Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Evaluating Socio-Cultural Pedagogy in a Distance Teacher Education Program

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Evaluating Socio-Cultural Pedagogy in a Distance Teacher Education Program

Article excerpt

Increasing pressure has been placed on teacher education to prepare teachers to educate bilingual/bicultural students using scientifically-based teaching methods (e.g., Fillmore & Snow, 2000; No Child Left Behind Act, 2001). Socio-cultural theory and pedagogy have emerged as a research-based foundation for diversity teacher preparation (Rogoff, 1995; Rogoff & Wertsch, 1984; Tharp & Gallimore, 1989; Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1985). Socio-cultural theory rests on the premise that learning is social, and that it is through social interaction with teachers and peers who are more knowledgeable that students receive assistance as needed in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) to engage in culturally meaningful tasks. Researchers at the Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence (CREDE) synthesized relevant research into a socio-cultural model of five pedagogical practices: Joint Productive Activity, Language and Literacy Development, Contextualization, Cognitive Challenge, and Instructional Conversation (Dalton, 1998).

Most practicing teachers have little systematic education in or experience with socio-cultural theory or pedagogy. Darling-Hammond (1997) argued that increasing student achievement means improved focus on teacher development. The demand for diversity teacher preparation programs is high, yet there are relatively few bilingual/ESL teacher educators available to provide teachers with meaningful content and experience in implementing a socio-cultural model of education.

Lytle (2000) argued for innovations to solve such teacher education dilemmas. Distance-learning formats offer one innovative solution to the dilemma of high demands to supply teachers. Another innovative solution is required, however, for distance teacher preparation to be focused on diversity: socio-cultural perspectives must be taught as well as modeled. This second innovation becomes a question of design. How can a high quality distance education program (i.e., an instructional delivery system) be created that results in reflective practitioners willing to innovate in their own practices in light of a socio-cultural approach (i.e., curriculum design, course materials)?

Brigham Young University's (BYU) effort to evaluate the quality of its distance English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher education program, the Bilingual/ESL Endorsement through Distance Education (BEEDE) program, is briefly described. Evaluation data is reported to document the quality and impact of the BEEDE program's socio-cultural design on participants' thinking and practice. Implications are discussed in light of the tensions that innovations pose to teacher education.

Program Description

Graham, Teemant, Harris, and Cutri (2001) described how the university's early experiments with distance-learning formats resulted in individual faculty teaching courses with little consensus on a shared vision for program content or outcomes. In 1998, BYU and local districts wanted to moved toward a new model of distance teacher education. Faculty agreed to base instruction on a socio-cultural theory, model sociocultural practices, and pursue a shared, programmatic vision and accountability for learning outcomes using a distance-learning delivery system. Research on teacher development, adult learners, effective distance education, and professional development underpinned program and delivery system design (e.g., Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Munby, Russell, & Martin, 2001; Verduin & Clark, 1991).

The BEEDE program (16 semester credits) is comprised of a series of six video-anchored courses and an integrated practicum. Participants learn the foundations of bilingual/ESL education, language acquisition, assessment, family involvement, literacy, and sheltered instruction methods. To offer BEEDE at multiple distance sites a delivery system called ProfessorsPlusTM was developed (Teemant, Smith, Egan, & Pinnegar, in press). …

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