Stimulating professional development through CMC — A case study of networked learning and initial teacher education

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Abstract

This chapter explores the use of networked learning, and especially asynchronous text-based computer conferencing, in stimulating teacher professional development. The study is located within the broader context of sociocultural theory and in particular the work of Lave and Wenger (1991), which locates learning in forms of co-participation. The results of the study indicate that the form of networked learning within educational contexts is crucially influenced by three key factors. (a) The way in which computer conferencing is organized within the context of a formal course influences the form of professional discourse within the conferences. (b) The contrasting character of subject domains can be related to differences in the form and the style of discourse within the conferences. (c) The length of engagement of participants in computer conferencing influences their transition from novices to more experienced participants in networked learning processes. Within successful conferences, teachers’ professional development can be stimulated in new ways, in particular through promoting reflection and enhancing learner autonomy. It is suggested that the role of the moderator is crucial in stimulating effective conferences through the structuring of the learning resources inherent in the conferences. In sum, this study develops a grounded understanding of teacher professional development as a socially situated process enabled through networked learning.