10 SES 07 C, ICT in Teacher Education Research
The purpose of this article is to analyze educational needs and difficulties faced by participants in an intervention-research project aimed at establishing a hybrid teacher education space (Babha, 1990, cited in Zeichner, 2010, p. 486). This space is assumed as a locus of dialogue, in which it is possible to articulate academic knowledge to that derived from teaching in specific contexts so as to promote teacher development focused on student learning. The goal of this initiative in teacher development, occurring in a virtual environment called 3rd Space, is justified in view of the fact that the proposed space is capable of promoting the sharing of experiences through nonhierarchical interactions established among partners: prospective teachers (online teacher education undergraduates), school teachers, and academic researchers/teacher educators) given that these interactions can be transformative to all of them (Martin, Snow, & Torrez, 2011).
Teacher professional learning during initial teacher education is a multifaceted process. In online teacher education, as is the case of this study, both frailer university-school relationships and disconnection between teacher education and teaching practice may aggravate limitations inherent to this professional development phase. On the one hand, the establishment of mutually trusting and sharing relationships among participants (prospective teachers, schoolteachers, and teacher educators/academic researchers) is hindered by geographical distances and cultural differences between the university and schools receiving student teachers for their practicum. On the one hand, cultural dimensions and aspects related to school settings and the contextual nature of teaching practices are often ignored in the planning of formative activities as if it were possible to provide general, standardized teacher education that is equally valid in all contexts (Mérida Serrano, 2009). There seems to prevail the idea that the kind of knowledge delivered by the university suffices to assure good teaching practices (Zeichner, 2010).
In order to carry out the research project in question, university-school interactions were established on the assumption that professional knowledge is constructed in its own application context (Day, 2005). In this case, the knowledge production process usually involves a wide range of professionals, temporary and heterogeneous, who work collaboratively on a problem defined in a specific and limited context. This research also takes into consideration the unceasing nature of teacher professional development and assumes that participation in collaborative activities can mitigate the isolation experienced by schoolteachers and at the same time meet individual educational needs of prospective teachers by providing them with opportunities to express their knowledge, doubts, and uncertainties and by bringing them closer together with experienced schoolteacher (mentors).
The encounter between prospective teachers and more experienced ones is a “privileged formative feature” (Sarti, 2009) that promotes experiences of intergenerational collaboration. The nature of this socialization process, the provision of models, and the possibility of having problems solved with the help of more experienced teachers in dialogue with student teachers and with the support of university educators are thought to facilitate the improvement, adjustment, and revision of professional knowledge.
From the adopted theoretical perspective, the prospect of these interactions being complemented with other asynchronous and online ones contributes to integrating multiple domains in which teacher learning can occur, in this manner overcoming existing barriers, e.g., those setting teachers’ homes, school hallways, and the cafeteria apart (Lieberman & Pointer Mace, 2009).
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