Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(3), 226-256. (2009)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
One of the challenges of teacher education is to train preservice teachers to deliver a wide range of literacy skills to a diverse population. This article describes a mixed methods research study into preservice undergraduate literacy methods courses. This research examined how online, asynchronously conducted discussions influenced and impacted preservice teachers’ literacy understanding.
This study investigated the following research question: How did online prompts and dialog discussion support preservice teacher candidates in defining and refining their understanding of literacy teaching and practice?
The authors set up the EDR 344 Blackboard to accommodate nine small group discussion areas. Each of these nine small group discussion boards was private and was restricted to the instructor and the students who were assigned to that discussion group. The other students could not see or participate in any of the small group discussions other than their own.
These private, asynchronous discussion areas were available to participants (instructors and students) around the clock, 7 days a week.
Each of the nine individual discussion groups was composed of four to five students. Each group had members that represented each of the different education majors offered at the university: early childhood, elementary, and special education/elementary.
Findings indicate that online small group discussion deepened and broadened preservice teachers’ literacy understanding. The online discussions also obligated preservice undergraduates to read class texts more closely and meaningfully.
The learning communities in this study used the online discussion to build collaborative knowledge of literacy, share multiple experiences and informed views of literacy, learn the language of literacy theory, and validate every individual’s understanding of literacy. These outcomes were accomplished both in the classroom and the online discussions. The added online discussion increased the students’ understanding of literacy instruction, an assertion validated by student feedback and comments. Overall, individual participants increased their own learning while nudging others to think differently about literacy and how to teach it.
This study has implications for how teacher educators prepare teacher candidates in the teaching of literacy for all learners. The present study demonstrated the need for teacher educators to provide opportunities for meaningful collaboration over time. It also provided opportunities for students to be engaged and responsible for their own learning, thereby supporting them in making more pedagogical connections enhancing future teaching practice.