Using WebCT to Support a Community of Practice
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Reflecting a view of “teaching as both an intellectual and practical activity” the Queen’s University Bachelor of Education program has multi-week in-school practicum sessions separated by periods of on-campus course work. The expectation is that teacher candidates will bring together theory and practice as they reflect upon their daily classroom experiences. The reality often is that, while isolated from the university environment and caught up in the pressures of teaching, little deep reflection takes place. For reflection and critical examination of experience to occur, teacher candidates need to share and discuss on a daily basis their practice teaching experience. For the past few years, students in my secondary school mathematics curriculum course, through a WebCT based conference, have been provided, while away from campus, with a place for on-going sharing of teaching stories and dilemmas. In the Fall of 2004 eight-five percent of the class took part in the discussions, posting a total of 667 messages over a 9 week period. In an effort to increase the value of this practicum conference we have analysed the topic threads arising in the conversation, surveyed the participants concerning their impressions of the sharing experience, and conducted in-depth interviews with a sampling of the class. This session will present the results of this study and provide an opportunity to discuss ways in which an online discussion can support the building of community and the exchange of experience while students in professional programs are disbursed in practice/clinical settings.