Case Studies from the Inquiry Learning Forum: Stories Reaching Beyond the Edges

Case Studies from the Inquiry Learning Forum: Stories Reaching Beyond the Edges

Rebecca Scheckler (Radford University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-780-5.ch003
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Two intense case studies were done of teachers using the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), an online space for professional development in inquiry pedagogies. Major findings included: The ILF initially conceived as an online professional development tool in the form of a Community of Practice (COP) was reconceived as an electronic tool within a larger space that included the online tool but also many co-present spaces pertinent to a teacher’s practice of inquiry pedagogy. These case studies also demonstrated the transformative nature of teachers engaging in a COP. Not only is the teacher changed but also the COP is changed by the practice. The cases demonstrated the need for teachers to feel disequilibrium in their practice before they are willing to engage in change of those practices. Lastly immersion in practice described as The Pedagogy of Poverty hampered one teacher’s progress in the ILF. These findings are based upon my empirical observations with the backdrop of John Dewey’s Theory of Inquiry and of Etienne Wenger’s concept of communities of Practice. Future trends in using online COPs for professional development need to look at practice in these terms where allowance for transaction, support outside the electronic space, and disequilibrium are considered.
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Motivation For The Ilf

The ILF was designed with the need for providing teacher professional development that promoted inquiry pedagogies against a background of a steadily improving Internet access for teachers and against a background of U.S students losing ground in math and science on an international basis (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1991;U.S. Department of Education, 1999). A needs analysis of a small sample of science and math teachers in Indiana, U.S.A. showed that these teachers wanted to visit the classrooms of teachers who already had proficiency with inquiry pedagogies but their busy schedules prevented them from doing this (Barab, MaKinster, Moore, Cunningham & The ILF Design Team, 2001). This needs analysis resulted in the design of the ILF where teachers could virtually visit classrooms of other teachers and then interact with the demonstrating teachers about their teaching within non-synchronous threaded discussion forums.

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