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July, 2009:

Electronic Student Assessment: The Power of the Portfolio

Electronic Student Assessment: The Power of the Portfolio
Matt Villano

They’re not just evaluation tools anymore. Savvy educators are seeing endless ways to exploit the power of the ePortfolio — and you can, too. Read the full article at the Campus Technology link below…

Link: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2006/08/electronic-…

The Promotion/Tenure Dilemma: Maintaining a Research Agenda While Developing Distance Learning Teaching Excellence

The Promotion/Tenure Dilemma: Maintaining a Research Agenda While Developing Distance Learning Teaching Excellence
Donald G Hackmann

This reflective article shares an associate professor’s personal beliefs regarding distance education, his initial experiences with teaching distance learning courses, and his concerns with simultaneously sustaining a research agenda when teaching distance courses. The following recommendations are presented to assist in striking a workable balance between teaching and research: (a) participate in distance learning training offered by the institution, (b) consider releasing the faculty member from one course assignment during the initial semester of distance teaching, (c) consider scheduling courses for simultaneous delivery, (d) develop distance learning mentors and colleague support networks, (e) invite student suggestions, and (f) include the study of distance learning as one facet of the research agenda.

The use of distance learning technology to support the delivery of courses has become accepted practice at many institutions of higher education. Surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) determined that fully 33% of the nation’s colleges and universities offered distance education coursework by 1995 and projected that another 25% would begin utilizing this format within three years (NCES, 1997). The technological tools anticipated to be most frequently employed to support distance learning courses in the coming years are two-way interactive video and Internet-based computer technology.

Distance learning education is very much a customer-driven phenomenon. Colleges and universities that resist distance learning channels, choosing instead to remain committed to traditional campus-based coursework, risk losing a significant portion of their current and potential student base to institutions that provide distance learning alternatives. Growing numbers of students, especially adult students, desire courses that are easily accessible and are offered in convenient timeframes, so that conflicts with career and family responsibilities are minimized. Many students do not want to waste precious time commuting to a traditional campus-based class when they can experience the same course via interactive video in a local school classroom or while sitting at their home computer.

When university officials elect to provide distance learning options for their students, they must construct state-of-the-art classrooms equipped with the necessary technology to support this delivery system. Due to the significant costs associated with this distance learning technology, the institution must now shift to a “We have built it; they must come” mindset to recoup this substantial investment. Faculty members most likely will be encouraged to restructure existing courses and develop new courses–if not entire programs–that use distance learning technology.

From the perspective of the individual faculty member, modifying or creating courses for distance learning delivery is not a simple task. Professors cannot simply deliver a standard classroom lecture in front of a video-camera, assuming that students at remote sites will experience the same quality of learning experiences that they would have received in a traditional face-to-face format. When preparing courses using two-way video or computer-based formats, a professor must engage in careful reflection regarding her/his pedagogical beliefs, in an effort to identify instructional behaviors that may need to be modified or discarded, in favor of methods more suited for distance education. Even though at least 80% of higher education institutions make distance learning training available to assist faculty with changing their instructional practices (NCES, 1997), professors must invest a significant amount of additional time, restructuring their lessons to make them suitable for distance learning delivery.

Tenure-track faculty, especially those employed at major research institutions, are faced with the dual challenges of building impressive research and publication records while demonstrating exemplary teaching competence. Although this is not necessarily a daunting task in itself, it can become more complicated when an untenured assistant professor is assigned a distance learning teaching responsibility. Since research productivity and teaching performance are often viewed as equally significanct when evaluating portfolios for promotion and tenure, an assistant professor cannot afford to interrupt his/her efforts in either area, even for a brief period of time. Consequently, the untenured faculty member may be faced with the dilemma of determining in which area of responsibility his/her time is best spent. Should course activities be revised to make them more suited for distance learning delivery, while the research agenda is abandoned, albeit temporarily; or should the research/publication agenda move forward at its current pace, thereby jeopardizing the instructor’s ratings on student course evaluations?

