M.J. Macário1, C.M. Sá1, A. Moreira2

1LEIP/CIDTFF/Universidade de Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
2LCD/CIDTFF/Universidade de Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
The need to build a knowledge economy based Europe has brought added challenges to its citizens: updating/grading competences which are professionally needed and acquiring others which enable them to adapt to ongoing change (European Commission, 2007).
Over the last decade, the debate around training policies, as suggested by the Bologna Declaration (1999), has brought to Higher Education the need for new professional competences of various groups, especially teachers (Sá, 2010). Initial training should be a privileged space where prospective teachers understand their field of activity and the individual and shared responsibility with their peers, discussing and justifying adequate means and materials for each teaching scenario (Roldão, 2000).
It is important to train these students to scientifically understand situations they encounter, so they can act reasonably and not through mere common sense. Simulating and analysing situations that have been debated with colleagues will enable them to effectively and accurately evaluate the (in)adequacy of teaching practices, collaboratively identifying other solutions. This consists of recognising the importance of encouraging collaborative work from initial training as a method which enables teachers to share and justify options, adapting syllabuses to certain contexts and students’ needs, growing at professional level, and improving Education quality (Hargreaves, 1998).
Collaborative work in virtual environments has become a frequent phenomenon and is considered one of the most promising pedagogical paradigms (Leinonen, et al., 2001; Vázquez-Bernal, et al., 2001). The increasing use of social web resources has led to a greater understanding of collaborative work aiming better learning outcomes and improving practices at individual and community levels (Moreira, 2008). Collaboration carried out through free social web resources enables real-time communication, in different forms (text, sound, image) or asynchronously (email, discussion forums).
From this theoretical framework, a doctoral project was conceived with the participation of two groups of students from the curricular unit of Didactics of the Portuguese Language of the Masters in Pre-School and Primary Education, for one semester, at the Department of Education, University of Aveiro. Students participated in the Forum where they discussed issues related to the teaching/learning of orthography and collaboratively constructed strategies for the development of orthographic competences, seeking to integrate them in a lesson plan.
With this experiment, we aim to characterise the contribution of collaborative work in the co-construction of didactic strategies and determine the contribution of discussion forums to develop collaborative work competences in prospective teachers. An online questionnaire was used to identify students’ conceptions of the importance of collaborative work before the discussion forum experiment. After this, students were asked to construct an individual reflection on that collaborative experiment in the curricular unit.
Data analysis of the evolution of representations on collaborative work was carried out. Results suggest that there appears to be a lower appreciation of the working method before the collaborative experiment.
We are currently analysing the discussion forum interactions for comparison with the outcomes that have already been verified.