Exploring the Correlation between Online Teacher Dispositions and Practices in Virtual Classrooms and Student Participation and Satisfaction

Exploring the Correlation between Online Teacher Dispositions and Practices in Virtual Classrooms and Student Participation and Satisfaction

Carol M. Shepherd (National University, USA) and Madelon Alpert (National University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-545-2.ch006
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Abstract

Greater teacher efficacy in online teaching and teaching in a virtual world appears to be positively correlated with certain exhibited dispositions and practices. Inferential measures of dispositions such as friendliness, enthusiasm, active involvement, patience, and tolerance, among others, exhibited by professors in online instruction lead to greater student participation and satisfaction. By analyzing four professors teaching in the virtual world environment, two with positive student reviews and two with negative or mediocre student reviews, certain teacher dispositions and practices emerged. Three areas were studied: instructor participation with students, the tone of communication with students, and the creation of a community of learners in a virtual world. Instructor participation with students was measured by the interaction and guidance in discussion board questions, comments on graded student work, the amount of measured user time of the instructor while teaching online, and student evaluations. The tone of communication with students was measured by professor communications with students in the discussion boards, virtual office responses to student questions, and whole class as well as individual emails. The creation of a community of learners in a virtual environment helps to foster a sense of belonging, and was measured by activities such as informal course announcements, media, emails, and student and professor biographies, indicating that the instructor is interested in each student. There are two perspectives to online instruction: that of the student as well as that of the instructor. In order to provide a valid base for analysis, it is important to consider both. A search of the literature revealed almost no information in the areas of focus of this study. Further research is needed to identify positive behaviors by instructors leading to greater online instructor efficacy when teaching in virtual worlds.
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Dispositions

According to Aristotle, a disposition is related to a specific desire toward a virtuous or vicious end. This is very similar to the concept of the virtue ethic. Dispositions become part of people’s ingrained behavior, and are developed after they have experienced a significant portion of their lives. Reason and emotion become harmonious, and virtue is enacted out of understanding and love. Those who have certain dispositional behaviors and desires and are receptive to reason and deliberation are able to effect positive change over time (McKnight, 2004). Although they become a developed and ingrained behavior, dispositions are not to be confused with habits. Habits can be changed, whereas dispositions become an integral part of a person’s life and ethical behavior.

Reformers seeking professionalization in the field of teaching argue that student learning is dependent upon the behavior of the teacher. Ultimately, teaching behavior is based on the educator’s internal dispositions. Therefore, teaching dispositions must somehow be observed, analyzed, and explained to determine those most desirable in online instructors. Dispositions such as friendliness, enthusiasm, active involvement, patience, and tolerance, among others, exhibited by professors in online courses have been shown to result in greater student participation and satisfaction.

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