2008 NRMERA Distinguished Paper Award

Analysis of Asynchronous Discourse in Web- assisted and Web- based Courses

Authors: David A. Thomas & Cleborne D. Maddux
Institution: University of Nevada, Reno

Abstract: The capacity of instructors to improve online discourse is dependent on their understanding of its evolving structure and content. Social network analysis and discourse analysis provide methodological and technological means for effectively using online course data to identify and characterize evolving structural and substantive aspects of student communication. Timely information of this sort might be used by instructors to reassign struggling or discontented individuals to different groups, to reconfigure groups and/or tasks to optimize emerging capabilities and insights, and to form a leadership team consisting of individuals from each student group. This paper examines current and emerging methodologies and technologies for meeting these challenges.

Reference: Thomas, D. A., & Maddux, C. D. (2009). Analysis of asynchronous discourse in web-assisted and web-based courses. The Researcher, 22(1), 1-16.

Online Pedagogy and Practice: Challenges and Strategies

Authors: Heather E. Duncan & Suzanne Young
Institution: University of Wyoming

Abstract:  This paper reports the findings of a study focusing on the challenges facing tertiary education instructors teaching in online environments, and the strategies they use to create a collaborative online learning environment. The greatest challenges instructors reported were forging instructor/student and student/student connections, and creating a productive learning environment that engaged all students. Most important instructional strategies appear to be those that provide a structured and detailed framework for learning with learner expectations clearly outlined, facilitate collaboration and interaction among students, create a safe environment for deep learning, knowledge creation and reflection, and provide regular and prompt feedback. Importantly, many instructors reported that they were trying to accommodate more diverse learning styles and move beyond solely text-based delivery by incorporating video and audio technologies. Online pedagogy was student-centered and constructivist focused on active learning and student interaction. Interestingly,m while teaching online focused on collaboration, instructors own learning and professional development occurred most often in isolation. Instructors continuously monitored and modified their teaching strategies based on prior experiences. An unexpected outcome was the ways in which instructors reported their online pedagogy and practice informed their traditional teaching.

Reference: Duncan, H. E., & Young, S. (2009). Online pedagogy and practice: Challenges and strategies. The Researcher, 22(1), 17-32.

Prospective Teachers’ Conceptions of Character Education and Civic Education

Authors: Richard D. Osguthorpe & Cheryl Franklin Torrez
Institutions: Boise State University; University of New Mexico

Abstract: This article examines how prospective teachers make sense of an increasingly muddled division in practice between programs in character education and civic education. It describes respondents’ conceptions of each school program and their views on how they might carry out such efforts in their future practice. The article indicates that prospective teachers consider character education and civic education as an essential part of teaching, and that they are eager to take on the role of educating for character and citizenship. However, it also demonstrates that some prospective teachers appear to have circular conceptions of character education and civic education that might be difficult to square in practice. This study suggests the need to increase prospective teachers’ understandings of these programs in a way that gives rise to realistic expectations and sustainable practices.

Reference: Osguthorpe, R. D., & Franklin Torrez, C. (2009). Prospective teachers’ conceptions of character education and civic education. The Researcher, 22(1), 33-52.

One School District’s Examination of Least Restrictive Environments: The Effectiveness of Pull- out and Inclusion Instruction

Authors: Aaron S. Richmond, Suzzane Aberasturi, Tammy Abernathy, Ruth Aberasturi, & Toni DelVecchio
Institutions: Metropolitan State College of Denver, University of Nevada- Reno, Carson City School District

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to determine if the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) policy of a local school district leads to positive learning outcomes for elementary students who have reading and math learning disabilities (LD). We were interested in determining whether students with LD benefit more from math and reading instruction in different placement options (pull- out vs. inclusion programs). We randomly sampled elementary students who were either reading or math LD and received instruction in either inclusion or pull- out programs. We also sampled typically achieving students. In a six- month pre- post design, we compared scores from the Woodcock- Johnson Tests of Achievement. The results found that both reading pull- out and inclusion programs showed an increase in reading comprehension achievement scores but there was not a difference between the two programs. However, LD students in the pull- out program made significantly more gains than the inclusion and the control group students in letter- word identification. There were no other differences detected. The results are discussed and applied to the ongoing debate in regards to placement options along the LRE continuum for LD students.

Reference: Richmond, A. S., Aberasturi, S., Abernathy, T., Delvecchio, T., & Aberasturi, R. (2009). One school district’s examination of least restrictive environments: The effectiveness of pull- out programs and inclusion classrooms. The Researcher, 22(1), 53- 66.

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