Building Electronic Discussion Forums
to Scaffold Pre-Service Teacher Learning: Online Conversations in the Reading Classroom Explorer

CIERA Report #3-021

Richard E. Ferdig, University of Florida
Laura R. Roehler, Michigan State University
P. David Pearson, University of California-Berkeley

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
How do web-based learning environments enhance preservice literacy methodology classrooms?

Research has offered evidence that teacher candidates are continually frustrated by a perceived conflict between the ideas expressed in methods courses and the practices they see in the classrooms where they carry out their observations and practicums. The hypermedia tool Reading Classroom Explorer (RCE) was developed in response to this problem. RCE provides models of teaching excellence to pre-service teachers through video clips on CD-ROM.

Our studies of students who were using the RCE CD-ROM indicated that these video-based portrayals of challenging pedagogical practice were encouraging and vital to pre-service teachers, providing new and varied learning opportunities, as well as multiple perspectives on the teaching of culturally and intellectually diverse students.

Although we knew RCE to be beneficial, the program's efficacy was constrained by its format. Participant feedback, as well as theoretical and empirical work highlighting the value of discourse and conversation, challenged the tool's limits. Capitalizing on recent advances in video streaming on the Web, a new iteration of RCE was developed--one that allowed interaction among teacher candidates' who were learning about the teaching of literacy.

The purpose of our study was to explore how a more conversation-friendly






technology would scaffold teacher learning. This paper provides evidence of the benefits of such conversation, by presenting our findings on the increase in students' understandings of teaching and learning after using RCE. The article also describes the move from a CD-ROM to a Web-based product, and the benefits and requirements of doing so. The paper concludes with a discussion of RCE's implications for research on pre-service teaching and educational technology, and raises additional questions about how conversations can be sustained and supported with technology.


University of Michigan School of Education
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A modified version of this report was published as Ferdig, R. E., Roehler, L., Pearson, P. D. (2002). Scaffolding preservice teacher learning through web-based discussion forums: An examination of online conversations in the Reading Classroom Explorer. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 18(3), 87-94.