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Sharing Problems, Sharing Solutions Through Computer-Mediated Discussions
Unformatted Document Text:  A relatively new means to provide support to interns and new teachers is computer-mediated communication (CMC), defined as any form of discussion requiring the use of a computer (Dietz-Uhler & Bishop-Clark, 2001). As long as students have access to a computer, CMC can occur at any time or place, thus providing a level of accessibility to communication with others that is usually not fostered in schools or in classrooms. Perhaps the greatest feature of CMC is its ability to provide beginning teachers with “social, emotional, practical, and professional support” (DeWert, Babinski, and Jones, 2003, p. 319), moral support (Merseth, 1990), a place to make connections (Romiszowski & Ravitz, 1997), deeper understandings of teaching and learning (Ferdig & Roehler, 2003-2004), and practice with collaborative reflection (Nicholson & Bond, 2003). In addition, DeWert, Babinski, and Jones (2003) found that as teachers’ feelings of isolation decreased, their confidence and enthusiasm increased, and they became more critical thinkers with improved problem-solving skills. A more recent study noted that the use of CMC, particularly through an online discussion board, provided interns with the psychological support not met through other avenues (Paulus & Scherff, 2005). C. Contribution: Educators are currently leaving P-12 classrooms at an alarming rate, creating a potentially significant dearth of teachers in the near future. For some, their departures are triggered by planned retirement, but for many, their exodus from classroom teaching occurs in the first five years of their careers and often stems from frustration at the ever-escalating demands placed on classroom teachers by increasingly diverse student bodies and increasingly stringent mandates imposed by federal, state, and local governments and by a perceived lack of support in addressing these demands. Given the current situation, teacher education programs are being called upon to explore possible responses. How, then, might teacher education programs address aspects of these issues? The desire and need for support often begins in the student teaching semester, as pre-service teachers, accustomed to working closely with classmates in education courses, find themselves lacking immediate peers with whom to explore the unique situations associated with the student teaching experience. This roundtable discussion will focus on a study in-progress that looks closely at the computer-based cross-institutional interactions of student teachers from three large, research-oriented universities as they identify and share problems encountered in their field experiences. In analyzing the discursive repertoire these individuals build, including the level and nature of support and encouragement participants provide each other, this study aims to contribute to the empirical knowledge base of teacher education, writ large, of problems that student teachers encounter and the ways in which they utilize a potential support source in addressing those problems. D. Relevance: The data from this study will offer valuable information about the ways in which student teachers from three institutions regard opportunities for support. Some of the study’s participants are engaged in institutionally sanctioned opportunities for sharing experiences with and seeking support from other members of their program (weekly or bi-weekly seminars); other participants are not. Through the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data focusing on the interactions of student teachers from both types of programs, we explore how participants respond to the opportunity to interact with student

Authors: Steadman, Sharilyn., Scherff, Lisa. and Whyte, Alyson.
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A relatively new means to provide support to interns and new teachers is
computer-mediated communication (CMC), defined as any form of discussion requiring
the use of a computer (Dietz-Uhler & Bishop-Clark, 2001). As long as students have
access to a computer, CMC can occur at any time or place, thus providing a level of
accessibility to communication with others that is usually not fostered in schools or in
classrooms. Perhaps the greatest feature of CMC is its ability to provide beginning
teachers with “social, emotional, practical, and professional support” (DeWert, Babinski,
and Jones, 2003, p. 319), moral support (Merseth, 1990), a place to make connections
(Romiszowski & Ravitz, 1997), deeper understandings of teaching and learning (Ferdig
& Roehler, 2003-2004), and practice with collaborative reflection (Nicholson & Bond,
2003). In addition, DeWert, Babinski, and Jones (2003) found that as teachers’ feelings
of isolation decreased, their confidence and enthusiasm increased, and they became more
critical thinkers with improved problem-solving skills. A more recent study noted that the
use of CMC, particularly through an online discussion board, provided interns with the
psychological support not met through other avenues (Paulus & Scherff, 2005).
C. Contribution:
Educators are currently leaving P-12 classrooms at an alarming rate, creating a
potentially significant dearth of teachers in the near future. For some, their departures are
triggered by planned retirement, but for many, their exodus from classroom teaching
occurs in the first five years of their careers and often stems from frustration at the ever-
escalating demands placed on classroom teachers by increasingly diverse student bodies
and increasingly stringent mandates imposed by federal, state, and local governments and
by a perceived lack of support in addressing these demands. Given the current situation,
teacher education programs are being called upon to explore possible responses. How,
then, might teacher education programs address aspects of these issues? The desire and
need for support often begins in the student teaching semester, as pre-service teachers,
accustomed to working closely with classmates in education courses, find themselves
lacking immediate peers with whom to explore the unique situations associated with the
student teaching experience. This roundtable discussion will focus on a study in-progress
that looks closely at the computer-based cross-institutional interactions of student
teachers from three large, research-oriented universities as they identify and share
problems encountered in their field experiences. In analyzing the discursive repertoire
these individuals build, including the level and nature of support and encouragement
participants provide each other, this study aims to contribute to the empirical knowledge
base of teacher education, writ large, of problems that student teachers encounter and the
ways in which they utilize a potential support source in addressing those problems.
D. Relevance:
The data from this study will offer valuable information about the ways in which
student teachers from three institutions regard opportunities for support. Some of the
study’s participants are engaged in institutionally sanctioned opportunities for sharing
experiences with and seeking support from other members of their program (weekly or
bi-weekly seminars); other participants are not. Through the analysis of qualitative and
quantitative data focusing on the interactions of student teachers from both types of
programs, we explore how participants respond to the opportunity to interact with student


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