A Technology Supported Induction Network for Rural Student Teachers

Article excerpt

Student teaching is a challenging period for preservice teachers as they make the transition from preparation to practice. Support from mentor teachers and university personnel can make this time easier, helping preservice teachers successfully integrate educational theory into their practice. Because of logistical, financial, and personnel limitations, many student teachers with rural placements receive inadequate support. The Technology Supported Induction Network (TSIN) was developed to address these issues by providing support and ongoing professional learning opportunities for preservice teachers through distance technology. A qualitative case study was used to investigate the TSIN's impact on elementary level student teachers. Results indicate that the TSIN's two primary components, a discussion board and compressed video sessions, served different supportive roles. Recommendations for future programs utilizing technology as a way to enhance the preparation of student teachers or provide induction for inservice teachers in rural schools are also discussed.

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to describe the impact the Technology Supported Induction Network (TSIN) had on elementary school student teachers in rural locations. I developed the TSIN to address criticisms about the effectiveness of student teaching that have spanned more than a quarter-century (Goodlad, 1990; Lortie, 1975; Paige, Stroup, & Andrade, 2002). Criticisms of student teaching include the gap which often develops between theory and practice as well as student teachers' resultant reliance on their "own ideas" and "trial and error" for teaching behavior (Freiberg, 2002). While professional development schools have emerged, in part, to address these criticisms (AbdalHaqq, 1998), teacher preparation programs in rural areas face additional challenges when trying to support student teachers and develop strong school-university partnerships. For example, lengthy travel time and dangerous winter road conditions decrease time available for student teacher supervision and/or the number of visits in a term. Students can't be centrally clustered and complaints from cooperating teachers regarding inadequate supervisory dialogue are common (Gruenhagen, McCracken, & True, 1999).

The Technology Supported Induction Network (TSIN) was developed as an effort to improve support for student teachers. The TSIN was based on existing successful induction and student teacher support programs, as well as recommendations for effective induction (Chubbuck, Clift, Allard, & Quinlan, 2001; Kamens, 2000; Odell & Huling, 2000). Social learning opportunities that bring beginning teachers together to examine professional development topics and share concerns are common in effective induction models. The TSIN used a multi-media delivery model consisting of compressed video, an Internet-based discussion board, email, and telephone to combine successful elements from different studies that used one form of distance technology to support novice teachers (Brintnall, 2002; Roddy, 1999; Venn, Moore, & Gunter, 2000-2001). Induction and student teaching literature suggest that providing professional growth experiences for student teachers when they have the opportunity to connect theory to their own practice maximizes the potential for learning and the subsequent benefits for children. The following question guided this investigation: What is the impact of the Technology Supported Induction Network on student teachers in terms of reflective practice, curricular support, emotional support, and maintaining connections to their peers and teacher preparation institution?

Background

This study was conducted at the University of Wyoming, a doctoral/research extensive, land-grant university. With its large land area of 97,818 square miles and low population of 494,201, Wyoming has the second lowest population density in the country (Wyoming QuickFacts, 2002). …