Academic journal article Adult Learning

Using a Sociocultural Perspective to Establish Teaching and Social Presences within a Hybrid Community of Mentor Teachers

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Using a Sociocultural Perspective to Establish Teaching and Social Presences within a Hybrid Community of Mentor Teachers

Article excerpt

Abstract: Within the last decade, the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) has received increased attention in the field of online learning, yet little is known about applying key tenets of Community of Inquiry while leading a hybrid professional development initiative. This study describes how I established teaching and social presences within a 3-month community of practice comprising four educators and mentor teachers. I utilized a sociocultural perspective as I adapted concepts of teaching presence (Garrison et al., 2000) to continually reposition myself as a facilitator and caretaker. Challenges emerged as I negotiated decision making within virtual and physical learning domains. Evidence of these challenges and their relation to social presence are identified through qualitative analysis of written blogs, meeting transcripts, and journal entries. Implications for future research and practice include providing more defined roles and responsibilities for school--university liaisons that design and facilitate similar hybrid communities.

Keywords: communities of practice, facilitator roles, Community of Inquiry framework, mentor teachers

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Research on teacher professional development highlights a need for more collaborative approaches, including learning communities in which teachers "try new ideas, reflect on outcomes, and co-construct knowledge about teaching and learning within the context of authentic activity" (Butler, Lausher, Jarvis-Selinger, & Beckingham, 2004, p. 436). Lieberman and Mace (2008) remarked this shift toward collaboration responds to new ideas of learning:

   In plain terms--people learn from and with
   others in particular ways. They learn through
   practice (learning as doing), through meaning
   (learning and intentional), through community
   (learning as participating and being with others),
   and through identity (learning as changing who
   we are). (p. 227)

As such, developing communities is an increasingly popular trend among professional development initiatives because it encourages collaborative reflection-on-action, develops knowledge-of-practice, and builds on the sociohistorical, contextual experiences of participants (Butler et al., 2004). The purpose of this study was to examine how a university supervisor influenced a hybrid learning community of mentor teachers. In this study, mentors refer to experienced teachers who guide preservice teachers in their classrooms and hybrid includes online and face-to-face exchanges. One research question guided the study.

Research Question i: How do facilitator roles influence the teaching and social presences of a community?

Background

A review of mentoring literature found researchers are moving toward forming professional development opportunities with mentors. Parker-Katz and Bay (2008) formed conversation groups with 17 urban mentors and university supervisors to explore the development and use of mentor knowledge in making supervisory decisions. This study found mentors collectively constructed knowledge and developed visions of mentoring that were recursive, situated, and focused on individual knowledge of self and others. To investigate mentors' perceptions of the benefits they receive from mentoring preservice teachers, Zeek, Foote, and Walker (2001) formed four informal conversation groups with 32 mentors in K-6 schools. After analyzing group transcripts, the researchers found the mentors more empowered after talking with other mentors, university faculty, and colleagues; eager to share their experiences and opinions; and responsive to questions posed by telling stories, yet were not given opportunities to ask and answer their own questions.

Crasborn, Hennissen, Brouwer, Korthagen, and Bergen (2008) developed a collaborative training program in the Netherlands with 30 primary teachers who mentored preservice teachers. …

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