Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12(4), 423-437.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article describes a project that sought to provide meaningful remote early field experiences for teacher candidates enrolled in distance teacher education courses.
The focus of this study was to examine how candidates experienced the online field component, which was consistently structured for both methods courses.
The researchers explored the following research question:
How does shared viewing impact candidates’ experiences with early, online field experiences?
The authors describe the Windows Into Teaching and Learning (WiTL) project and the manner by which it facilitated communal and meaningful field experiences.
The research team was comprised of two methods instructors and a graduate assistant.
The participants were 30 teacher candidates, enrolled to two online content area methods courses in a large, urban university in the southeastern region of the United States.
Data were collected from several distinct components.
First, mentor teachers were interviewed individually at the end of the project.
Second, upon the conclusion of the methods course, candidates were equally divided into six focus groups to facilitate 2-hour interviews.
Additional data sources included transcriptions of the asynchronous threaded discussion, recordings of the synchronous debriefings, archived text chat logs, candidates’ summative written field reflections, and candidates’ work samples, including content module tasks and the culminating instructional unit plan assignment.
The findings reveal that a multitude of themes emerged.
These themes include shared viewing that enhanced field experiences by making them more meaningful and relevant, created opportunities for social learning and reflection, and served as a bridge between classroom learning and experiences in the field.
Furthermore, access to the asynchronous threaded discussion board enhanced candidate learning during the courses associated with the WiTL project.
The presence of a team of mentor teachers, united for the purpose of supporting candidate learning, was most evident at this point.
Because the discussion board was open to all of the candidates and mentor teachers, the questions and replies could be viewed by everyone, providing the opportunity for communal discussions on topics ranging from student behavior to advice on how to behave during a professional interview.
Several mentor teachers offered insights and responded to additional questions by multiple candidates, creating a forum for open discussion of a fundamental aspect of cogent teaching. Post-project focus groups with candidate participants revealed a positive reaction to reading their peers’ questions, admitting that there were questions they would like to have asked.
One benefit was the relationship established among the mentor teachers, many of whom reported that they gained knowledge and insight into their colleagues’ philosophical perspectives by reading their responses.
The collective field experiences were a constant presence within the methods courses taught as a part of the WiTL project.
Shared viewing is a more meaningful way to direct what should be noticed by pedagogical novices. It builds a community of learners who feel safe and free to discuss ideas and explore new ways of teaching in safe and nurturing environment.
Therefore, not only was learning meaningful, but candidate confidence in personal applications of methods was affirmed by summative reflections on the final unit plan assignment.
The authors argue that collaboration may be the key to survival in an age where economic conditions find teachers competing for positions and evaluated based on their ability to function as a leader within professional learning communities.
In addition, a collective approach to learning improves the odds that teacher candidates will take from the experience the intended knowledge.
Trends in early field experiences in teacher preparation programs should logically follow those in the field of education into a more collaborative arena.
The types of field experiences enacted through the WiTL project are a step in this direction—providing future educators the opportunity to collaborate and appreciate diverse perspectives early in their careers.