This article addresses the dilemma of attempting to strike a balance between maintaining a scholarly agenda while mastering distance learning instruction, viewed through the lens of one assistant professor’s experiences. It concludes by providing recommendations concerning how institutions can provide support for assistant professors as they work toward distance learning instructional competence.

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/98435299 Off-Campus Access

Making Connections: Collaborative Approaches to Preparing Today's and Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology

Making Connections: Collaborative Approaches to Preparing Today’s and Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology
Cheryl L Rosaen, Sharon Hobson, and Ghazala Khan

A collaborative approach was developed to support the professional development of teacher candidates, collaborating teachers (CTs) and teacher educators in learning to use technology for professional and pedagogical uses. Collaboration with K-5 teachers was undertaken to build the teachers’ capacities to use technology in meaningful ways in their classroom and school, with the intent to develop technology-rich sites for teacher candidates’ learning. A study of teacher candidates’ (n=24) and CTs’ (n=15) experiences during one school year indicated that both groups learned to use technology for a variety of pedagogical and professional uses, and teacher candidates had ample opportunities to work with technology. Moreover, teacher candidates shared their growing expertise with more experienced teachers by assisting their collaborating teachers with technology, a reversal of roles usually played in a mentoring situation. Nevertheless, the study also revealed that little collaboration and interactive dialogue about technology and its potential took place between 12 teacher candidates and CT pairs. Further steps are needed to create the culture of collaboration and reciprocity envisioned, where teacher candidates and CTs work together to use and appraise technology and to think critically about meaningful technology integration into the K-5 curriculum.

All technical progress has three kinds of effects: the desired, the foreseen, and the unforeseen. Ellul (1990, p. 61)

Today’s novice teachers face many challenges. They must learn to teach for understanding in ways that are consistent with high professional standards (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards [NBPTS], 1989; National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association [NCTE/IRA], 1996; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1991). They are also expected to understand and use technology in flexible, adaptive, and powerful ways to support their own and their students’ learning (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 1999; National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE], 1997). For teacher educators, tackling these pedagogical challenges is complex because there can be great variation in teacher candidates’ entering knowledge, skills, and dispositions in using technology (Laffey & Musser, 1998; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). There is similar variation in technology knowledge and use between two groups responsible for supporting novice teachers’ learning: teacher educators, and the classroom teachers who work with teacher candidates in schools (Fox, Thompson, & Chang, 1996; Niederhauser & Stoddart, 1994; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). When teacher preparation program technology requirements were adopted several years ago, our faculty decided to infuse work toward those requirements into existing courses, instead of offering a separate course, so that information technology could be linked with the substance of the program (Gillingham & Topper, 1999). The challenge was to embed meaningful uses of technology within course offerings and school-based field work such that teacher candidates would learn to use technology in support of their own professional learning and in support of the learning of K-8 students.

With support from the U. S. Department of Education’s program for Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to use Technology (PT3), a collaborative approach was developed to support the professional development of teacher candidates, collaborating teachers (K-5) and teacher educators in learning to use technology for professional and pedagogical uses. These efforts, undertaken in a senior-year course on methods of teaching literacy and math in Michigan State University’s Teacher Preparation Program,(FN1) were intended primarily to develop teacher candidates’ knowledge, skill and disposition to use technology both within their professional course work and in the K-5 schools where they spent four hours per week in their collaborating teacher’s (CT) classroom. Collaboration with K-5 teachers was undertaken to build the teachers’ capacities to use technology in meaningful ways in their classroom and school, with the intent to develop technology-rich sites for teacher candidates’ learning, and thus promote greater coherence between teacher candidates’ course and classroom experiences. Through these efforts to infuse technology into a teacher education course and model its uses in a variety of ways, new insights were gained into the power of technology as a professional and pedagogical tool.

