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Online Classroom or Community in the Making? Instructor Conceptualizations and Presence in Online Discussion Forums


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Presentation by Tannis Morgan and Stephen Carey at CNIE 2008, April 28, 2008, Banff.

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Online Classroom or Community in the Making? Instructor Conceptualizations and Presence in Online Discussion Forums

  1. 1. Online Classroom or Community in the Making? Engaged Participant or Knowledgeable Professor? Tannis Morgan BCIT Stephen Carey University of British Columbia
  2. 2. Background <ul><li>How to get at the ‘why’s’ of teaching presence? </li></ul><ul><li>Tsang (2004) and ‘interactive decisions’ </li></ul>
  3. 3. Research questions <ul><li>1. How do instructors negotiate their teaching presence in online contexts? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the constraints and affordances that influence this negotiation? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Methodology <ul><li>Adopted Activity Theory as framework therefore certain methodological implications </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-case study with cross case analysis (Stake, 2006) as methodology </li></ul>
  5. 5. Cases <ul><li>Six “Cases of” instructor teaching presence </li></ul><ul><li>Unit of analysis: courses they were teaching </li></ul><ul><li>Range of teaching contexts: “Canada”, South America, Eastern Europe </li></ul>
  6. 6. Data <ul><li>2-3 interviews with instructor </li></ul><ul><li>Forum transcripts </li></ul><ul><li>Course documents </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews with program directors </li></ul><ul><li>Interview with co-instructor </li></ul><ul><li>*student course evaluations </li></ul><ul><li>*student questionnaire </li></ul>
  7. 7. Triangulation <ul><li>Multiple sources of data </li></ul><ul><li>Minimum 2 sources of evidence for each claim </li></ul><ul><li>Member checking </li></ul><ul><li>Peer debriefing </li></ul>
  8. 8. Theoretical Framework-Activity Theory (Engestrom, 1987)
  9. 9. Instructor Activity System
  10. 10. Rationale <ul><li>“ By taking account of the interactions between people involved in the activity, structures within which the activity takes place, conventions on which it is based and artefacts used (here, teaching tools and methods), I was able to ground my study in the broad context and capture practice as socially situated, rather than simply evidenced in actions or performance.” (Fanghanel, 2004, p. 579) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Teaching Beliefs <ul><li>Kane, Sandretto and Heath (2002) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Research into teachers’ beliefs, conceptions, attitudes, orientations, (personal) practical theories, and implicit or subjective theories about teaching is grounded in the understanding that these concepts drive teachers’ practices.” (p. 204) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationship between beliefs and actual practices </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Finding <ul><li>Conceptualization and teaching presence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you view yourself as an online instructor? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you conceptualize the interaction spaces? </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Data Analysis Questions <ul><li>How did instructors conceptualize the online interaction spaces? </li></ul><ul><li>How did this conceptualization influence their teaching presence? </li></ul><ul><li>Were they able to realize their conceptualizations? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Conceptualization of interaction and teaching presence <ul><li>How instructor viewed purpose and goals of the interaction spaces </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tannis--develop community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Linda--activity space </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>William--online graduate seminar and individualized teaching </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Daniel--student-centred online classroom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Joanne--community in the making </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>John--teacher-directed online classroom </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Daniel--student centred online classroom <ul><li>Avoid being authoritarian </li></ul><ul><li>Participate as a peer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ if the discussion was really flying along I would participate almost as a peer. Just really throwing my two cents. Actually I had to be very careful about this especially early in the classes because I started to feel like a real discussion killer . I would see this rolling, rollicking discussion with arguments and stuff flying back and forth and I would take a position as if I was a member of the student cohort and it would often stop discussion dead in its tracks , especially early on.” </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Daniel-Tensions <ul><li>Repositioning to avoid being pulled into teacher-like discourse </li></ul><ul><li>Constraint of technology lead to transfer of weblog practices </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><ul><li>“… the role that was probably easiest to fill and the one that I had the most fun was not unlike how I work when I use my weblog , just finding interesting, relevant kind of thing and then throwing them into the pot to get people talking. That was stuff that I do on my weblog all the time and had a lot of fun doing that in the forums and that was the probably the most satisfying good discussions.” </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. John <ul><li>Online classroom </li></ul><ul><li>class leader--be directive in helping students through course requirements and content </li></ul>
  19. 19. John--Tensions <ul><li>Positioned into subordinate role </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict of this positioning with identity as a ‘class leader’ </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>John=8% of all posts (15 weeks) </li></ul>88 38 Total messages 31 7 No. initiated 57 31 No. replies Phillip John
  21. 21. Instructor 1 and 2 <ul><li>“ I felt a responsibility and I looked for my [opportunities] and tried to make contributions either big or little just to have a voice because whether they viewed me as secondary or not I thought it was my responsibility to post and make contributions where I could.” </li></ul>
  22. 22. Tannis <ul><li>Online community </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of social activity </li></ul>
  23. 23. Tannis--Tensions (MU) <ul><li>Language--not enough to sustain community building </li></ul><ul><li>Technology--couldn’t follow messages, no threads </li></ul><ul><li>Forced to adopt teacher-centred interaction </li></ul>
  24. 24. William <ul><li>Conceptualization--online graduate seminar </li></ul><ul><li>Realizing constructivism through highly individualized teaching (constraint--extremely time consuming) </li></ul><ul><li>Influenced by beliefs about teaching and learning </li></ul>
  25. 25. William William--247 posts/3 weeks 11 students--1094/3weeks Least active student: 35 Most active student: 127
  26. 26. William--Course design <ul><li>Syllabus, schedule of readings, 2 class texts </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion forum--1 topic only </li></ul><ul><li>Key element--development of a language-culture autobiography </li></ul>
  27. 27. William--Tensions <ul><li>Repositioning to avoid being perceived as authoritarian </li></ul><ul><li>Time needed </li></ul>
  28. 28. So what? <ul><li>*Flexibility in design--new interpretations of constructivist teaching and course design </li></ul><ul><li>*Ability to adapt teaching approach </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting needs of the evolving community </li></ul>
  29. 29. Implications <ul><li>Conceptualizations in constant change </li></ul><ul><li>Identity of students and instructors changes </li></ul>
  30. 30. References <ul><li>Anderson, T., Rourke. L., Garrison, R., Archer,W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5 (2), 1-17. </li></ul><ul><li>Davies, B., & Harre, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20 , 43-63. </li></ul><ul><li>Duff, P. and Uchida, Y. (1997). He negotiation of teachers' sociocultural identities and practices in postsecondary EFL classrooms. TESOL Quarterly, 31 , 451-486. </li></ul><ul><li>Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation. Journal of Education and Work, 14 (1). </li></ul><ul><li>Fanganel, J. (2004). Capturing dissonance in university teacher education environments. Studies in Higher Education, 29 (5), 575-590. </li></ul><ul><li>Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2 (2-3), 87-105. </li></ul><ul><li>Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38 , 573-604. </li></ul><ul><li>Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational change . London: Longman. </li></ul><ul><li>Stake, R. E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis . New York, NY: Guilford. </li></ul><ul><li>Tsang, W. K. (2004). Teacher’s personal practical knowledge and interactive decisions. Language Teaching Research, 8 (2), 163-198. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Photo credits <ul><li>Rustman </li></ul><ul><li>Jeff Bauche </li></ul><ul><li>Queropere </li></ul><ul><li>Florian b. </li></ul><ul><li>Banditz </li></ul>