Peer Review in Online Professional Communities to Support Elementary Disciplinary Literacy Planning

Peer Review in Online Professional Communities to Support Elementary Disciplinary Literacy Planning

Jamie Colwell (Old Dominion University, USA) and Valerie Taylor (Old Dominion University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0206-8.ch006


This chapter reports the results of a qualitative case study focused on elementary pre-service teachers' perspectives on planning for disciplinary literacy using peer review in an online professional community (OPC). Seven pre-service teachers enrolled in an eight-week asynchronous, online content literacy course served as participants. Results indicated pre-service teachers' valued extended opportunities for reflection in the OPC and appreciated diverse backgrounds and experiences offered by their OPC colleagues. However, perceived challenges remained that are important to consider when incorporating peer review cycles into online asynchronous coursework. This study considers these perspectives in light of designing and planning online coursework in elementary disciplinary literacy.
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Goal Statement

Goal: To support pre-service teachers in planning for elementary disciplinary literacy through peer review in online professional communities. (ILA 2.1)

The use of evidence-based practices (EBP) can have a strong impact on both teachers and students (Maheady, Smith, & Jabot, 2013). Educators who implement these practices with fidelity feel that they are using interventions grounded in research to support student learning and achievement (Scheeler, Budin, & Markelz, 2016). Pre-service teachers should be introduced to these practices as students so they are familiar with the techniques before they enter the classroom. Indeed, the International Literacy Association’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals (2018) mandate that teacher candidates “use foundational knowledge to design, select, critique, adapt, and evaluate evidence-based literacy curricula that meet the needs of all learners.” For example, as is the focus of this study, pre-service teachers who are taught to utilize instructional tools and engage in evidence-based practices, such as peer review, to plan disciplinary literacy lessons may be better prepared to teach.

Digital spaces, specifically online professional communities (OPCs), can be used for collaboration and planning of disciplinary literacy lessons and units with pre-service teachers, and peer review may seamlessly fit into these communities due to their peer-centric structure. Educational OPCs are formed when teachers come together either formally or informally in an online space for the purpose of professional learning (Duncan-Howell, 2010). Members of OPCs are encouraged to be both contributors and observers / learners stimulated to engage in joint construction of knowledge, conversation, and review (Lock, 2006). Extending resources and networks of learning and support may increase collaboration and enthusiasm about a topic or lesson while allowing new teachers to step away from the traditional methods in which they may have been previously exposed (Beach, 2012). OPCs are often focused on inquiry and learning, and these online communities may support participants in working together to create inquiry-based lessons (Hobbs & Corio, 2016), a feature of disciplinary literacy, by incorporating the ability to share URLs and post websites for collaborative planning and instructional feedback (McConnell, Parker, Eberhardt, Koehler, & Lundeberg, 2012). This research study examines connections between peer review supported in OPCs and ILA Standard 2.1 by considering the role that peer review through online professional communities played in supporting pre-service teachers’ planning and design for elementary disciplinary literacy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Feedback: The suggestions, comments, and questions provided to improve a person’s performance or thinking.

Lesson Cycle: A structured approach to planning that prompts a series of instructional decisions and reflection on these decisions to create thoughtful and well-crafted lessons.

Peer-Review: A collaborative process in which peers within a group or class review and critique each other’s work and provide written or verbal feedback for improvement.

Case Study: An approach to organizing research to intensely study and consider a particular person, group, or system.

Disciplinary Literacy: A perspective that focuses on literacy as the specific expert practices and skills a person needs to study in a specific subject area, such as English, history, mathematics, or science.

Pre-Service Teacher Education: An area of education that focuses on teacher training for college or university students who are preparing to become classroom teachers but who are not yet certified to teach.

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