alongside a struggling reader and glean insights about the particular areas of need, which they posted on the discussion board. Likewise, they posted infor-mation gathered from the various assessments they were conducting with their case students. Finally, they had many opportunities to share information online about instructional strategies for engaging struggling readers. Because these various postings were held as artifacts on the discussion board, students had ac-cess to all of their postings throughout the semester. My gcal as one of the instructors was to help students be more self reflective about tl:eir understandings and knowledge of struggling readers, so I used the discussion board as a portfolio of their thoughts and knowledge throughout the semester. Students engaged in self reflection by first reading their initial, naive descript:.ons of struggling readers and then reading through the rest of their postings in time order. I asked them to engage in discussion and write about how their views and understandings of struggling readers changed over time. Thus, the discussion board became a very useful tool in helping the students be more metacognitive about their own knowledge. If instructors have students en-gage in CMD about a particular theme or concept throughout the semester, then the instructors can use the written artifacts as a tool for helping students reflect on the growth in their understandings of particular concepts over the course of time. Although I have provided anecdotal data from my study, I be-lieve that the use of CMD as a portfolio for deeper self reflection warrants fur-ther research. ~fultiple Perspectives One of the most exciting aspects of the study I described is that the preservice teachers were able to view struggling readers from multiple perspectives. In the course, the preservice teachers were assigned one case student, and they became an expert on this student's literacy skills (Brown & Campione, 1996). However, if these preservice teachers were only able to view one struggling reader, they would not understand the complexity involved in understanding the many needs of readers who experience difficulties in literacy. Some students have word recognition difficulty, while others have comprehension problems or a lack of motivation to read. By sharing their cases online, the preservice teachers were able to understand nine different struggling readers instead of only their own case student. The preservice teachers also dialogued through CMD about how the various classroom teachers facilitated literacy learning for these case students. Thus, they were also able to understand the multiple approaches teachers can use to meet the needs of struggling readers. Although other studies have reported the positive effects of using cases through CMD to discuss complex issues (Chong, 1998), this study focused on journal tif Research on Technology in Education 185 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 students who conducted their own case studies, in which they gathered data and used this data to propose and confirm hypotheses about struggling readers. I believe CMD is a useful tool for students to use in discussing their own case research with other peers so that they can gain insights from multiple data points. FINAL THOUGHTS Research of CMD is in its infar.cy, despite a growing number of studies of its use in and out of the classroom setting. In examining the current research in this area, I believe that CMD is a useful tool for teacher education. It provides another mode through which educators can discuss important issues related to educational theory and practice. Also, despite its limitations, it can be a vehicle for collaboration among teachers as they examine the many complex problems in the classroom and try to construct possible solutions. Through this collabora-tion, teachers have opportunities to understand issues from multiple perspec-tives as individuals with varying insights contribute to the discussions. The written artifacts of CMD enable participants to reflect on their own under-standings as they engage in the process of learning over time. Thus, CMD can be a powerful learning environment for understanding the complexity of stU-dents and teachers, classrooms, schools, and their surrounding communities. Contributors Tamara Jetton, Associate Professor of Reading, holds a doctorate in Educa-tional Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in literacy. Currently, she is a member of the faculty at James Madison University. Prior to her current position, Dr. Jetton was a faculty member at the University of Utah and a pub-lic school teacher. Her research focuses on understanding how teachers and stu-dents engage in a variety of learning environments that include electronic and face-to-face discussions. She also examines how students learn with text and how teachers facilitate text learning. (Address: Tamara L. Jetton, James Madison University, Reading Department, Iv1SC 1904 Harrisonburg, VA, 22807; jettontl@jmu.edu.) References Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 261-271. Bear, D. R., lnvernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2000). 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Teachers' professional lives. London: Palmer. Hammerman, J. K. (1997, March). Leadership in collaborative teacher groups. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. Hara, N., Bonk, C. J., & Angeli, C. (2000). Content analysis of online discussion in an applied educational psychology course. Instructional Science, 28, 115-15 2. Hawkes, M., & Romiszowski, A. (2001). Examining the reflective outcomes of asynchronous computer-mediated communication on inservice teacher de-velopment. journal ofTechnology and Teacher Education, 9, 285-308. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 187 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 Henk, W A., & Melnick, S. A. (1995). The reader self-perception scale (RSPS): A new tool for measuring how children feel about themselves as read-ers. The Reading Teacher, 48, 470-482. Hiltz, S. R., & Turoff~ :\1. C978). The network nation: Human communication via computer. 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Kiesler, S., Siegel, J., & ::vicGuire, T. W (1984). Social psychological aspects of computer-mediated comm .. mication. American Psychologist, 39, 1123-1134. Ku, L. (1996). Social and nonsocial uses of electronic messaging systems in organizations. journal of Business Communication, 33, 297-326. Labbo, L., & Reinking, D. (1999). Negotiating the multiple realities of [echnol-ogy in literacy research and instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 34, 478-492. Leslie, L., & Caldwell, J. (2001). The qualitative reading inventory-3. New York: Longman. Lichtenstein, G., McLaughlin, M., & Knudson, J. (1992). Teacher empower.::nent and professional knowledge. In A Lieberman (Ed.), The National Society for Studies in Educa-tion 9 r Yearbook (Part I) (pp.37-58). Chicago: University of Chicago. Lieberman, A. (1995). Prac::ices that support teacher development: Trans-forming conceptions of professional learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 76, 591-596. Little, J.W (1993). 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Newberry Park: Sage. 188 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 Poole, D. M. (2000) Student participation in a discussion-oriented online course: A case study. journal of Research in Computing Education, 33, 162-177. Rice, R. E., & Love, G. (1987). Electronic emotion: Socio-emotional content in a computer-mediated communication network. Communication Research, 14, 85-105. Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley. Riesbeck, C. K. (1996). Case-based teaching and constructivism: Carpenters and tools. In B. G. Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist learning environments: Case stud-ies in instructional design (pp. 49-61). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Tech-nology Publications. Rowntree, D. (1995). Teaching and learning online: A correspondence educa-tion for the 21 '' century? British journal of Educational Technology, 26, 205-215. Schallert, D. L. & Reed, J. (2003, April). Topic constraints, student motivation and cultural considerations in teaching and learning with CMD: Tempering enthu-siasm with reality. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Edu-cational Research Association, Chicago. Schoch, N. A., & White, M.D. (1997). A study of the communication pat-terns of participants in consumer health electronic discussion groups. Proceed-ings of the 6(Jh Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science, 34, 280-292. Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Schon, D. A. ( 1991). Educating the reflective turn: Case studies in and on edu-cational practice. New York: Teachers' College Press. Selwyn, N. (2000). Creating a "connected" community? Teachers' use of an electronic discussion group. Teachers College Record, I 02, 750-778. Sparks, D. ( 1994). A paradigm shift in staff development. Journal of Develop-ment, 15, 26-2 9. Tiene, D. (2000). Online discussions: A survey of advantages and disadvan-tages compared to face-to-face discussions. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 9, 371-384. Thomas, M. J. W (2002). Learning within incoherent structures: The space of online discussion forums. journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 351-366. Wade, S.E. (2000). Inclusive education: A casebook and readings for prospective and practicing teachers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wade, S. E., & Moje, E. B. (2000). The role of text in classroom learning. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research: Volume III. (pp. 609-627). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wellman, B. (1997). An electronic group is virtually a social network. InS. Kiesler (Ed.), Culture of the Internet (pp. 179-205). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wepner, S. B., & Mobley, M. M. (1998). Reaping new harvests: Collabora-tive and communication through field experiences. Action in Teacher Education, 20, 50-61. journal of Research on Technology in Education 189 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 APPENDIX A Interview Questions What expectations did you have for participating in the discussion board while in tlis semester? How did participating in the discussion board prove useful in developing your knowl-edge about struggling readers? \Xlhat areas in participating on the discussion board proved less useful? What do you believe were the most important issues or topics presented on the discus-sion board this semester? How did your written interaction from the discussion board differ from the verbal in-teractions you had with your peers and faculty like in the field or in class discussions? What form, written form or verbal form, worked best for you and why? How did both of those compare to the discussion board; are they just all different or some more effective than others? Are there ways that you would change the use of discussion board? When you started this course and the practirum placement at the beginning of the se-mester, what did you think you would learn from conducting a case study of a child? What was the most valuable thing that you learned from working with your partictL.ar child? What is your current view of the struggling reader? How would you describe that? Do you think your views changed in any way over the semester about a struggling reader? What new insights did you gain about a struggling reader by running alongside the reader and taking those aneodotal notes? What was the most revealing or useful information that you collected as part of your case-study research? Describe any areas in which you would have liked to have collected more information. Were there any activities that seemed less useful than others or that you might like to change? What do you believe is the most valuable aspect of requiring the preservice teachers to conduct field-based research on an individual child, as a general requirement? How do you believe that you will use the infDrmation you have learned in your fUture teaching career? 190 Winter 2003-2004: Volume 36 Number 2 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014 APPENDIXB Forum 1 Please reflect on the first day in the field. In addition to these reflections, in-clude your descriptions of what a struggling reader/writer would look like in a middle grades classroom .. Some suggestions I offer for responding include de-scriptions about how the struggling reader might behave, what his or her assign-ments might look like, the kinds of interactions struggling readers might have with teachers and peers, and the particular reading and writing problems the struggling reader may have. Forum 2 For the next two weeks in practicum, you will begin keeping anecdotal notes as you read with your case student in content texts and self-selected materials. Think about R. Bomer's description in the New Advocate of"runn:ng alongside the reader." What strategies did you use to support fluency and comprehension? What techniques worked for quickly recording anecdotal notes? Discuss what you are learning about supporting students in selecting appropriate texts. How do the issues brought up in the Worthy and Sailors' article relate to your child? Feel free to ask questions about other topics or begin your own thread for dis-cussiOn. Forum 3 As you begin to conduct the variety of assessments with your case student, be thinking about issues that arise with these assessments. For example, you might want to ask questions on the discussion board about how to administer a particular assessment, or you may want to share an interesting result from your assessment data. Please feel free to share these issues on the discussion board with us. Forum4 You are going to participate in a different discussion board forum for the remain-der of the course. You are to add your own thread in which you open up the discussion by provid-ing a summary of your case student's reading/writing strengths and weaknesses, as determined by the formal and informal assessments you have been administering. As each student posts his/her thread, the other students are required to respond to the thread by providing advice as to instructional strategies that they might use to build the case student's strengths and attend to the student's weaknesses. You will consider these instructional strategies as you devise your tutorial plan. As the students respond to your thread, please engage in discussion with them about their advice. There are a number of responses that can take place when you engage in discussion about the advice from others. From example, one way to re-spond is to write about how you incorporated their advice into your tutorial plan and how the instructional strategy worked with the student when you imple-mented your plan. Another way to respond is to ask for clarification about how to implement the instructional strategy. Finally, you could respond to the other stu-dents by explaining why their advice might not work with your studer:.ts. journal of Research on Technology in Education 191 Downloaded by [University of Glasgow] at 04:01 07 October 2014

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