Teacher persistence in the use of curriculum-based telementoring as an instructional practice
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This study examined the experiences of six teachers who continued using curriculum-based telecomputing as an instructional activity over several years. Each teacher conducted three or more telementoring projects through the Electronic Emissary, a service that matches K –12 teachers and students with subject matter experts using electronic mail. Participants worked in both urban and rural elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States, with a wide range of student populations. Because obstacles to the use of technology and telecomputing in the classroom are often cited in literature, this study focused on teachers who have been successful in their use of such tools and sustained that use over a substantial period of time. Constructivist inquiry was employed as the research strategy for this study as it provided a process for understanding persistence with educational telecomputing by seeking the perspectives of the participants about their lived experiences. Telephone interviews were conducted over a two-year period. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, coded using a constant comparative method, summarized by the researcher, then reviewed by participants. Other sources of data included logs of participants’ electronic communications, participant-authored project summaries, and the content of Web pages developed to display students’ work. These data were combined with the interview data, coded similarly, and analyzed so that themes emerged over the course of the study. These themes showed that administrative support, ready access to technology including the Internet, and collaborative colleagues created supportive contexts for participating teachers. In addition, the relatively low-risk environment of online communication, the willingness of participating subject matter experts and teachers to share personal information, and the support of Electronic Emissary facilitators created supportive online contexts. The nature of persistence in participants’ use of telementoring in their classroom practice was closely linked to their teaching philosophies, their goals for students, previous successes with telementoring, and the personal and professional benefits they received from participating in telementoring projects. Findings suggest that persistence may be predicated upon a supportive context, predicted benefits for students, and congruence between an educational practice and teachers’ beliefs about learning and teaching.