This article begins with a discussion of the perspectives that guided the approaches taken to integrating technology. Next, the research questions and methods of inquiry are described. The third and fourth sections discuss teacher candidates’ and collaborating teachers’ learning. The fifth section discusses findings from analysis of the joint work of pairs of collaborating teachers and teacher candidates to understand the extent to which they worked collaboratively and reciprocally in learning to use technology. The concluding section discusses what was accomplished–the desired, foreseen and the unseen in these efforts–and next steps for working toward the desired goals.

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/301582776 Off-Campus Access

Collaborative Reflection and Professional Community Building: An Analysis of Preservice Teachers' Use of an Electronic Discussion Board

Collaborative Reflection and Professional Community Building: An Analysis of Preservice Teachers’ Use of an Electronic Discussion Board
Sheila A Nicholson and Nathan Bond

The use of technology in the educational setting can provide support for professional development early in a teacher’s career. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory study was to examine the use of an electronic discussion board in a field-based block of courses as a place where 17 preservice teachers could share experiences and ideas. The researchers examined the nature and development of the discussions over one semester. The study found three major benefits: (a) computer mediated communication extends discussions beyond the classroom; (b) the discussion board became a place for professional support and community; and (c) preservice teachers’ reflective thinking developed over time as a result of the discussion board. The electronic discussion board appears to be a promising way to enhance and support existing structures for preservice and inservice teachers’ professional growth.

As novice teachers journey through each stage of their professional development from teacher preparation course work, to field-based experiences and student teaching, and into their first year of teaching, they share common concerns and face similar challenges. This journey has been well-documented by researchers (Fuller, 1969; Kagan, 1992; Steffy & Wolfe, 2001) who found that novices are more concerned initially with the larger school situation, classroom discipline, the affective aspects of teaching, and their own egocentric perceptions as educators, rather than with the students in their classes and their students’ learning. These “new” teachers draw upon a lifetime of experience as students to construct sometimes unrealistic and optimistic views of teaching (Kagan, 1992; Weinstein, 1989). Coupled with these concerns and preconceptions are the challenges of isolation and increasing lack of support which become more pronounced as the beginning teachers progress through their introductory years in the profession (Fuller, 1969). While participating in their preparation program, beginning teachers receive support from their fellow classmates, university supervisors and school-based cooperating teachers. However, peer interaction and collegial support often drop during the first year of teaching when the beginning teachers find themselves alone in the classroom with only minimal support from colleagues or mentors (Sachs & Smith, 1988; Moir & Gless, 2001). Some researchers have labeled these new teachers, “lone wolves” (Huberman, 1995). Overwhelmed with a deluge of responsibilities, the new teachers have little time to collaborate with colleagues.

Teacher preparation programs have responded to these concerns and challenges by employing a variety of reflective, collaborative practices advocated by researchers (Joyce & Showers, 1995) to facilitate the induction of teachers into their profession. Many programs currently place preservice teachers in schools as early as possible, recognizing that fieldwork allows novices to enact a knowledge base and act like practitioners. In such settings, they gain confidence in their ability to solve problems and awareness of how such problem solving is done (Johnson, 1992). Teacher preparation programs also provide their beginning teachers with cohort support from their peers thus creating preprofessional communities for learning. The need for such cooperative communities has long been recognized and stands in contrast to the school climate that is often isolated and competitive (Graves, 1992). Peers are now seen as an underused resource. In a study by Hawkey (1995), student teachers expressed their desire to learn from their peers, to share expertise and experiences. They benefited from a community where the cognitive skills taught by the professor complemented the affective and emotional skills and support provided by their peers. In addition, most teacher preparation programs emphasize the need for novices to engage in reflective thinking about themselves and the practice of teaching and to share their thinking with their peers. Raywid (1993) found that for teachers to grow in their profession they must have time for collaborative reflection on practice, conditions, and events, and such reflective collaboration must be sustained over time.

