The effect of facilitator training on the development and practice of participants in an online induction program for teachers of science and mathematics
Taylor, Peggy Sue
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Learning in computer-mediated conferencing systems requires frequent and open interaction in environments that foster sharing and examination of group knowledge and experiences. Written dialogue is the means by which this interaction takes place. This study examined the effects of a training program designed for facilitators in the e-Mentoring for Student Success (eMSS) program, which provides online induction for beginning science and mathematics teachers. The training was designed to improve the quality of dialogue among participants in the program. The intervention consisted of three components: 1) an online training institute prior to beginning of the program year, 2) placement of facilitators in positions within the discussion areas of the program, and 3) ongoing online support for practicing facilitators. Three examinations were conducted in this mixed-method study. First, preintervention program dialogue was quantitatively compared to post-intervention program dialogue through use of a program-specific rubric to code program discussions. Second, case studies were conducted to determine how the training affected the practices of seven program facilitators and which components of the training effected change or growth.Third, pre and post intervention surveys were administered to all participants of the training to obtain their perceptions of their development as a result of the intervention. Comparison of dialogue before and after the intervention indicated a significant improvement in dialogue quality in the discussion areas of the program. Case studies of facilitators' practices revealed areas of the training that impacted the skills and strategies that facilitators used in efforts to foster increased and improved dialogue. Survey results indicated that participants gained a better understanding of what constituted quality dialogue in terms of the eMSS program and how better to foster quality dialogue in an online environment. Components of the training found to be effective in helping facilitators to foster dialogue improvement were: 1) focus on program goals and vision, 2) focus on the nature of online communication, 3) practice with the analysis of actual program dialogue, 4) practice in composing effective online messages. Implications for online facilitators are discussed and recommendations are made for designing training for facilitators to work in computer-mediated conferences.