University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 4144-4152
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Recent advancements in technology have brought about many changes in the way that university courses are taught. Changes have affected every aspect of higher education, and teacher education courses are no exception. Changes range from using e-mail as a tool of communication (e.g., Whipp, 2003) to incorporating some sort of online discussion groups (e.g., Vess, 2005). Accessibility to technology has enabled course instructors in the field of teacher education to set up a forum in which students discuss issues with one another (Levin, He, & Robbins, 2006) and with experts, such as experienced teachers, course instructors, and faculty members (DeWert, Babinski, & Jones, 2003).

Results from studies like the ones cited above have shown that high quality interaction online is possible; however, just including a discussion question and a space for interaction does not guarantee a discussion of any substance will happen (Dennen, 2005). In fact, often the opposite happens. In the most typical format, students read a preformed question posed by the instructor, post their responses, and log off, never even reading the other postings.

As a partial solution to this problem, scholars such as Kim, Wah, and Lee (2007) have suggested that intentionally creating more structured discussion groups will lead to better discussions—ones that characterized by turn-taking and set the stage for “high level knowledge construction” (Donahue & Fox, 2006). Scholars also suggest that carefully designed discussion groups, over time, form a sense of community, which then leads to more investment on the part of the students (Saleh & Lacey, 2004).

These ideas formed the basis for creating a discussion cycle in an online teacher training course that is the subject of this presentation. Over the course of four semesters, data were gathered to study student perceptions of the discussion activity; in addition, a subset of student postings were also examined for evidence of critical thinking. Results from student responses (n=39) to final class surveys indicated a positive experience in terms of the online discussions. Moreover, student postings for the subgroup (n=10) were analyzed for quality of interaction as described by Khine, Yeap, and Lok (2003). Nearly two-thirds of the responses were characterized as critical thinking responses, and the majority of the posts were characterized as deep processing as opposed to surface processing. These findings support the studies done to date that indicate that carefully structured discussions can lead to meaningful interaction online.
Online discussions, higher level thinking, discourse analysis, teacher education.