Construction of knowledge about teaching practice and educating students from diverse cultures in an online induction program
Bice, Lawrence Raymond
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Beginning teachers in both urban areas and geographically isolated rural areas often do not have access to a mentor teacher of the same content area or grade level in their school or district. This project is a study of learning in the online e-Mentoring for Student Success (eMSS) program, which provides induction for science and mathematics teachers in Montana and California. The study centered on a particular segment of eMSS called the Diversity Module. Two examinations were conducted: 1) Analysis of discourse by all participants in the Diversity Module, and 2) case study of five beginning teachers with diverse student populations. Analysis of learning by cases was conducted by examining discourse in the Diversity Module, private online discussions with their assigned mentors during a two-year period, and pre and post Diversity Module interviews and interviews of their mentors. Three frameworks were developed to aid understanding of findings: 1) discourse analysis, 2) competencies of multicultural teachers, and, 3) competencies of pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge. Cases developed their knowledge of teaching along a continuum of needs over two years of participation in the eMSS program. Initial needs expressed by mentees were in areas such as classroom management and general methods of instruction. Cases increased their knowledge in virtually all aspects of pedagogical knowledge, changing their expressed needs to pedagogical content knowledge concerns such as adapting and differentiating instruction for particular content and individual students, and building their repertoire of instructional representations. Through online discussion, teachers developed or advanced awareness of student culture and learning characteristics, and adapted their practice to foster a climate of student respect. Findings provided little evidence of adapting instruction for diverse student learning. Teachers who had a strong awareness of their own and their student's cultures advanced their understanding of multicultural teaching competencies further than those who did not. Interview results indicated that learning sometimes takes place in a non-visible manner. Growth in multicultural teaching knowledge, as well as several aspects of pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge, was clearly evident for participants who posted few messages, but read and actively reflected on thoughts of others.