Evaluating the Effectiveness of Academic Writing Interventions in a Community-Based B.Ed. Program

By Scott, David; Burns, Amy et al. | International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, May 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Academic Writing Interventions in a Community-Based B.Ed. Program


Scott, David, Burns, Amy, Danyluk, Patricia, Ulmer-Krol, Sam, International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education


Introduction

An established body of research has determined that attracting and retaining certified teachers to work in rural and remote locations is a persistent global problem (Canter, Voytecki, & Rodriguez, 2007; Grant, 2010; West & Jones, 2007). This reality is apparent within provincial jurisdictions of education in Canada, including Ontario (Danyluk & Sheppard, 2015; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008), Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Learning, 2007), and Alberta (Alberta Education, 2013). Recent studies have suggested that schools in Indigenous communities in Canada find it particularly difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers (Danyluk & Sheppard, 2015; Dragon et al., 2012). The challenge for rural, remote, and Indigenous communities to retain teachers has also been linked to a lack of access to teacher certification programs (Grant, 2010). For many people in remote locations wishing to pursue a teaching career, the option of leaving their community to meet the residency requirements of a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) program is impractical.

Given these considerations, Farrell and Hartwell (2008) advised school jurisdictions to recruit and train teachers already living in rural contexts (p. 28). Similarly, the Northern Alberta Development Council (2010) has noted that in Canada's North, it is easier to retain teachers who are originally Northerners (p. 7). By hiring local teachers, communities are better able to retain professionals who are already invested and committed to living in the area. Following the recommendations of reports like these, a number of universities have established partnerships with colleges to serve people living in rural and remote locations who would like to pursue a teaching degree. The University of Alberta, for instance, has partnered with Keyano College (n.d.) in Fort McMurray, allowing students to earn their education degree without having to travel to Edmonton. Similarly, the University of Saskatchewan (n.d.) offers those from rural and remote communities the opportunity to study through the Northern Teacher Education program based in LaRonge. In this program, students are encouraged to stay in their communities for as long as possible through partnerships with various satellite campuses. Other such programs exist elsewhere in Canada, including the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (Community-based) offered at Queen's University (n.d.) in Ontario. Using a satellite campus in the Manitoulin-North Shore region, students are encouraged to stay in their communities by attending the satellite campus, coming to the main campus in Kingston for only two summers.

In 2014, a province in western Canada provided funding for a new community-based B.Ed program to serve students living in rural and remote parts of the province, including Indigenous communities. Unlike the satellite campus model, this program is unique in that, other than a two-week on-campus residency each summer, students complete their courses online. Non-education courses, which make up approximately 50% of the degree, can be completed through a variety of educational institutions, including ones that offer correspondence courses. This blended delivery format increases flexibility for students. As part of this format, students attend weekly or biweekly Adobe Connect sessions, in which their instructor hosts interactive discussions. Students complete practicum placements in or near their community with the aid of retired principals or teachers who are hired to observe and evaluate them.

In the first three years of the program, students have been almost exclusively mature women returning to university after having children. These women have often been out of school for many years and are understandably apprehensive about entering a postsecondary education environment. An internal survey undertaken in the fall of 2015 found that many students enrolled in this program had difficulties acquiring academic writing skills. …

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