Online communication patterns in a teacher professional development program
Asynchronous online forums may have great potential for supporting teacher collaboration; teachers can share with and reflect on one another's teaching practices "any time in anyplace". Nonetheless, existing research indicates low participation in teachers' online collaboration. Assisting teachers' online collaboration and learning is considered one of the main factors influencing the participation and the content of the messages in teachers' online dialogues. However, various methods for assisting teachers' online collaboration have not been widely studied. Thus, this study first proposes a synthesis model derived from literature to identify and examine the types of assistances provided in an online forum of teachers.
Existing research also demonstrates that teachers appear to produce superficial message content when communicating online. Such superficial communication may indicate teachers' cognitive inability to connect their pedagogical knowledge with teaching practices. In order to better operationalize and understand their message content, this study uses an existing framework which focuses on teachers' cognitive thinking levels exemplified in their messages.
Existing research does not address online messages in relation to one another. Taking relations of messages into account is important as the messages are not individual online postings but are a representation of teachers' interaction. Thus, this study also proposes a research methodology to address the relations of online messages in a forum of teachers.
The online forum to be examined in the current study is part of a professional development program-PIH (Persistent Issues in History). K-12 teachers involved in the program used an online forum to discuss their history related curriculum implementations. The current research study employs mainly social network analysis and content analysis to pursue its research foci. It also presents data from interviews with forum users to help validate findings attained through examining the online messages. Findings from this study showed that various assistance types and communication patterns may have influenced teachers' levels of thinking during online discussions.
0710: Educational software