Guide Tensions In Teaching About Teaching: Understanding Practice as a Teacher Educator

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Figure 1. University and School Partners' Activity Systems represents two interconnected systems of activity and the complex dynamics within and between each of them. Both university-based and school-based partners accessed the Internet at a high level for information and communication purposes, for teaching and for active learning e.

Tensions in Teaching about Teaching: Understanding Practice as a Teacher Educator

Advanced collaborative platforms for active learning were the choice of the university-based teacher educators involved in the partnership, while teachers and school learners of the one-to-one laptop program were interested in software diversity and valuing open access ones Tension, L4c. OLP teachers had to do the same within their own school-based community, with the help of the school principal Tension, L1c. Meanwhile, the repertoire of the virtual community of support and communication, composed of all the contributions of previous PST-OLCs, including those of the university-based teacher educator and of some OLP teachers, was underused during and after the practicums.

The university-based teacher educator's requirement that pre-service teachers' write personal learning projects, ahead of the practicum but after three or four visits in an OLP classroom, generated insecurity Tension, L3c.

Amanda (Mandi) Berry - Google Scholar Citations

They were instructed to refer to the template provided by the Faculty of Education's Placement Office only when getting short of ideas regarding the planning of their practicum. OLP teachers working with pre-service teachers were often present in the classroom compared to other cooperative teachers. They also favored teamwork more often Figure 1.

Moreover, they were learning, and letting pre-service teachers know it, when to instruct and when to give OLP learners control of their use of time when working individually or in teams Tension, L1c. They liked the learning community model but often found themselves having to take central stage in the classroom Tension, L1c. A few of them used Knowledge Forum, and considered the students of their classroom as knowledge builders. They worked in teams with other teachers and engaged in collaborative reflective practice and knowledge building although they did not use a collaborative platform.

They published individual webpages Tension L1c. Pre-service teachers were welcomed at all teacher meetings. Having little conceptual and experiential knowledge of active learning and lacking deep understanding of the curriculum, pre-service teachers had a lot to learn. They struggled with aligning the curriculum goals, pedagogical intents, and results Tension, L2c. On the whole, pre-service teachers found ways to contribute to the conceptualization of teaching in a networked classroom, that is, when all own a laptop connected to the Internet.

Almost half of these pre-service teachers are now OLP teachers. Pre-service teachers were advised by outsiders university teachers and peers, and family members with teaching experience to the one-to-one laptop community OLC , to spell out, as they introduce themselves to a classroom, the rules they wanted to apply. That was contrary to the thinking of the OLP teachers and the university-based teacher educator who were favoring the learning community model Figure 1 : learning goals were to be established with the classroom, and rules were to derive from them L4c.

Pre-service teachers did not want to lose control of the classroom, an implicit rule they perceived was important Tension, L1c. For instance, they did not want classroom students to break the school policy with regard to the use of the computer Tension, L2c. Being in touch with what was going on in the classroom, including on screens, while scaffolding a student or a small group of students, was expected of them Tension, L2c.

Working individually or in groups, classroom students were not always on-task and, sometimes, disturbed others. Pre-service teachers had to act. Another difficulty regarded learning assessment. At the beginning of the OLP, the school district had loosened up its evaluation policies but over time they tightened them up Tension, L4c.

At the government level, shortly after recommending the OLP as an exemplary case regarding learning assessment practices to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD, , less emphasis was put on the acquisition of competencies, and OLP teachers and pre-service teachers felt the pressure of assessing rote knowledge in preparation of provincial exams Tension, L4c.

To construct and maintain a joint problem space Roschelle and Teasley, ; Fischer et al.

Pedagogical concepts such as socio-cognitive conflict and positive interdependence required deeper understanding. Ill-defined problems were for instance: How to interact with classroom students in ways that will allow for an authentic question to arise and engage them into a collaborative inquiry? Which technology would best support this or that learning activity? When to release students' agency, and for how long? How to organize and manage a networked classroom?

Under the lens of cultural-historical activity theory CHAT , which serves as the theoretical underpinnings of this case study that grew out of a meta-analysis of previous unpublished papers, one gets a systemic view of what innovation in the classroom, supported by ICTs, entails, and especially when active learning is on the agenda. Active learning was enacted through reflective practice and knowledge building supported by a collaborative platform. The ill-defined problems that pre-service teachers struggled with when learning to teach in one-to-one laptop classrooms were brought forth during collaborative reflective practice and knowledge building.

