Course Assessment in a Teacher's Learning Community

Course Assessment in a Teacher's Learning Community

Giorgos Hlapanis (University of the Aegean, Greece) and Angélique Dimitracopoulou (University of the Aegean, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-120-9.ch047
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How can we assess the effectiveness of a course that is implemented in the context of a technology based Learning Community (LC)? What are the features of successful courses? Under what circumstances is a LC created within courses? Such questions were explored during an educational program for in-service K-12 teachers concerning the use of ICT in their teaching practices. During the implementation of the program, a research study took place. Assessment issues were dealt with and one course was proven the most “successful”, according to specified criteria. In this chapter, features of this course are presented in detail. We studied the role of e-moderation and how different means of communication were used during the course implementation. During our analysis, we deduced that a key factor for the success of the course was the creation and evolution of a LC. Finally, conclusions, benefits and perspectives of issues presented are discussed.
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During the last few decades, a paradigm shift from teacher directed instruction to learner managed learning, from subfject-centered design to learning-centered design, and from individualistic learning to learning within a social context has occurred in the research area of learning theories. Most importantly, there is a shift from a vision of students as more or less passive learners to students as apprentice knowledge workers (Land & Hannafin, 2000). Learning theories with a social dimension, such as Vygotsky’s ‘Social Development Theory’ (1962), are now influencing nearly all learning theories, modern as well as traditional ones. In fact, most modern learning theories have a ‘Socio-Constructivist’ nature (Wertsch, 1979). Despite their ‘Constructivist’ core, they have been greatly influenced by the aforementioned social-oriented learning theories.

Recent theories derived from the socio-constructivism paradigm, such as ‘Situated Learning’ theory (Lave & Wenger, 1990), ‘Activity Theory’ (Leont’ev, 1974), and ‘Distributed Cognition’ theory (Hutchins, 1991) have provided a theoretical backbone for the creation of Learning Communities (LC) and have greatly influenced their requirements and implementation. According to Barab, Schatz and Scheckler (2004), an online community can be defined as ‘a persistent, sustained social network of individuals who share and develop an overlapping knowledge base, set of beliefs, values, history and experiences focused on a common practice and/or mutual enterprise’. According to Rovai (2001), participation in a community generates a substantial increase in useful information access, by the use of the ‘community’s knowledge base’ and mutual support, commitment and, mostly, cooperation among the participants. The process of creating a community is regarded as bearing mutual commitment, rules that determine the way participants interact, reliability, negotiation, understanding and knowledge acquisition through the creation of practices within the community (Wenger, 1998). Especially Communities of Practice (CoP) are considered (Palloff & Pratt, 1999), as potentially useful environments for both students and instructors. According to Johnson and Johnson (1987), a student’s participation in a LC can develop students’ abilities to learn on their own, beyond the limits of the educational environment.

According to these theories, e-learning can be accomplished through numerous online collaboration activities, given the appropriate educational resources and communication services. In e-learning, the course content can be dynamically and radically changed according to the students’ needs and the progress of the activities assigned, thus facilitating the process of learning. So and Kim (2005) believe that there seems to be a certain lack of instructional guidelines specifically developed for collaborative learning. In cases that are designed for formal technology supported courses, usually no rules or any special guidelines are followed. On the other hand, in cases where LCs are implemented, there may be positive learning results derived from the collaborative context and the interaction of the community members, yet learning is informal and usually without predefined goals.

Most educational programs implemented with the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) come from the academia (Salmon & Jones, 2004; Vlachopoulos & McAleese, 2004, etc.), a few are from the circles of primary and secondary education (Nurmela, Palonen, Lehtinen & Hakkarainen, 2003; Vonderwell, 2003, etc.), and even fewer concern further education for in-service teachers (Nilsen & Almas, 2003; Wu, Larsen & Andersson, 2003, etc.).

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Learning: Electronic learning (or e-Learning or eLearning) is a type of education where the medium of instruction is related to Information and Communication Technologies.

Information and Communication Technologies: A term used to encompass all forms of computing systems, telecommunications and networks.

Moderation: A process within a course, during which teachers design, facilitate and direct the cognitive and social activities for the purpose of improving learning outcomes.

Social Network Analysis: In its simplest form, a social network is a map of all of the relevant ties between nodes being studied. The nodes are usually individuals tied by specific types of interdependency, such as values, ideas, exchange of communication, friendship etc. Social Network Analysis is a method of analysis used in order to study social relationships within a social network, in terms of nodes and ties .

Learning Communities: A learning community is a group of people who share common values and beliefs and are actively engaged in learning together, mostly from each other.

Multiple Correspondence Analysis: A method that aims to explain the relationships between multiple variables that are identified on identical or different measurement scales, and may include categorical data.

Course Assessment: Assessment to determine the extent to which a specific course is achieving its stated learning goals.

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