Perceptions of the Teacher's Roles by Prospective Elementary School Science Teachers in a Web-Based Biology Course

Article excerpt

    Web-based instruction was integrated into a course on human biology
    given to prospective elementary school science teachers. The goal of
    the study was to reveal the students' perceptions about the
    teacher's roles in such a course. Data were gathered from the
    teacher's forum and e-mail messages, students' e-mails, and
    interviews. The findings revealed that the teacher's roles such as
    guidance, mediation, management, provision of technical, and
    emotional support, in addition to the provision of information were
    well accepted by the students. However, since the students
    encountered difficulties in implementing independent (self-directed)
    learning required in the web-based course, they emphasized their
    preference for the role of the teacher as an information provider.
    Learning with ICT highlights the conflict existing between the dual
    roles of the student-teachers, as learners in the present and
    teachers in the future. The implications of this discrepancy are
    discussed in the context of elementary school science teacher
    education.

THE TEACHER'S ROLE IN A TECHNOLOGY ENHANCED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Web-based learning environments provide suitable infrastructures for "student-oriented" approaches, scaffolding the construction of knowledge, through self-directed inquiry, guided activity, and collaboration (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995; Paulsen, 1995, 1996; Relan & Gillani, 1997). The integration of Information and Communication Technologies into constructivist learning environments presents new challenges to teachers as well as to students. Unlike traditional classroom instruction, in which the teacher conducts the lessons, asks the questions, decides on the class's pace, and assesses the students, learning with ICT is "student centered" and requires a change in the teacher's traditional roles (Collins, 1998; Harasim et al., 1995; Jonassen, 2000; Salomon, 1992). The exponential increase of resources available on the Web, and the opportunities it provides for communication among learners, experts and instructors, restrict the teacher's role as the exclusive source of information for the students (DeLong, 1995). In these environments, teachers' roles, as deliverers of information and assessors, are reduced and their roles as guides, organizers, and designers of the learning tasks, are increased (Perkins, 1998; Salomon, 1992). Web-based instruction involves changing roles from teaching to facilitating and stimulating learning, as the teacher has to set the stage, monitor and encourage participation, form groups, assign role responsibilities, moderate and facilitate group processes, set the pace and organize interaction, establish norms, grade performance and engage in socio-emotional issues (Harasim et al., 1995; Jonassen, 2000).

In a comprehensive study, aimed at examining the role of teachers in online courses, teacher's roles were divided into three main areas: (a) technical, (b) facilitation, and (c) management skills (Kemshal-Bell, 2001). Technical skills refer to the level of proficiency in operating the tools, of which the most important are e-mail and the forum. Facilitation and management skills refer to the pedagogical use of the technologies for promoting learning. Among the facilitation skills are: (a) involving the learner in the learning process, (b) questioning, (c) listening and providing feedback, (d) directing, (e) managing online discussions, (f) building online teams, (g) relationship building, and (h) motivational skills. Berge and Collins (Berge & Collins, 1995; Collins & Berge, 1996) defined these skills as "pedagogical and social" skills. Among the management skills are: (a) time management (for the teacher and for the student alike), (b) establishing guidelines for the learning process, (c) planning, monitoring and reviewing the learning process, and (d) adapting teaching to the diverse needs of the learners (Kemshal-Bell, 2001). …

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