In her work with the PST-OLCs, the university-based teacher educator experienced the same problems being pinpointed e. While each PST-OLC had access to the repertoire of the virtual community, they nonetheless needed to engage in their own meaning negotiation over such problems as a way to face the internal L1c and L2c contradictions they were experiencing. These ill-defined problems do not appear to be that different also from the ones that post-secondary teachers face, inside and outside the classroom, when engaging students in active learning.

For instance, student engagement into active learning require that they venture into a more active role, and some resist such role modification Parent, When this happens, the teacher's emerging activity system enters in contradiction with the student's well-established activity system L3c. At such a time, the partners teacher and student need to find a shared object in order to move forward. In spite of the fact that with the school's partners activity system advanced collaborative platforms were not very popular, pre-service teachers were presented Virtual-U's VGroups and, later, Knowledge Forum for collaborative reflective practice and knowledge building.

There was an obvious lack of coherence between the two activity systems but OLP teachers and the university-based teacher educator respected one another's boundaries, and accepted this L4c contradiction. In the end, only a few teachers and pre-service teachers had referred to the knowledge-building principles and made use of Knowledge Forum. It may be inferred that the use of similar instruments would have deepened pre-service teachers' experience with the same instruments, and, therefore, their use for active learning purposes.

The university-based and the school-based partners belonged to different communities, each with its beliefs and ways of thinking and doing. The experiential approach that led to sending pre-service teachers to emerging one-to-one laptop classrooms, and favored the use of advanced collaborative platforms went against the grain of the mainstream activity of the Faculty of Education, and, introduced, therefore, another L3c contradiction.

While active learning was voiced, only a few professors enacted it with undergraduate students L1c. An even smaller number showed interest in advanced collaborative platforms L4c.

Introduction to Practice-Based Teacher Education - COLLABORATORY Class #1

Similarly, most pre-service teachers seemed to underestimate the value of active learning L1c. But not the parents of the OLP learners L4c. In a few words, the emerging activity system was installing a contradiction between the old and the new L3c. This activity system is more complex than the activity system of a school.

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Even when a school decides to implement a school within-a-school model, which adds to the complexity of its activity, the emerging activity system kept expanding e. Being a guide on the side is more of a self-effacing role than being the sage on the stage, and requires a capacity to face the unknown as students take more active roles e.

Original Research ARTICLE

It may not be what prospective teachers have in mind when choosing this profession, and, if so, their expectations are in contradiction with the expectations for life and work in the digital age Pellegrino and Hilton, The task will not be easy given that teachers' and students' roles become more complex than conventional ones when active learning is enacted. Technology seems to add to, rather than diminish, this complexity.

Learning to release students' agency without losing control, to negotiate behavioral rules with students that will allow for the learning objectives to be met, to scaffold student learning, and to proceed fairly in assessing individual and group learning are requirements of an active learning pedagogical approach.

It requires boundary crossing within the university activity system and between university and school activity systems. Students of each of these activity systems also are facing a steep learning curve as they are required to exercise agency when they operate in less scripted learning environments, negotiate their different representations of an ill-defined problem and seek knowledge and action convergence with their peers. As pointed by Dede , students must be prepared to reinvent themselves. Will these emerging practices transform into new rules and policies at the institutional level?

We presented a case of active learning that stands out by its duration, and its systemic nature. It featured pre-service teachers learning to teach in networked classrooms with their cooperative teachers and university-based teacher educators who fostered their active learning by using, among others, collaborative platforms to support reflective practice and knowledge building.


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CHAT was used to provide a sense of the dynamics at play in such innovation. However, this study has limits with regards to the way CHAT was used for analytical purposes. For instance, many units of analysis, each involving two different activity systems with their respective subjects who participated in the university-school partnership, could have been analyzed.

Contradictions, as manifested by identified tensions, could have been understood at a much deeper level with a fuller application of the theory and the Change Laboratory as its related methodology. Nonetheless, the results illustrate what is at stake when post-secondary teachers venture into engaging students in active learning. In this case, it was done through reflective practice and knowledge building using a collaborative platform.

It is our way to prepare pre-service teachers for teaching and learning in the digital era, and to work with students that will have to demonstrate future skills that still remain to be completely uncovered. Given the breadth and length of this innovation that fostered active learning, we formulate four suggestions, and the contradiction level L1c, L2c, L3c, L4c they address, for the boundary crossing of one's activity system when field experiences or practicums are part of an undergraduate program:.

University students were informed that the innovation they were part of was part of a research program. Participation was on a voluntary basis. University students read and signed the consent form. The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. The author would like to thank Alain Breuleux and Robert Bracewell McGill University and Gaalen Erickson University of British Columbia for their collaboration in the early years of this endeavor as well as all preservice teachers who participated in this endeavor and cooperative teachers.