Despite the fact that many teacher preparation programs integrate systems that support professional growth through field-basing, cohorts, and reflection as well as provide for transition from considerable support to less support, many novices still experience the effects of isolation. One promising solution to this dilemma, which may overcome these impediments to developing reflective thinking and supportive communities among novice teachers, is an electronic discussion board, a type of computer-mediated communication (CMC). Since the advent of CMC and its increasingly widespread use in teacher preparation, a growing body of research has reported its value in the professional development of novice teachers.

The purpose of this study was to explore the uses of a discussion board in a field-based block of courses as a place where preservice teachers could share experiences and ideas. By analyzing the topics that dominated the discussions as well as the nature of the dialogues, the researchers sought to answer the following questions: What was the nature of these preservice teachers’ discussions; and, how did their discussions develop over time?

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/301582765 Off-Campus Access

Exploring the Influence of Web-Based Portfolio Development on Learning to Teach Elementary Science

Exploring the Influence of Web-Based Portfolio Development on Learning to Teach Elementary Science
Lucy Avraamidou and Carla Zembal-Saul

This qualitative case study examined web-based portfolio development in the service of supporting reflective thinking and learning within the innovative context of Professional Development Schools. Specifically, this study investigated the nature of the evidence-based philosophies developed by prospective teachers as the central part of the web-based portfolio task and the ways in which the technology contributed to it. The findings of this study illuminated the participants’ understandings about learning and teaching science emphasizing a student-centered approach, connecting physical engagement of children with conceptual aspects of learning, becoming attentive to what teachers can do to support children’s learning and focusing on teaching science as inquiry. The way the task was organized and the fact that the web-based format provided the possibility to keep multiple versions of their philosophies gave prospective teachers the advantage to view how their philosophies were changing over time, which supported a continuous engagement in metacognition, self-reflection, and self-evaluation. Built on these findings we suggest that future research be directed in the area of teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about science teaching and learning and the kinds of experiences that influence their development. The ways in which technology tools can contribute to supporting prospective teachers in developing personal theories consistent with current recommendations of reform focusing on supporting learning through inquiry should also be explored.

In recent years, the notion of a “portfolio” has become easily recognizable as a part of the everyday language. Olson (1991) reported that a portfolio was originally defined as a portable case for carrying loose papers or prints–port meaning to carry and folio pertaining to pages or sheets of paper. Today folio refers to a large collection of materials, such as documents, pictures, papers, work samples, audio, or videotapes.

Portfolios have been used in teacher education in different formats, in a variety of ways, and for different purposes. The diversity of the functions and uses of portfolios have consequently produced multiple definitions depending on the purpose that the portfolio serves. Initially portfolios were associated with a scrapbook that included artifacts that had been saved and which could eventually be shown to a prospective employer (Aschermann, 1999). Portfolios also were described as a purposeful, integrated collection of work (Paulson, Paulson, & Meyer, 1991), and as an extended resume (Wolf, 1994). Dana and Tippins (1998) referred specifically to the science portfolio as “a researched presentation of the accomplishments of a teacher of science documented with teacher and student work and substantiated by reflective writing” (p. 723).

Portfolios can be used to demonstrate effort, progress, and achievement (Barrett, 1998) and to illustrate good teaching (Aschermann, 1999). According to Wolf (1991) portfolios can give teachers a purpose and framework for preserving and sharing their work and stimulate them to reflect on their own work and on the act of teaching. Other purposes of portfolio development involve the enhancement and development of teaching skills (Collins, 1990), the encouragement of reflection upon one’s teaching (Richert, 1990), and professional growth through collegiality (Shulman, 1988). As Lyons (1998a) suggested, “the portfolio may be considered from three perspectives: as a credential, as a set of assumptions about teaching and learning, and as making possible a powerful, personal reflective learning experience” (p. 4).

This study focused on the development of web-based portfolios in science teacher education. Two issues are important in this study: (a) the emphasis on supporting prospective elementary teachers’ reflection and (b) the construction of their knowledge of learning and teaching science. The literature review that follows illustrates the different approaches to portfolio development in teacher preparation programs.

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/96568591 Off-Campus Access